As a young girl that grew up in Texas, knowing who Selena Quintanilla was in the Tejano music industry was just a part of basic Tex-Mex history. But when my family moved all the way out to the foreign land of Arizona, I thought Selena was a hidden gem that no one would know about and I would be the one to inform everyone about her legacy. Little did my naive, young self know that she has always been a phenomenon throughout all of Latinx culture.
Selena is the one artist that everyone I have ever known can agree on and never exhaust themselves of listening to over and over again. Even the newer generations are growing up with her music and legend because of the influence from those who also grew up listening to her. It’s a cycle within our culture that will most likely never bend or break anytime soon. In 2002, my sister and I, being only five and six at the time, took a family trip down to Corpus Christi to visit her statue and her grave. It was then that I had the true realization of who this person was, and her massive impact.
Selena Quintanilla is one of the most important icons in the Latinx culture that broke barriers no one even realized had yet to be broken. With the recent MAC collaboration plus her wax figure more than ever Selena is spoken of, but she has never been seen as a celebrity that is entirely overrated. Her beauty has been unmatched, and she was a rule breaker, even though she was never truly considered a rebel. Selena simply took a different approach to things and made them work in her favor.
As a Hispanic that doesn’t speak Spanish regularly or know the language fluently, Selena was such a huge role model for me that she could make it in an industry that wouldn’t fully accept her because of who she was and where she came from, not being completely Mexican, nor American. It identified with me on another level that it would be possible for me to do the same thing in whatever it was I was going to do with my life. She busted open the door for those who felt like they weren’t enough of either side by proving that if she could do it, anyone could. Even after the 101st time that I watch the biopic that propelled J.Lo’s career to another level, it never fails to amaze me what paths she blazed through for both Mexican-Americans and women in an industry that doesn’t see too many of both succeed, mainstream or internationally.
Selena was most definitely an artist that was taken from life way too young, but the impact of her death has influenced her popularity to withstand the tests of time in both Latinx and mainstream pop culture. This may simply be due to the fact that she has such a limited selection of music that her fans cherish what we have available to us, but those few albums she put out are nothing short of excellence. A little bit over two decades later, they still hold their own, with vulnerability, yet strong and fearless, just like the woman singing behind those words.
Photos courtesy of the author.