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15 Years Later and
I Still Love Selena
by Becky Ozuna,
lead singer of Frenetica
A tribute to the Queen of
Tejano on her 39th birthday
It was 15 years ago, on March 31, that Selena was murdered by the president of her fan club. I was a junior in high school, and I still remember walking out of Mrs. Perez’s Algebra II class and getting the news like it was yesterday. My then-boyfriend simply said, “Selena’s dead.”
Being from South Texas, naturally, my first question was, “Gonzalez? Garza? Reyna? Which Selena?” In Kingsville, it’s weird if your name is not Selina, Celina, Celena, Selena or some other variation. But he said, “No, Selena, the singer.” My world was never the same.
My first thought on the 15th anniversary of her death, of course, is: How the fuck did I get so old?! That day is so vivid in my mind. I remember it was a Friday. I remember that the reason my boyfriend knew she was killed before me was because he had gone home from school to take a dump because he didn’t like doing it in the school restrooms and he heard it on the radio (weirdo). I remember that I had a softball game that night, and asked my coach to excuse me so that I could mourn (she didn’t). So how is it that that day was 15 years ago! Jeez. I could have feasibly had a child old enough to have a child since then. I have a new issue to obsess over for a while. But I digress.
My hometown of Kingsville is about a 40-minute drive from Corpus Christi, Selena’s hometown. Corpus is where we would go to shop, eat, go to the beach or do anything remotely entertaining because Kingsville is so small. Corpus is also where I spent every single Sunday to visit my grandmother in her tiny, un-airconditioned house that was walking distance from where Selena lived.
In my world at that time, Selena was the queen. She was the queen long before she was killed. Most of the world had never heard of her, but to me and my best friend, Tracy, no one was a bigger deal. While the other girls in our class were listening to Alanis Morisette, Hole and Mariah Carey, we were listening to Selena. Sure, we also listened to popular music occasionally, but for the most part, there was usually a Selena song being belted out from the tops of our lungs when we were cruising down 14th Street in Tracy’s red truck.
As I got older and encountered people from outside of my childhood bubble, I learned most people do not have the same regard for Selena that I do. Which is fine, because they can all go fuck themselves. I turn the channel when I hear more than one measure of a Bob Dylan or Tom Petty song regardless of how “important” these artists are to pop culture. My pop culture was South Texas, where there were equal parts Tejano, country and booty-shaking music in the rotation at our school dances.
Seventeen Magazine, MTV or network TV shows didn’t show women with big asses, kinky hair or dark skin at that time. But Siempre en Domingo, Tejano Country and The Johnny Canales Show did (eso, you got it, take it away). So seeing someone who looked similar to me from the town up the road on TV and in magazines in a positive light was very important to me. The young Hispanic girls today have a multitude of pop culture role models to identify with. Jennifer Lopez (who can thank Selena for her fame), Selena Gomez (who can thank Selena for her name) and Demi Lovato (I got nothing) reinforce that it’s okay, even beautiful, to have dark hair, curves and a Hispanic last name. We only had Selena. She was famous at mostly a local level before she died, but it didn’t matter.
But more importantly, there was Selena’s music. I know that just because someone has a similar ethnic background to you, that doesn’t mean you have to like their art (I’m looking at you Ryan Cabrera). But I’ve always maintained that good music is music that accomplishes its intent. Good Tejano music makes you want to dance, good punk music makes you want to be an anarchist and wave your fist in the air, and good indie music makes you feel cool, even if you’re not. And no one did a cumbia better than Selena. No one.
My musical tastes are pretty diverse these days. My new favorite band is the Riverboat Gamblers, I still love The Cure more than most bands, Phoenix is wonderful and Ella Fitzgerald is a goddess to me. But I will always love Selena the most.
Tracy and I didn’t attend her funeral, or even any of the memorial services around town in 1995. We were more concerned with the fact she was no longer going to be able to make more good music so that we could sing and dance to it. What the hell were we going to listen to now? The answer until this day: Selena.
She was about to release her English-language album when she was killed. And if I’m being honest, her English music kind of sucked. But her death made her a legend. I love that on her anniversary of her death, only her music is played on Tejano radio, and that Texas Monthly put her on their magazine cover. I love that a new box set of all her songs was just released (and I love even more that I won it in an Selena trivia contest). I love that Selena went from singer to saint.
So on this day, whether you Baila Esta Cumbia or you think Selena’s music is cheesy and don’t ever want to dance a cumbia, let’s celebrate the artist that was so uniquely Texas. Let’s give props to an artist who made young Mexican girls feel good about themselves. And to the only artist who could bridge the gap between parents and children while on road trips to grandma’s house in Corpus.
Selena Quintanilla was born on April 16, 1971. She passed away on March 31, 1995.