Twenty years ago today, on March 31, 1995, the Queen of Tejano music Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, known by the mononym Selena, was murdered by Yolanda Saldívar, her friend and former president of Selena’s fan club and employee of her boutiques. Selena was meeting with Yolanda at a Corpus Christi motel to discuss her concerns that she had embezzled money from her when Yolanda shot her, according to trial testimony. Yolanda Saldivar argued that she accidentally fired the shot, but the jury didn’t buy it. Yolanda Saldivar was sentenced to life in prison on October 23, 1995 for Selena’s murder. She must serve at least 30 years of her sentence before she is eligible for parole in 2025.
The news of Selena’s death plunged many Latino listeners into mourning. They compared her passing to the death reactions of American icons such as John Lennon, Elvis Presley, and US president John F. Kennedy. Selena’s music attracted Latino fans in the U.S. and Spanish-speaking fans abroad. Her posthumous crossover album, Dreaming of You (1995), debuted atop the Billboard 200, becoming the first Latin artist to accomplish this feat. Two weeks after her death, George W. Bush (governor of Texas at the time) declared her birthday Selena Day in Texas.
At the time of her death, Selena was 23 years old and her funeral drew 60,000 mourners.
Selena Quintanilla-Perez started singing the Tejano music that eventually made her famous in her father’s restaurant in Lake Jackson, Texas. Her father Abraham taught the family band and named them Los Dinos after his own group from earlier years. Selena’s brother, A.B., played bass, and her sister, Suzette, played drums.
When the family moved to Corpus Christi, the group started getting gigs at local parties and weddings.
Selena was only 15 when she won Female Entertainer of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year at the Tejano Music Awards. That got her a record contract, and several albums followed: Alpha (1986), Munequito de Trapo (1987), And the Winner is… (1987), Preciosa (1988), and Dulce Amor (1988). She eventually married her guitarist, Chris Perez.
In 1994, she won a Grammy for best Mexican-American album for Selena Live! and seemed poised for mainstream stardom. Unfortunately, she was not able to reach her full potential because of her tragic demise.
20 Years After Her Death
Twenty years later, Selena Quintanilla-Perez’s influence is still being felt. Her official Facebook page still has more than 2 million likes, and fans are remembering the singer who crossed barriers and made them sing and dance to her blend of Tejano music. Fans will celebrate her life and legacy at the commemorative Fiesta de la Flor in Corpus Christi in mid-April.
“Of course I’m happy that, today, people remember Selena more than ever,” Abraham Quintanilla Jr. said via phone from his office in Corpus Christi. “But, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, we don’t celebrate deaths or birthdays, and we don’t want people to think we’re behind all the festivities.
“It’s crazy. It grows every day with events everywhere, but we’re not organizing them. Our family never got together every year on the day of her murder, because there’s nothing to celebrate, and this year won’t be the exception,” he added. “We remember our daughter every single day. We don’t need a special day to remember her.”
Sleep in Peace, Selena! The World Still Loves You!
By Shamarie Knight, 31st Mar 2015