March 31st is always a holiday to me. I do admit it's odd that I celebrate someone's death, but I do. March 31, 1995, the world lost an icon at the young age of 23. Selena Quintanilla-Perez was shot to death by the President of her fan club. At the time of her death, a vast majority of Americans didn't know who she was. She was well known in the Mexican and Mexican-American communities, but wasn't the household name she is to all Americans twenty three years past her death.
Why does a Caucasian girl from Chicago (that would be me), have such fondness for a woman who died twenty three years ago and sang primarily in Spanish? For one, I do remember her music, slightly. I grew up in Chicago, an area that has a much larger Hispanic population than St. Louis, and worked in restaurants. My Hispanic co-workers often played her music in the kitchen and I liked it. I would even venture to the City of Chicago to Latin clubs and we would dance the night away to Selena's music. I will NEVER forget March 31, 1995. I was very young and had not even begun my radio career yet. I remember the sadness that swept over my co-workers. I asked them what was wrong and they told me that Selena died. They showed me the newspaper article that explained how a beautiful Mexican American woman had been shot to death. They were so sad. I was informed by one co-worker that she was the "Mexican Madonna." Selena meant so much to them. In the days, months and years following her death, she only grew in popularity.
Two months following her death, I got my big break in radio. I was hired to write news for a Top 40 radio station in Chicago, B96. We targeted Hispanics, as well as Caucasians. In the months following her death, there was an investigation and trial that led to the conviction of the awful Yolanda Saldivar. Also, Selena's father, Abraham, decided a movie should be made about Selena's life. We covered the auditions and making of the film. Two years later, Selena, the movie hit the big screen and catapulted Jennifer Lopez into superstardom. As much as I love Jennifer Lopez, I still get sad when I watch Selena because Selena Quintanilla would have been as big a star as J-LO, if not bigger, and maybe more humble. We. Just. Don't. Know. We don't know what would have happened to Selena's life and career.
This is where the sadness and tragedy end and the celebration begins! Selena died at the age of 23. 23 years later, we still buy her Mac make up collection. Just YESTERDAY, I paid someone $31 on E-bay for a limited edition SHOPPING BAG with Selena's face on it. Selena lives 23 YEARS PAST HER DEATH!!! Who can say they left a legacy like that? I can think of very few. Why does she have this legacy? She was kind, she worked hard, and she was out of this world talented. She didn't even speak Spanish, but made a career in the Spanish speaking market. She was kind to everyone she encountered. She was a real person who, even after selling a million records, still lived in her old neighborhood in Corpus Christi, Texas. It does make me sad that she can't see what her legend became, but she lives on in future generations. It is a tragedy that the thing she wanted the most, the thing that was in the works, an English language album, came out four months following her death.
As the years go on, more and more performances from her past are unEarthed on You Tube. I've come to find that she and I had similar music tastes growing up in the 80s and 90s. She covered a number of songs by the best dance/pop artists of the late 80s and 90s - Debbie Gibson and Janet Jackson.
How many 23 year olds can say they conquered the music and fashion world. Selena owned two boutiques in Texas - Selena Etc. Her style was awesome! It only would have flourished had she not passed. Her family does an incredible job at keeping her legacy alive with a museum in Texas, a two day festival in April, sanctioning a wax statue, releasing unreleased music, creating a Mac make up line, inking a limited edition shopping bag with her face on it, dolls, apparel, etc. . .
This March 31st, i'm going to cherish life, smell the white roses (her favorite flower), and celebrate her in song! Can I get a "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom?" Vive Selena!