Twenty-six years after she was killed when she was just 23 years old, the life of Tejano superstar Selena Quintanilla continues to make an impression in cultural sensitivity. It is just not only Selena’s great music that remains alive after her through tribute concerts and albums. It is her incredible understanding of fashion that is being honored through limited-edition merchandise, with her universal image shown everywhere, from t-shirts to cosmetics.
Who is Selena Quintanilla-Pérez?
Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, born on April 16, 1971, was a famous American songwriter, singer, businesswoman, spokesperson, actress, fashion designer, and model. Considered as the “Queen of Tejano music,” Selena’s contributions to the music and fashion industry made her one of the most well-known Mexican-American artists of the late 20th century. She was killed at the age of 23 in March 1995.
How Did Selena Quintanilla-Pérez Die?
One month before her murder, Selena was at the peak of her profession. On February 26, 1995, with her band Los Dinos, she performed for above 60,000 people at the Houston Astrodome in her well known purple pantsuit. After a few days, she attended the Grammy Awards ceremony for the second-time nomination of her fourth-studio album Amor Prohibido as the Best Mexican-American Performance. Unfortunately, she lost the 1995 Gramma Award, but in 1994, “Selena Live” got the Best Mexican-American Album Award.
In Franklin, Tennessee, she was also recording “I Could Fall In Love” with well-known producer and songwriter Keith Thomas. Besides music, Selena was hoping to grow Selena Etc, a boutique brand that she started the year earlier than the stores in her hometown of Corpus Christi and San Antonio, Texas.
At the beginning of March 1995, Selena and her family found financial issues with her fashion brand and fan club. They blamed Saldívar (who was raised in her rank to the manager of the boutiques after her remarkable work with the club) for not shipping fans articles that they bought from them, as well as stealing $30,000, the Associated Press reported at the time. Selena decided to collect those records on several different occasions. On one such try at a Days Inn motel in Corpus Christi, Saldívar shot Selena from behind on her shoulder with a 38-caliber revolver. According to the Associated Press, the bullet broke an artery in her collarbone before exiting her chest, which negatively affected and broke her brain function.
Many motel representatives later affirmed that Selena rushed towards the motel’s hall after being shot and followed by Saldívar. She provided Saldívar’s name and room number before she fell and was hastened to Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital, where she was declared dead, Associated Press reported. This statement clashed with Saldívar’s statement that she shot Selena by accident. Saldívar was declared guilty of first-degree murder and punished to life in jail, although over the years, she has kept her innocence and registered for many appeals to no avail.
The unexpected loss of Selena was so adverse that many could not accept the news at first. Maria Aguirre, who was the receptionist for Tejano radio station KQQK at the time of the singer’s death, said the New York Times that calls from her fans flooded in as quick as the news of her being shot broadcasted, many of whom were “calling to confirm” that Selena died. “They cannot believe that it happened,” she had said. “It’s almost like the feeling when John Lennon died. She was the queen of Tejano.“
Who is Yolanda Saldívar?
While Selena was living, Yolanda Saldívar had claimed her biggest supporter. In fact, she dedicated her life to Selena.
In 1991, Saldívar established the Selena Fan Club and ultimately resigned from her job as a nurse to manage the club full-time. In 1994, she was raised to manage the two boutiques of Selena in Texas, actually becoming a devoted member of Selena’s life. According to an interview Saldívar gave with 20/20, Selena even termed her “mom.”
But their bond had a secret side. According to people who recognized her, Saldívar was possessive about her, even obsessed with Selena. “A woman who moved into an apartment with Yolanda discovered that Yolanda didn’t just have pictures of Selena on her walls—the whole place was ‘like a shrine,'” published in an article in Texas Monthly.
Martin Gomez, a fashion designer for the boutiques of Selena, shared his office with Saldívar and finally resigned from his job because of her unhinged attitude. “She was very vindictive. She was very possessive of Selena. She’d get, like, very angry if you crossed her. She would play so many mind games, say people had said things they hadn’t said,” Gomez told The Washington Post. “So many things would happen to the clothing I was working on. I knew that I had finished a certain piece, but I would come back from a trip to New York and the hems would be ripped out. It was very strange.”
Abraham Quintanilla who is the father of Selena saw proof that Saldívar had robbed from the boutiques and fan clubs. The family of Quintanilla confronted Saldívar about her activities on March 9. ‘I told her that I was going to go to the police and make an investigation for embezzlement,’ Abraham mentioned UPI in 1995.
After that encounter, Saldívar bought a revolver. On March 31, Saldívar and Selena met to take Saldívar to the hospital. Saldívar asserted she had been the sufferer of a sexual attack during a tour to Monterrey, Mexico. Then, the two returned to the Days Inn, where Saldívar agreed to give Selena missing financial records.
While in Saldívar’s room, Selena fell in the lobby, where, before she lost sense, she managed to call her assailant. When police appeared at the scene, they discovered Saldívar locked in her pick-up truck with the handgun pointed at her temple, crying, “I can’t believe I killed my best friend.” She ran from police at bay for nearly ten hours in a rainy standoff before she was arrested. Meanwhile, Selena was raced to Memorial Medical Center, where doctors found her clinically brain-dead upon arrival, owing to her subclavian artery’s severing. After almost an hour of failed efforts to revive her, Selena was declared dead.
Saldívar was caught following a nine-and-a-half-hour delay with police. “I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t mean to kill anybody,” she said while keeping a gun to her head, according to the L.A. Times.
The Saldívar Still States that She Shot Selena Unintentionally
To this day, Saldívar says that shooting Selena was an accidental act. “She told me: ‘Yolanda, I don’t want you to kill yourself.‘ She opened the door. When I told her to close it, the gun went off,” Saldivar said while talking to police investigators, according to the L.A. Times. Saldívar retold the story during her interview with 20/20 News.
Saldívar pled not guilty during her case in October 1995, but the judges believed differently–likely agreeing with Saleena’s father, Abraham, who believed his daughter was shot in a crime of anger. “It was no accident,” he said on Univision’s Primer Impacto. “It was a moment of rage because she was being fired.”
After considering for two hours, the 12-person jury condemned Saldívar of first-degree murder. Today, Saldívar is in jail. Saldívar is now 60 years old, is currently spending her life sentence at the Mountain View Unit, a maximum-security women’s prison in Gatesville, TX. She will be available for parole in 2025.
The Family of Selena:
In Selena’s family, her father Abraham, her mother Marcela, her siblings Abraham III and Suzette, and her husband Chris Pérez are all alive and healthy today.
After twenty-six years, the Quintanilla family resumes keeping the legacy of Selena growing. Suzette Quintanilla controls Q Productions, the entertainment company and studio where Selena used to record music. In 2012, Pérez, who although has remarried and associated with other bands, released a memoir about his love story with his late wife, titled To Selena, With Love. Abraham Quintanilla Jr. and Selena’s mother, Marcela Quintanilla, established The Selena Foundation, which supports children in need and associates with local nonprofits to host Selena’s events, such as Fiesta de la Flor. Suzette Quintanilla and Abraham Quintanilla Jr. are registered as executive producers on Selena: The Series, with Netflix saying that the family is “fully involved” in the series.
“When Selena passed away, I told my family that I was going to try to keep her memory alive through her music,” said Quintanilla Jr. in March 2020. “Twenty-five years later, I think we, as a family, accomplished that.“
Selena Quintanilla’s Husband Chris Perez Shares Memories with His Wife
Twenty-six years after her departure, Selena Quintanilla remains to live on in the thoughts of millions of her fans, including her husband, Chris Perez. Similar to the rest of the world, Chris witnessed Selena’s journey to stardom from a local Texas singer-songwriter to a Grammy winner on the cusp of crossover success. And now, the guitarist will always be intertwined with Selena’s legacy because of their love story.
In Netflix’s biographical show Selena: The Series, the late Tex-Mex singer’s fans will look closely at their relationship. Selena and Chris never lost their hope in their desire to be together.
In 1989, the two coincided when Chris joined the band Selena y Los Dinos as the new guitarist. Although Selena’s father and manager, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., had doubts initially about the guitarist because of his hard rock image, Chris quickly became an essential part of the team.
When questioned what he first assumed about Selena, Chris had two words. “Beautiful and talented,” he interviewed Entertainment Tonight in 2017. “I’m a shy person by nature, and there was just something about her that she was able to pull me out.”
Despite their best attempts to keep a professional relationship, Chris and Selena ultimately acknowledged their emotions for one another in a Pizza Hut. Shortly after, in 1990, they started secretly dating because Selena understood her father only wanted her concentrated on her profession and family. She worried that if he found out about their involvement, he would attempt to stop it.
And she was correct. Shortly afterward, Selena’s sister, Suzette Quintanilla, told Abraham about Selena and Chris, and he decided to keep the musician away from his daughter. Although Abraham denied their relationship, the Queen of Tejano Music and the guitarist continued their love in secret. Until Abraham finally discharged Chris from the band, he reportedly naming him “cancer” to the family.
“It kind of hurt his pride and his ego to find out that he was the last to know,” Chris spoke about Abraham to CNN. “When things got tense and things were said by him, it hurt me that he was saying it, but I didn’t let it get to me because I knew deep down, he knew the kind of person I was.“
But this act may have been the last try for Selena. She concluded that the only way her father would accept them being together was if they got married. On April 2, 1992, Selena and Chris escaped. Within hours, the media published their union, making the Quintanilla elders angry.
Selena and Chris may have seemed like the picture-perfect couple; however, the musician has been honest about their ups and downs, even starting up about considering divorce over the years.
“I think what it boiled down to is that we were young,” he stated CNN. “We were married and together 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We had to learn how to handle that and that was both of us. It’s not like she brought up the idea and I was fighting it because honestly I was right there with her.”
Fortunately, Selena’s brother, A.B. Quintanilla III, shares some of his views on how different life would be if the two parted and decided to stay together. “We ended up patching things up and making a promise that we would never let that happen again,” Chris recollected his memories. “We started talking about a family.”
But this next event never came to happen. Days before celebrating their third wedding anniversary, Selena was killed. On March 31, 1995, the founder and former president of her fan club Yolanda Saldívar killed the singer in the back with a gun. Selena’s departure spread shockwaves everywhere the world, leaving fans in disbelief.
Selena is remembered each year on her birthday, her wedding anniversary, and the anniversary of her death. On these specific occasions, Chris meets Selena’s family to celebrate and revive the memory of the music icon.
“The energy and her presence is felt a lot more that time of year,” he stated KSAT this year. “[Her legacy] just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and I think it’s an amazing thing, and I’m proud to be attached to it in the way that I am.“
In 2001, Chris remarried and had two children, a now-22-year-old daughter and a now-16-year-old son. He later got separated from his second wife in 2008. And through it all, he has not forgotten about his first love.
“I’m proud of her,” he said. “Proud of everything that she’s been able to accomplish.“
The Netflix Broadcasted a Show to Remember Selena
On December 4, 2020 Netflix released the first six episodes of a short two-part series about Selena’s profession. An ensemble piece, Selena: The Series, concentrates mainly on Selena’s experience in her family band, Selena y Los Dinos. “We all know Selena the icon, but this show is about her family, and how they all played a pivotal role in her success,” Gabriel Chavarria, who plays A.B., says OprahMag.com.
Ricardo Chavira, who acts Abraham, agrees. “We’re going deeper into the dynamics of this family. You have fully realized characters in all the different family members. I think it’s significant now, because of the age in which we’re living in—especially with COVID. A lot of families are spending more time together. It could be instrumental in us recognizing the significance of our own families, and also the family of community,” he says.
In the first season’s final episode, Abraham (Ricardo Chavira) receives a call from a woman named Yolanda (Natasha Perez), begging to manage the fan club. The family agreements. Little do they understand the role she’d play in their lives. The suspense music in the background.
Between Netflix’s future series, and the illustrated books and albums from the Quintanilla family, a new generation will soon learn all that Selena was capable to do when she was living—and what she remains to do in death. Selena was not only one of the most popular but one of the most prosperous Mexican-American artists to date. She smashed boundaries within male-dominated Tejano music, a technique that blends genres such as folk, mariachi, and cumbia while placing her own turn on it. This enabled her to attract both her Mexican and American fans. At the same time, Selena was not the first or last Latinx or Hispanic artist to crossover. Her class endures a unique example and motivation.