Exuding charisma and beauty, Selena Quintanilla was one of the most promising performers to have ever emerged out of the Tejano music scene. Characterized largely by the familiar sound of synthesizers, the genre reached its peak of popularity during the nineties with groups like La Mafia, La Sombra, Bobby Pulido and of course Selena who was the first Tejano artist to land a Grammy for her album, Live!
The Tejano genre was more than simply just music, for many it was a way of life, a testament to the lifestyles of many Hispanics, many of whom we’re newcomers to this country during this period of heavy immigration from Mexico. It bridged the long-term Chicano communities and their history with those that we’re newly arrived and created a very fortified musical community, especially in South Texas.
Born in Lake Jackson, Selena and her rise to fame as well as tragic death is a story widely known, especially as it was popularly depicted in Warner Brother’s 1997 biopic film starring Jennifer Lopez.
Selena’s death in 1995 was a painful blow not only to her devout fans but also to the Tejano music scene that suffered a decline in popularity as a result. Selena’s legacy however, along with her wonderful music continues to live through the hearts of many. In Houston specifically, a city with an enormous Mexican and Mexican American population, the legacy has especially been continued in communities such as Houston’s Second Ward which boasts one of the most historic and predominant Mexican American communities in the city. Many long-term residents of the area still reminisce about Selena’s performances in Guadalupe Plaza Park back in 1994 when she was one of the featured artists at The Tejano Grand Finale Show of the Coca Cola Road trip, as well as her Cinco de Mayo celebration performance.
One of the Second Ward’s most coveted and historic sites, the park was the center of controversy when suggestions for demolition were made by the city.
Apart from gracing smaller, more intimate parts of the city, Selena went on to perform at bigger Houston venues such as the George R. Brown Center, The AstroWorld’s Southern Star Amphitheatre and the El Dorado Ranch Nightclub, which happened to be where her last performance in Houston took place. Although many of these places are closed down now, the memory of Selena and her presence in our city continues and many long-term residents still hold dear to them the memory of these venues and how at one point, they embodied the spirit and history of Houston.
Most importantly among them, her final performance at The Astrodome for the Houston Rodeo has not only set a precedent for future performers at this event but it created a pop culture phenomenon. This event that boasted the largest crowd in Astrodome history (up until 2001) was her last televised concert. Everything from her signature purple glittery jumpsuit, to the explosive response of her fans, this legendary performance was everything.
It reminded our city and various other cities in South Texas of the immense population of Hispanics, and the large-scale influence they have had on turn outs of enormous events such as seen in the Rodeo which even to the day, Tejano Day manages to top off most of the other days (in attendance records) that the Rodeo offers. Not only that but it made people aware of the invaluable contributions made by this group of people to Texas history as a whole. Selena was simply a star among the many other stars that encompassed this idea and reminded us of all the great things diversity and appreciation of heritage can offer a city. Not only that, but Selena was also an artist who bridged cultures together, as she composed many successful English songs and was a native born Texan herself, she reminded us of the appreciation and love Chicanos can have for both their identities, and in a city/state with a long history of Chicano presence, this legacy of coexistence and regard for both identities as equally and special is one that makes Selena a remarkable figure in our history.
Tiffany is HTX based freelance contributing writer previously featured on PILAR Poetry & Short Stories and The Young Houston Magazine. She is a two time Poetic Power winner. Her writing specializes in music, art, city life, film & TV and pop culture. She is currently a Freshman at the University of Houston studying Communications and Mexican American Studies.