Lindsey Reynolds | Reporter
On the morning of March 31, 1995, Yolanda Saldívar, a close friend and confidant of musical icon Selena Quintanilla, shot and killed the star in a Corpus Christi hotel room. 24 years later, Quintanilla’s legacy is a living and vibrant testament to her impact on Latino-American culture and music.
The late singer, also known as the queen of Tejano music, was a living irony. She was a third-generation Texan who spoke very little Spanish. She learned to sing her Spanish songs phonetically, under the constant correction of her musician father, Abraham Quintanilla. Although she was the third-highest-earning Latino artist in the U.S., she always remained grounded by her family and hometown, even after being awarded a Grammy for her album “LIVE!”
The early days of Selena’s career were anything but glamorous. A teenage Selena, surrounded by her family who doubled as band members, drove to gigs all over the south on a hot, crowded bus that her father spent half of his time fixing. Oftentimes there wouldn’t be more than a handful of people at the band’s performances, but as Selena developed her electrifying stage presence with each show, it was apparent she was destined for fame.
In the years following, the young star became the face of Coca-Cola’s Latino market, a fashion designer with her own line, a chart-topping artist and perhaps the thing she is most known for: an influencer of Latin-American culture.
Manuel Peña, an ethnomusicologist, commented about her impact on the industry and the nation in an interview.
“She slayed — or at least wounded — the dragon of sexism in the sense that she carved out her own path in a very male-dominated market,” Peña said. “Female Tejano artists always played second fiddle to the men.”
In addition to leading the way for a wider acceptance of Latina artists in America, Selena also refused to conform to the normal Anglo beauty standards of Latina celebrities at the time. She refused to lighten her hair, she loved her curves, and she was unashamed of her Mexican heritage. This gave early generations of Mexican-American women, and even Latina women from other countries, an outstanding role model from the same socio-economic and regional affiliations.
Shelby Rocco, a senior marketing major from San Luis Obispo, Calif., commented on how diverse representation of women in the media can be used to inspire and influence young women.
“We’ve all seen how important representation is in the media, and it’s especially important to see girls who look like you and who have the same heritage as you being portrayed in movies and in other things,” Rocco said. “I’m sure she was very beneficial to many young girls who were growing up in a Hispanic-American household where the average woman portrayed in the media didn’t look like them. Selena gave them a sense of pride.”
Because of her vast influence in both the Latino and American music industries as well as on the social climate of the time, many people from the Mexican-American community related the devastation of her death to that of former President John F. Kennedy’s. Following her death, fans from all over the world came together in memory of Selena. Even today, fans visit her memorial at Seaside Memorial Park in Corpus Christi, remembering the iconic life and legacy of Selena.