I called this post “Celebrating The Queen,” because I spent Mother’s Day weekend with my mom at the Second Annual, Fiesta de la Flor – a festival celebrating the life of Selena Quintanilla Perez.
In so many ways, this festival ties my all worlds together. Attending the event meant incorporating flying, driving, dancing, music, singing, my mom, family, Selena costumes, red lips, eyeliner, waterfronts, blue skies, beauty, Latinos, love & history. It was definitely an experience I’ll never forget.
You see, when I was a little girl, my Mexican parents thought it would be best to have “Americanized” children. No Spanish, no accent, just perfect English. This would avoid all the ridicule they endured growing up. I’ve talked a little bit about this in a previous post.
Anyway, when I was a young girl, my (Mexican-Amercican) mom had this Spanish cassette that she would listen to on repeat. The melodies were intriguing & the sultry, raspy voice called to me. When I first heard Selena’s Entre A Mi Mundo, it was love as first note. The album included an English track called “Missing My Baby,” which was reminiscent of the Golden Oldies you’d hear on Sunday nights, on the Art Laboe show. I was impressed that this “Mexican” singer knew English. When my mom explained to me that Selena was Mexican-American, like us, and that she only learned Spanish through her music, she instantly (along with Mariah Carey) became my idol.
Little did I know that I’d only get to enjoy Selena as a living artist for a few short years. When I was in sixth grade, my mom picked me up from school on Friday, March 31, 1995, with tears in her eyes. She told me that Selena had been shot & killed earlier that day. I remember crying myself to sleep that night.
After losing such an icon in my life, the only thing I could do was try keep her alive in my world, in my own way. Everyday after school, I’d come home & spend hours upon hours with her CDs on repeat, singing and dancing in my room. I was silly enough to think my family couldn’t hear me.
About six months later, after hearing me practice so avidly, my mom asked me to sing at my dad’s birthday party. Nervous to sing in Spanish, in front of a Mexican crowd with a full Mariachi band, I initially declined. Then, she offered me to pay me & I jumped up and grabbed the microphone. I sang Tú Sólo Tú, trying as hard as I could to mimic Selena’s cover from her last studio album, “Dreaming of You,” which was released after her passing.
The crowd seemed pleased & very surprised… and, I was hooked. It was hard to keep me from singing at parties after that.
After 21 years of imitating, impersonating & cultivating my own version of a Selena-inspired woman, I finally got to visit her home town of Corpus Christi. The best part was that I got to take my mom, the woman who introduced me to this artist, who continues to influence my life even over two decades after her death. I was beyond excited.
The entire trip was a roller coaster ride. Excitement, sadness, heartbreak, love, anger… Those were all a part of the emotional weekend.
Our weekend started with a dash to the festival. After two flights & a road trip from San Antonio, we made it to Corpus Christi in time to catch Pete Astudillo. My mom and I both cried when he performed “Como Te Extraño,” a cumbia he wrote for Selena. It was such a precious moment.
The night ended on a happy note with the Legend, “El Rey de la Acordeón,” Ramón Ayala.” Every Mexican family plays his classics at any given gathering. His music is a staple in our culture.
The next day, we mapped out some stops around Corpus Christi. We wanted to see everything from where Selena lived, to where she was laid to rest. Here’s how our day went:
We (along with some other festival goers) started our day with a visit to Selena’s gravesite.
Our next stop was was Selena & Chris’s house. They actually lived next door to Abraham & Marcela Quintanilla (Selena’s parents). On the other side of their house (not photographed) was A.B. Quintanilla’s house – Selena’s brother/producer/bandmate.
The most chilling stop we made all day was to the (former) Days Inn, room 158 (now Knight’s Inn, room 150), where Selena was brutally murdered by her fan club president, Yolanda Saldivar.
We met the guest staying in the room & he was nice enough to let us in to look around. It was definitely a heavy & eerie experience . I mean, this was the actual spot where Selena was shot! It was heartbreaking.
The hallway where Selena ran to look for help to save her life…
Next, was the Selena Museum. It’s also the location for Q Productions, Selena’s recording studio. The museum was closed, but we got a few pics outside.
My mom made me do this…
Our last stop, before Day 2 at the festival, was the Selena Memorial & statue.
After the emotional tour, we hit the festival for a bit & enjoyed the perfect weather, good music, and all the Selena costumes. It was such a beautiful day.
I loved this girl’s costume! We chatted for a bit & discovered that we have same birthday, October 25.
The closest I got to Chris Perez during his meet & greet. The line was about 3hours…
Taking a page from the Selena movie & doing “The Washing Machine,” with my mom.
We turned in early, in order to get a good night’s sleep and to prepare for our day of travel. In the morning, we thought we’d stop by the Selena Museum to check if it was as open. It was!
After paying the small $3 entrance, we were lead into Selena’s recording studio. This was the actual room where she recorded the music that I still listen today; the same room you see Jennifer Lopez depicting the recording of “I Could Fall in Love,” in the movie. I was more than excited!
After a short introduction & a mintute for photo ops, we were free to look around the Museum. The family has preserved & displayed Selena’s many awards, photos of the singer, some of her personal items, including jewelry, an old cell phone and her famous red Porsche. The main displays, and the center focus, are some of Selena’s iconic outfits. To see the pieces up close and personal, is very moving. Each display case contains a photo of the singer in that particular outfit. Being that close to the actual clothes that she wore & designed touched my heart. It made me feel close to her & that the same time, I was reminded of how she stolen from us way too soon.
The oh-so famous Purple outfit from Selena’s last concert…
One of the most moving displays in the museum – a lipstick stained microphone…
I noticed that a lot of the things she wore didn’t look expensive or extravagant in those display cases. A lot of the pieces had obviously been bedazzled by the singer herself. You can see traces of glue from the hot glue gun under some of the jewels that made her belts & bra tops sparkle. Some of the pieces looked worn & used, but man, when she wore them, she looked like a million bucks!
After spending time in Corpus Christi, it became so clear to me that Selena really was just a small town girl, with a simple life. She was just human, like me and you. She loved to be close to her family & she loved to sing. She was innovative and driven and she would have done so many more great things, if she had been given the chance at a longer life.
Standing in front of the “Selena” lights from the Last Concert, filmed at the Houston Astrodome on February 26, 1995.
I think one of the greatest things Selena (or her tragic death) did for me, was bring me to ask myself, “When I’m gone, what will people say about me? How will I be remembered?”
It made me realize that in this life, there are so many people who I will cross paths with. Some people will be in my life for a long time, and others, for just a brief moment, but either way, whether they’re around for many moments, or for just one, those “moments” will be the only thing they ever know of me; the only experiences they’ll ever have… So, I might as well make them good!
Thank you for reading along. I really hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to share any of your Selena stories in the comments.