Selena
by Juan Fourneau
March 20, 2023

In the summer of 1994, I headed to Eagle Pass Texas to visit. While I was there, my family shared they were going to see the Tejano superstar Selena–she was playing live in mom’s hometown. I have never been the most fun guy and knew the place would be packed. I passed.

My sister Isabel, my brothers, my parents and primos, everyone but Juan went. They came back from the show glowing; Selena had put on a tremendous performance. The dance floor was packed and a great time was had.

Selena had been touring for years and was hitting her stride as a live performer. Her brother, A.B. Quintanilla, had began to show his chops as well by crafting hits that were blended with pop and mariachi, perfect for radio and the dance floor. It didn’t hurt that she was stunning to look at and her stylish outfits were being emulated by Latin girls all over.

That fall, I headed to Eagle Pass to live and attend wrestling school in Dallas. I got a job at Subway. The album “Amor Prohibido” was played by the staff every day and could be heard blasting in the car radios of the entire town it seemed. In those days, when you wanted to hear a song at will, your only choice was to buy the album. Sometimes, you got your hit and a few surprises, but typically, you were disappointed. However, “Amor Prohibido” was chock full of hits. You got to do a rare thing in that era, you hit play and enjoyed the entire album.

When I tired of the long seven hour drive to Dallas from the border, I got a familiar job outside of Austin on I-35 at a Hardees. I was working there one night when a co-worker, an older Hispanic gentleman, told me that Selena Quintanilla had been murdered. We were stunned, but not many details were out. When I awoke the next day, I drove on the interstate to go to work. I saw cars with paint on them, “Your music will live forever.” Banners and signs were on homes, “We loved you.” The Hispanic community was in shock and mourning; they had lost one of their own.

Selena performing in Eagle Pass, Texas in July 1994. Photo by Isabel Mireles,

In her home state of Texas, the news hit hard. As a bit of an outsider, it was fascinating to see the dynamic play out in front of my eyes. Selena was not well known outside of the Hispanic community. In Texas you have three big groups, Whites, African Americans, and the Latino population. Those ethnic groups shape the history, food, and culture of the Lone Star State. One of those communities was suffering, in pain, and talking about the beautiful talented young lady who had died far too soon, in such a violent disturbing manner. The story was all over Spanish television but absent from traditional media. That didn’t last long.

People magazine put Selena and the story on their cover. When the magazines flew off the shelves, it became apparent how special this talented young women was. Within weeks, the rest of America found out who Selena was. The movie rights to her life story were sold, and her crossover English album was released in 1995.

One can’t help but wonder what might have been. I remember standing in line to see the movie at the Plaza Theaters in the Muscatine Mall. One of those in line was “Tiny,” David Botello, owner of Tiny’s Tunes Entertainment. Before he became a D.J. and a dad, I remember Tiny dancing up a storm at The Col Ballroom and other venues. When I asked him about her legacy he was poignant: “Even to this day, she has the power to get people up and dancing, like the young people say, ‘get them in the feelings.’ There are kids that were born after her passing and she still has an impact on their lives. Imagine if she was still alive, the career she would have had?”

The banners and signs I saw on my drive in Texas were prophetic. Selena, The Queen of Tejano music, your music will live forever, and we do still love you.

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