Late at night when all the world is sleeping, I stay up and listen to Selena songs. A lot of them, actually. And believe me, there’s enough in her musical catalog to keep me entertained for hours. Just ask my neighbor, el chico del apartamento 512.
But it’s more than just pure entertainment for me, a self-identified Tejano who grew up on the Texas-Mexico border in the early 1990s when Selena (and her group Los Dinos) personified the Mexican-American experience, particularly in South Texas.
Even 20 years after Selena’s untimely death, she’s still the patron saint of Tejano culture, and I’ll even say, Latino identity. And I dare you to challenge me on that as millions of her fans, many of whom span demographics, mark this sad day in music history by playing her timeless music, watching that memorable, and quotable, biopic starring Jennifer López, or reblogging her stunning pictures on Tumblr. Yes, hoop earrings should always be a thing.
I’d be the first to argue that Selena’s music defies generational limitations. Ask any Latino, specifically Mexican-Americans, about her, and you’ll hear a personal story about how her life and death have impacted their cultural tastes. And I’m sure more than a few have either heard about or visited her bronze statue or museum located in Corpus Christi, Texas. I know I have.
Selena’s music is, and will forever, mean home to those of us who speak the language of cumbia and dance the “washing machine” at each carne asada or quinceañera known to man. I guarantee you your Tío Pepe dances to “Techno Cumbia” as soon as the synthesizer, and Corona, kicks in.
And that, my friends, is really the reason why Selena’s legacy continues—it’s so ingrained within Mexican-American identity and tradition that it’s nearly impossible to separate the two. Though indescribable, that feeling that overcomes your body when you hear the first few notes of “Como la Flor” or “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” is so universal that you can’t help but feel nostalgic. This is where you cue the accordion player.
Many people make fun of me for obsessing over Selena and her music, especially all of these years later, and to them I ask: How would you feel if THE musical artist who defined your childhood died before their prime? That being said, I can try and imagine the career Selena would have now, but I’m honestly happy with the fotos y recuerdos this “diva interrupted” left behind because they’re just that good.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve only heard “No Debes Jugar” four times so far, and the rhinestones are already falling off my bustier.