Netflix has recently released the first season of a series depicting the life of Tejano Music artist Selena, who was working on a crossover into English music when she was murdered at the age of 23.
I was 13 years old when I became a fan of her music. I loved her song, “Baila Esta Cumbia” – which I played non-stop learning how to dance cumbia – and my family is Tejano but I lived far from most of them, which meant that while they were all learning how to dance in the backyard or kitchen while the Tias drank coffee, I was learning on my own in the field behind my house with my Shetland ponies, Sunshine and Peanut, who were also huge Selena fans.
When I was 14 I lived in a house with my own room for the first time in my life.
I had a TV in there and got to watch some of Selena’s interviews. That is when I realized she did not speak Spanish when she began singing and still had a hard time speaking it even at the height of her Tejano career. I also did not speak Spanish even though it was the first language I spoke. I did not speak English until I was in the first grade. I understood it, but in the first grade I was no longer allowed to speak Spanish and so I lost it.
Not only did Selena look like me, come from the same roots that I came from, sang music that my family liked (I was also listening to Nirvana and Metallica, so it was nice to have some music in common with my mom and Tio) but she also understood the struggle of not speaking Spanish when you are Hispanic.
I had Selena posters all over my room. I would stand at the town Dairy Queen with my friends, hoping to see her bus go through town on the way from Corpus to San Antonio. How we got the information without the internet is beyond me. It was not good info, in any case. I never did catch the bus.
Once I skipped school and ran away to see her play in concert.
When I gave birth to my oldest son Anthony in 1994, I would put him to sleep to the Selena Live album while other babies were falling asleep to lullabies. He slept in a Selena shirt the first year of his life. When she died in March of 1995, I left work in shock and tears. I went to pick up my baby and took him to a candlelight vigil. Little did I know that on a March day 22 years later that baby would die by suicide.
Her death was such a tragedy for my culture. She was so young, so beautiful and so full of potential. After her death, she captured the hearts of people outside of my niche culture. It was so cool to see how many people saw in her what I had been seeing since I was a child.
This series gives an even deeper look into what made her Selena.
Her father’s drive has often been called controlling, but he reminds me a lot of my mother and Tio. The pressure to not be poor Mexicans was so real for them. Selena’s dad carried the added burden of being creative. My culture is not exactly open to and supportive of the arts, which you can see if you read the comments about this series, all of which were said about the movie as well.
I can only imagine that all of this made Abraham into the man he was. His drive is what gave Selena the confidence to break the barriers she did. She knew if anyone messed with her, they would have to deal with him. That gives a person a certain level of freedom. I had that same freedom having my Tio Roy in my life.
More than anything, this series has given me a different respect for this entire family, not only Selena.
As a mother who lost my 22-year-old child, I can see why they would want to take the opportunity to tell everyone her story, which could easily be hijacked by others who want to push an agenda that is not about the real thing. They worked hard as a family and reached a level of success that has taught the world about Tejanos. To me, that is a win. As a Catholic, it really highlighted the beauty of family in good times and bad times. How they have managed to keep Selena’s light shining.