Some people remember exactly what they were doing when JFK was shot on Nov. 22, 1963, or exactly what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001.
I remember exactly what I was doing on March 31, 1995.
I was sitting inside of my cubicle at the Muleshoe Journal when my Dad called and asked, “Have you heard? They shot Selena!”
I couldn’t believe it. I had heard false rumors spread in the Tejano music world before. I immediately called a former co-worker who was at home watching the news unfold on TV. We only had a small transistor radio at the newspaper so I went out to my car and clicked on the nearest Tejano radio station, Magic 93.7 out of Lubbock, which was broadcasting details of the event that quickly became a national and international story.
“Tejano music queen Selena lost her life today in Corpus Christi, Texas, shot by her fan club president. The news is shaking San Antonio (the capitol of Texas music) like an earthquake,” the DJ proclaimed.
Wednesday marks the ninth anniversary of the death of Selena, the Tejano music queen who was so loved by millions, and yet was unknown to millions more until her first all-English album and movie of her life was later released.
Just about every year for the past nine years, I’ve written some kind of tribute to Selena, one of my all-time favorite singers. I imagine I’ll stop writing my annual Selena column after her 10th anniversary next year, but like other music legends, Selena will not be forgotten. Her inspiration will continue to be seen in other young, aspiring singers. Her name may not be mentioned as often, but she’ll always be there.
While there will never be another Selena, there are a few female artists out there reaching the pinnacle that Selena reached near the end of her short life, such as Thalia, Jennifer Pena and Alicia Villarreal. This is according to my friend, Ramiro Burr, a music columnist for the San Antonio-Express News and author of “A Billboard Guide to Tejano and Regional Mexican Music.“
“People will not forget Selena, just like they have not forgotten Elvis Presley, Jimmy Hendrix and The Doors,” Burr said. “Her music will always be there and I think that there are little girls coming up who want to recreate that magic.”
The big question on the nightly news on that March day of 1995 was “How far would Selena have gone had her life not been cut short at the age of 23?” There was a great deal of speculation.
At the time of her death, Selena was poised to make a crossover into the English music market and had made her first movie appearance. But while millions of people were asking this question, I had another one going through my mind. One that continues to come up at the back of my mind from time to time.
“Would Selena have given me an interview? Even five minutes of her time?”
About six months before her death, Selena performed at the old Boot Hill nightclub in Clovis. This was during the Tejano music explosion when other stars, such as Emilio, were make successful crossovers into country music. And at that time, a lot of big Tejano stars were performing in Clovis, during the good ole days when Clovis had a Tejano radio station.
What’s up with that anyway? I can’t understand why there is not a Spanish radio station in Clovis or Portales.
Anyway, Selena was performing at the Boot Hill when I was working for the Muleshoe Journal and I was trying to decide whether or not to go to the concert. I remember it was an incredibly busy week for me and in the end, I decided not to go. It’s a decision I’ve deeply regretted. I figured I could see Selena live when she performed again in Lubbock. That never happened.
But I’ve always wondered, if I had gone to that Selena concert that night, and if I had gone with a notepad and camera in hand, as I often did to these Tejano concerts, would she have given me even a minute of her time?
With this question aside, I was excited by the well-deserved attention Selena was given after her death. There was the Selena movie, the Selena musical, a Selena line of clothing and CDs, which are still being released. There’s also a Selena memorial and museum, as well as a Selena tour in her hometown of Corpus Christi. And most importantly, there’s the impact she has made on others, and the inspiration — the inspiration that a little Mexican American girl from Texas, or any other town for that matter, can make it big.
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: