The original tribute magazine.

It’s hard to believe that 16 years have gone by since the one and only Selena Quintanilla Perez passed away.  I still remember finding out the news from my dad.  He picked us up from high school – my younger brother and I – and told us the news as soon as we got in the car: “guess what?  Selena is dead.  Somebody killed her.”

One of my favorite collages of Selena.

“What!?  She was so full of life!” we thought as we drove home in pretty much utter silence.  I remembered her silly interviews on television shows like Onda Max and Johnny Canales, the infamous diez y cuatro confusion on Cristina, her debut acting role in the TVyNovela Dos Mujeres un Camino, how she spoke and sang in Spanish, but spoke English as well as we did at home (something I had not seen in another artist before her), and of course her charisma and electrifying voice.

My own collection of tributory magazines.

Never again would we hear the deejays on the radio announcing Selena y Los Dinos coming to perform in Houston, never would we be able to see her at the Houston Rodeo again.  It was quite a shock.  Even more shocking, the outpouring of emotion and sadness across the country… even the world, at the death of La Reina del Tex-Mex Selena Quintanilla Perez.

Special edition, tribute People magazine.

What I don’t think any of us knew then, or could have imagined, was just how large of an impact her star would actually have on the overall perception of Latinos in America.  Not just Texans or Mexicans, but all of us.  In a way she awakened the rest of the country, especially advertisers, to our existence and strength in numbers.  For better or for worse, her passing left the door and several windows wide open for the rest of us to take advantage of.

Doing what she did best...

In Texas, the anniversary of her passing is always a big deal.  I’m not exactly sure how significant it is in other parts of the country, but I am assuming equally memorable since it usually inspires national tributes on English and Spanish language media.  For us Tejanos, she was and still is our pride and joy, the little girl from Corpus Christi who dreamed big and made it even bigger… before leaving well ahead of her time.

Selena, we miss you!

Here one of my favorite Selena songs, ‘No Me Queda Más’

More on Selena at Wikipedia: