We Still Miss You
March 31st, 1995. Corpus Christi, Texas. Days Inn hotel. Room 158. 11:48am.
This is the moment that we wish never happened.
A short and plump woman named Yolanda Saldivar pulls a .38 special from her purse. She points it at a young woman who races towards the front door to attempt an escape. A hollow point bullet smacks into the back of her right shoulder and exits out of her chest. The young woman is able to open the door and limps across the courtyard and past the hotel pool leaving a 392-foot-long trail of blood behind her. She reaches the hotel lobby and collapses. Her blood pools beside her as another woman in the lobby calls 911. The young woman is rushed to the hospital. The emergency room doctor would later say that one millimeter higher or lower and the bullet would have produced a mere flesh wound. Unfortunately, the single bullet cut through the Subclavian artery which caused internal bleeding. The young woman on the hospital bed is Selena Quintanilla-Perez, and at the age of 23, she is dead.
Saldivar, the assassin, has barricaded herself inside her red pickup truck. She holds a gun to her head. Police officers surround the truck. A SWAT team is brought in. For the next nine hours, Sgt. Isaac Valencia attempts to coax Saldivar from the truck. But you see, it didn’t have to be this way. Saldivar was caught in a web of deceit and lies of her own making.
Saldivar was part of Selena’s inner circle. She was president of Selena’s fan club and ran two boutiques that Selena had recently opened (the boutiques had netted Selena 5 million dollars). Selena trusted her implicitly. After all, they were close friends. There was only one problem. Saldivar was embezzling from both operations. Abraham Quintanilla Jr., Selena’s father, ran his own little investigation and he had found that Saldivar had forged 30,000 dollars-worth of phony checks.
That’s probably why fan club members were complaining that they weren’t receiving any merchandise in exchange for their dues. It explains why the boutiques began hemorrhaging funds. Once, Selena’s family raised three thousand dollars to buy her a ring with a Faberge egg, and Saldivar pocketed the three thousand and charged the “friendship” ring to Selena’s company credit card. But this was old hat for Saldivar. In the 80s she had embezzled money from a dermatologist she had been working for.
Employees at the boutique, her father, her fashion designer, her cousin, and even the Dallas Morning News thought Saldivar was trouble. The only one who didn’t see it was Selena.
So, on the day of her murder, two weeks before tax-day, Selena asked to see her bank records, statements, and financial records. Saldivar obviously couldn’t show them to Selena because she had been stealing from her (and I believe far more than $30,000). The proverbial shi# hit the fan and Saldivar felt cornered by the weight of her own actions.
In court, Saldivar levied the absolutely silly defense argument that the shooting was an accident. Yes, you accidentally bought the gun twenty days before the shooting. You accidentally went target shooting, then you accidentally loaded the gun, you accidently pulled the gun from your purse, and then you accidentally pointed and fired the gun at Selena. Saldivar will be up for parole in 2025 (oh how wonderful).
Selena Quintanilla-Perez was known as simply “Selena” by her fans. Selena’s father first heard her sing when she was six-years-old. You see, Abraham Quintanilla Jr. had been in a band himself called, “Los Dinos” (The Guys). Most people would be dismissive of a little girl singing, but not him. When she started to sing, he knew what he saw, and he knew what he heard. He heard greatness. . .
“You’re gonna sing little girl!” he would say.
When Selena was nine years-old, the family formed a little band. Her brother, A.B. Quintanilla played bass guitar while her sister, Suzette, was on the drums, and Selena sang lead vocals. The band was called, “Selena y los Dinos.” They performed at their father’s restaurant, weddings, parties, and even street corners.
Her father soon converted the garage to a soundproof studio. And at the age of 11, Selena began professionally recording her music. Since Selena was Mexican American, her father wanted her to sing in Spanish (Tejano). But Selena didn’t speak Spanish so she just pronounced the words phonetically.
In the 8th grade, Quintanilla Jr. took Selena out of school so she could go on tour. Her teacher thought her musical career was inappropriate for a girl her age (oops).
Things weren’t always honey and roses (in Selena’s case, white roses). They had to perform just to be able to eat and fill the bus with gas. “Selena y los Dinos” were refused venues to perform at because Tejano music (Tex-Mex) was male-dominated. Her father was often told that Selena would never be successful.
Selena learned Spanish as she went. Her version of Tejano was a blend of R&B, disco, funk, country, jazz, and pop. And her career took off.
“Como la Flor” (Like the Flower), won song of the year for the 1993 Tejano Music Awards. “Entre a mi Mundo” (Enter my World), was certified 10x platinum and was number one on U.S. Billboard Regional Mexican albums for eight consecutive months.
By 1992, Selena started a clothing line and married her guitarist, Chris Perez.
By 1994, she opened her first boutique, calling it, “Selena Etc.”
It would take pages to recount all of her musical awards and feats. But her next big hit was “Amor Prohibido” (Forbidden Love). Incidentally, this was Selena’s favorite Selena song. It went triple platinum. It was among the best-selling U.S. albums, selling 2,160,000. The album contained 4 number one hits — It popularized Tejano music to heights it had never been in the genre’s history.
After having been refused Tejano venues to sing at as a child because she was a girl, now Selena was being called, “La Reina de Tejano” (The Queen of Tejano). She was considered, “bigger than Tejano itself,” and, “the greatest Tejano singer of all time.”
She headlined Miami’s “Calle Ocho” festival (8th street festival) in which 100,000 people showed up. Her last ever concert in the Astrodome garnered 65,000 fans (The jumpsuit she wore that night was later donated to the Smithsonian).
She would ask her Dad after concerts, “How’d I do?”
At the time of her death she was just beginning to crossover into the English market. She was about to go from star to superstar. . .
She recorded the smash hits, “I Could Fall in Love,” and my personal favorite, “Dreaming of you.” The album, “Dreaming of you” was released posthumously. It became the number one selling album in the United States (number one on the Billboard 200), went 59x platinum, selling 3.5 million copies, and eventually, over 5 million.
At the time of her death, eerily, she was scheduled to perform the song, “Baby, I’m in Heaven.”
The move into the English market was probably warmly welcomed by Selena. While she was becoming fluent in Spanish, she still made blunders here and there. She just laughed at herself and moved on.
Once she said, “diecicuatro.”
Dieci is a combination of “diez” and “y” (meaning “ten and”). So, if you say “dieciseis” it means ten and six, or “sixteen”. Then you can say, diecisiete, dieciocho, and so on. The only problem is, is that 14 in Spanish is “catorce.”
Another little typo was when Selena said, “aplaudos.” Aplaudos sounds like the English word, “to applaud.” However, the correct word in Spanish is “aplausos.”
By far her funniest mistake was when she meant to say, “Están equivocados.” (They are wrong). Instead, she said, Están avocados.
The executives at her record company, EMI, were “terrified” over her limited Spanish.
Selena’s music had wide appeal. Men and women, young and old, would show up to her concerts. That’s probably because of their wholesome nature. Her songs don’t mention sex or drugs or use foul language. They are all about love. Selena once said, “Stay in school, don’t drink, don’t do drugs, stay chaste, live good, and go to church.”
However, she did wear some semi-scandalous apparel while on stage (that irked her father). Selena called them, “bustiers.” A neutral observer might get the impression that they are just bras with sparkles on them. Her defense was that Madonna and Paula Abdul wore them, so why can’t I? Henceforth, Selena was called the “Mexican Madonna” by her fans and the media. With a curvaceous body (both upstairs and downstairs) her fans often asked her how she keeps her figure. She replied, “I don’t exercise.” She also boasted that she could finish a medium pizza, all by herself! (double pepperoni, thin crust).
But she had no shortage of nicknames. She was called, “The Chicana Elvis,” “Hispanic Marilyn Monroe,” the “Tupac Shakur of Latin music,” and “the people’s princess” (once when she was bored on a plane, she stood up and sang to all of the passengers).
Selena’s impact was evident after her death.
30 to 40,000 fans attended her wake/viewing. More than 78,000 signed a book of condolence. Her funeral drew 60,000 mourners, many from outside of the U.S. People magazine sold a commemorative edition of Selena and it sold 1 million copies, prompting the magazine to start a Spanish version (Newsweek soon followed suit).
On April 12th 1995, governor of Texas, George W. Bush, made Selena’s birthday (April 16th), “Selena Day.” After her death, 600 baby girls in Texas were named Selena; including Selena Gomez. In 2017, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 4,500 fans attended which was the largest crowd ever for such a ceremony. Her life is said to have shaped the careers of Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, and Shakira. In 2020, Netflix is coming out with an original series titled, “Selena.”
Selena has sold over 65 million albums worldwide.
Don’t be sad it’s over. Be glad it happened.