Obituary: Selena

The Texan singer Selena, who was shot dead in her home town of Corpus Christi, was the latest and some felt potentially the biggest star of the increasingly important Latin side of the pop music world in the United States. Her first English- language album, of which she had completed four songs when she died, was expected by her record company to spread her fame to Anglophone listeners, at home and abroad.

Selena's home territory was the southern Gulf coast of Texas next to Mexico, and the collective cultural memory includes the old Corridos - songs of the exploits of the bandits, revolutionaries and cowboys of the turn of the century. The musical landscape includes the rocking accordion- led polkas and waltzes played in the cantinas and on the open-air stages, known to Texans as "conjunto" music, and to Mexicans as "nortena". Trademark features from this working-class genre, primarily the accordion, were incorporated by ballroom bandleaders into a smoother blend that became known as "tejano" music. By the time Selena was born, in 1971, a surge of popularity in Tejano was under way.

Corpus Christi is known for fierce winds, petroleum, cattle ranching, and, latterly, as a holiday resort and entertainment centre. Selena's introduction to music took place at the age of nine, in a showband run by her father, Abraham Quintanilla, and her group Los Dinos and her career continued to centre round her family. Her brother A.B. Quintanilla played bass, wrote and produced many of her hits; her sister Suzette was drummer; her husband, Chris Perez, was guitarist; and her father's assiduous management was generally regarded as the key to her success. By 1984 the group was a sophisticated multi-truck touring circus with sponsorship from Coca-Cola. Five years later, as Los Dinos polished their sound, and incorporated more of the Colombian "cumbia" dance rhythm sweeping Mexico, their records began to sell on a national scale.

In June last year, Selena's 12th album, Amor Prohibido ("Forbidden Love"), deposed from its 48-week run at the top of Billboard magazine's Latin Top 50 the Miami Cuban star Gloria Estefan's album Mi Tierra, and Selena was often talked off as Estefan's successor, as well as the Latin Madonna, for her dynamic performances. Her fame was as great in Mexico as in the US, and she was one of the few non-Mexican artistes to have earned the ultimate accolade for pop stars - cameo roles written into Mexico's avidly followed telenovella TV soaps.

Days before her death, Selena headlined "Go Tejano Day" at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, her natural habitat, in front of a record 61,000 audience, and the Houston Post reporter, while admiring her "purple spangled jump suit with swingy bell-bottoms", and "sultry, high-energy" performance, remarked, "You still sense there's a girl up there having a good time, even with the crack band and slinky choreography."

Selena's business interests included a boutique and beauty salon in Corpus Christi, latterly managed by Yolanda Saldivar, an ex-nurse and founder of her fan club. Selena had fired Saldivar for embezzlement, and on 31 March went to a motel to meet her former employee to ask for bank documents. She was shot on leaving and Saldivar, arrested after a nine-hour siege, was arrested under suspicion of her murder. Thirty thousand people filed past the singer's coffin as it lay in state, before a funeral at which 8,000 white roses were heaped on her grave. Texas takes its music seriously, and the State Governor, George Bush Jnr, employs among his administrators a Mr Casey Monahan, Director of the Texas Music Office. "For many, Selena was Tejano, defining its present and pushing its future," Monahan commented from the Governor's office.

Philip Sweeney

Selena Quintanilla, singer: born 16 April 1971; married Chris Perez; died Corpus Christi, Texas 31 March 1995.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas