I'd like to begin by saying "Thank you." I wasn't always the coolest or most popular kid in school. Some kids would call me "four eyes" or "band nerd", or make fun of me because I went to karate class instead of gym. But there was one thing that I helped me forget those troubles, and it was music. And for a Mexican kid in the barrio in the 90s, that music was Tejano. I listened to KQQK 106.5 or Super Tejano 108 religiously.
Sure there was enough Emilio and La Mafia and La Tropa F and David Lee Garza to fill my Walkman with hours upon hours of hits, but there was only one queen. And it was you.
The way you commanded everyone's attention, whether it was on Johnny Canales or Sabado Gigante or on the radio, it was exciting. You were the hottest thing in the universe, the epitome of beauty and fashion and coolness. And dammit you were sexy! But not in a dirty way... you always carried yourself in a respectful way, something that has largely been forgotten in today's era of twerk queens and stripper anthems.
I learned to dance as a 13-year-old for my cousin's quinceañera. Thank God I had some rhythm in me, enough to master cumbia dancing at least. With all the spinning and hip-shaking and elbows flying, cumbia was fun and fast and dangerous (I once hit an ex-girlfriend in the temple during a spin), but always a good time.
I grew up in the East End neighborhood of Houston, where my parents would listen to rancheras and conjunto on AM station La Tremenda everyday. And since we were from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, the border town across the river from Brownsville, Tex., we also listened to cumbia by Rigo Tovar. And I loved it. Still do. Theres something about musica en Español that just makes me happy.
Your music was equally as amazing. It still is. The range you expressed, from traditional ranchera to electro-cumbia to ballads, was remarkable. My tape of your "Selena Live" album was so worn out because I listened to it over and over. I knew the words, I pretended to be Pete Astudillo and sing the duets with you, and even wrote out the melodies by hand on sheet paper so that I could play my alto saxophone along with the album.
Our family wasn't rich, but somehow my mom always saved enough money to buy myself and my three siblings Astroworld season passes every year. I remember seeing you at Southern Star amphitheater twice as a kid. On one of the occasions, you greeted your fans near the stage, and I was lucky enough to meet you. I didn't even have anything for you to autograph, I just wanted to give you a hug. You called me "cutie." I was in awe of you, I couldn't even muster any words...I just stood there grinning. Your smile was infinitely more spectacular in person.
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I also remember seeing you at RodeoHouston twice, once when you wore a black cap, bustier and pants, and the other time you wore all white. I remember my mom sitting next to me and singing your songs and holding my hand when she was filled with emotions. My parents would tell me about the bailes at the Unicorn Ballroom where you went to perform, and how there were always large crowds every time you came to Houston.
And then, on a hot day at the end of March, as I was boarding my school bus, one of the seniors gave me the news:
"They shot Selena."
It took me a while to wrap my 14-year-old brain around what he just said. What? Who? Why? WHY?!
"But she's okay right? She's gonna recover?!" I asked.
"No dude...she's dead."
I sat down in my usual seat and turned on my Walkman. It was already on the Tejano station. They were playing your songs.
Just like we do today, and will, forever.
The Fiesta de La Flor festival in honor of Selena will be held in Corpus Christi on April 17 & 18
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When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Marco points his camera lens towards the vibrant Houston music scene and beyond. Follow his adventures on Instagram at @MarcoFromHouston.
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