You probably saw it yesterday when you first went to check out the daily news, or your social media accounts or whatever it is that you do online. Instead of the multi-colored, Product Sans Google logo welcoming you to the internet, you were greeted by her. Selena Quintanilla-Pérez
- best known to millions of people, adoring fans, and casual radio listeners alike, as Selena.
A precocious young woman with a talent for singing and enamoring audiences, Selena lost her life far too early at only the age of 23. This week marks the 28th anniversary of the release of her debut album, Selena
A 28th anniversary might seem like a strange one to celebrate. It's not one of those nice, neat-and-clean anniversaries like five, ten or twenty years or so. Usually some amount of years divisible by five. But the importance of this anniversary lies not in the length of time, or even the album itself. We remember Selena today because of what gave all of us as Americans, and what adversities she overcame to give them to us. Adversities that unfortunately far too many people still suffer under today.
As a Mexican-American singer, Selena held a unique position as an artist, bridging the gap between the mainstream American music and culture of her time and the Tejano culture in which she was raised. The position also came with its challenges, as Selena had to overcome numerous stereotypes and beliefs that a Mexican-American woman could not successfully sell Chicanx music to an American audience. Yet Selena prevailed, and the impact of her crossover style is undeniable, and is seen in the success of numerous Chicanx artists and the lasting influence of Chicanx music in American culture.
Lauren Harkrader, also known as DJ Chela, was one of the many artists inspired by Selena.
"She represented to so many young people their own experience of growing up, not speaking Spanish fluently but still shaped by Chicanx culture, and the way she bridged the two worlds helped so many people embrace their own identity and be proud of all they are." Harkrader said.
Unfortunately, we are at a point where much of the ground-breaking work that Selena accomplished is being threatened by racist societal and political institutions. And it's not just simply Grammy awards or number-one hits we're talking about. Perhaps Selena's greatest gift to her audience was the empowerment and representation of people who oftentimes did not have a voice or a place in the American socio-political landscape. And we stand to lose that.
As Harkrader notes, "Even in these dark times with DACA being repealed, and threats of a ridiculous border wall, the hope she had, echoes, all she [Selena] continues to accomplish, inspires, and the grace with which she shimmied through barriers can inspire us all to luchar y echar pa'lante."
So much more than music is at stake when we allow racist institutions to flourish and exercise their power. Connections and understandings that took years to build can be undone in the signing of a piece of paper. Building a wall is not only an illogical and poorly-thought-out method of controlling immigration, it is a mockery and slap in the face of the dreams and efforts of Selena, and so many Hispanic-Americans persons. Our music is better because of the influences Selena left, and our society is richer because of the generations of people that she gave a voice to.
So on this anniversary of the release of her debut album, it's important to recognize just how much people like Selena have contributed to American culture, and just how much poorer we'd be without them.