As a cultural figure and brand, Selena Quintanilla has undoubtedly transcended the popularity of her music. Within the last six months alone Netflix announced a new scripted drama based on the late Queen of Tejano’s life, Forever 21 launched a Selena-themed capsule collection and Texas lawmakers introduced legislation to canonize her birthday as a state holiday. Even massive pop stars Camila Cabello, Prince Royce and Kacey Musgraves have paid tribute to Selena during recent performances at the Astrodome, the site of her record-breaking run of Houston Rodeo shows between 1993 and 1995. However, while the Quintanilla family remains fiercely protective of Selena’s public image, some fans wonder if her legacy has been over marketed in recent years.
“The impact of her relatability is something that even now we can’t fully understand,” says Rafael Tamayo, one of the organizers behind 214Selena, a Dallas-based event putting a grassroots spin on the annual festivities that come between the anniversary of the pop icon’s death on March 31 and her birthday on April 16. Coordinated by the Oak Cliff Cultural Center, De Colores Collective and Dallas visual arts crew Sour Grapes, 214Selana is one of several events making a splash nationwide during what is playfully known as ‘Selena Season’.
“Her approach to the music was very heartfelt,” adds Tamayo. “We never felt like someone was trying to sell us a record. We felt like she was sharing her experiences with us. You can’t teach that and you can’t learn it. You just have it.”
The organic connection fans still feel to Selena comes into perspective when considering some of the more high profile dates on the Latino calendar. While pragmatists observe and praise Hispanic Heritage Month as an important cultural acknowledgement, it is also frequently criticized as little more than a symbolic gesture. The puzzling popularity of Cinco de Mayo, which ranks nowhere near the top tier of Mexican holidays, is today largely viewed as a cringe-worthy occasion for stereotypes and rampant cultural appropriation. But a celebration of Selena’s life and achievements, the story of a working-class Chicana who found international superstardom and remained humble throughout, makes people feel like they can cheer for one of their own. To countless fans, her experiences are grounded in our own.
“Celebrating Selena means a lot to me,” says Horrorchata, the Brooklyn-based Tejana drag queen that has spearheaded much of the borough’s Latinx LGBTQ nightlife. “Being of a young age when she passed away was really hard. I remember when I found out she died, I lied to my parents and said I wanted to play outside, but I went to cry alone.”
Horrorchata’s journey has taken her from San Antonio, Texas, to New York City and around the world – a distinct career trajectory built on diligent work ethic and unwavering authenticity that one could parallel with Selena’s own. But Horrochata maintains her biggest connection to her idol is rooted in a profound sense of kinship. “I think I just always looked up to her as a beautiful brown girl that became a star but always remained loyal to her beginnings as a Tejana,” she writes via e-mail. “Now that I live in New York City I always like to incorporate her into my work because I want to keep her spirit alive so far away from home!”
These days, the state of media and politics can be unwelcoming waters for POCs to navigate, especially as erasure and antagonistic language continue to infiltrate popular rhetoric. And while Selena’s music is no magical cure for the ills of today’s society, her success continues to be a source of strength for fans hungry for mainstream representation.
“Selena and her music are common denominators across generations,” says Tamayo, reflecting on the resurgence of Selena as a ubiquitous phenomenon. “A story like hers is even more relevant today, especially when the [political] times seem to disregard Latinx and Mexican-American communities. Anyone who isn’t white, really! And because Selena’s music has transcended color, I think it’s really important to acknowledge that.”
Starting this weekend, events nationwide will begin to celebrate Selena Quintanilla’s music, style and legacy. To make sure you miss out on none of the fun, we’ve compiled a list of parties bringing the joys of Selena to a city near you.
214Selena – Dallas, Texas
Selena was a proud Tejana and that love is reciprocated statewide. In Dallas, from March 29 – 31, the sixth annual 214Selena returns to the neighborhood of Oak Cliff with a packed schedule catering to fans of different interests, timetables and age groups. 214Selena will include karaoke at the Oak Cliff Brewing Co. on Friday, an art show at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center on Saturday, and a lookalike contest and low rider show at Country Burger on Sunday. A major blow out is also planned for Saturday night at Club Dada featuring sets by local staples Rocit and Storm of Faded Deejays and DJ Max Power of the Boom Boom Pum! Collective, with a special headlining set by Principe Q, Selena’s nephew and half of production duo Royal Highness.
Find more info here.
Fiesta de la Flor – Corpus Christi, Texas
The fifth annual Fiesta de la Flor will be taking over North Bayfront Park in Corpus Christi, Texas on April 12 and 13. The two-day music and arts festival attracts thousands of fans from all over Texas and the US eager to pay homage to la reina in her hometown – an essential pilgrimage for all true devotees. This year, Fiesta de la Flor boasts a large and diverse musical lineup including performers Leslie Grace, Little Joe y La Familia and Mariachi Campanas de América. Round out the weekend by grabbing a bite at the mouthwatering food truck park, shopping at the artisanal markets and even sitting in on a talk led by Selena’s sister Suzette Quintanilla and The Real’s Adrienne Houghton.
Buy tickets here.
Selena Tribute Night - Brooklyn, New York
Queer Brooklyn pied piper Horrorchata is summoning her colorful court of performers and partygoers for the third annual Selena Tribute Night, bringing her decadent madness to Littlefield in Boerum Hill. The bash goes down on April 13, with a lineup that includes DJ sets by Horrorchata and Hannah Lou, performances by Brooklyn drag royalty Lady Quesa’Dilla and Charlene, and live thrashing by punk Selena tribute band Amor Prohibido. If you’re a fan of Horrorchata’s other buzzy fêtes like Yas Mama and Bushwig, you can expect the same levels of debauchery with the latinidad quotient turned all the way up to 300%. Come ready to dance and remember: glam looks are highly encouraged.
Selena Ball DTLA – Los Angeles, California
Delightfully throwback party series Club 90s is bringing their kitschy nostalgic flair to The Globe Theater in Downtown Los Angeles for the fourth annual Selena Ball DTLA. Dancers in the main ballroom will enjoy hits by the Queen of Tejano expertly mixed with a tidal wave of other 90s classics by party resident DJ Jeffrey. If you’re sweaty and in need of a break from the dance floor, hop over to the bar for a taste of the specialty Selena-themed cocktails concocted for the occasion. And don’t forget to stop by one of the pop-up merch stands and the themed photo booth to take a little special slice of the evening back home with you.
Buy tickets here.
Bidi Bidi Boom Boom: The Selena Tribute Dance Party – Chicago, Illinois
The 25th annual Sor Juana Festival is currently underway at Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art, celebrating the talent and legacy of Mexican women across a spectrum of artistic disciplines. While their calendar includes appearances by writer Elvira C. Hernandez, actress Angélica Aragón and performances by Zemmoa and Astrid Hadad, their Bidi Bidi Boom Boom: The Selena Tribute Dance Party on April 12 and 13 immediately caught our attention as an unmissable event. The party will feature live music, drag performances and a mercado of local artists, so head down to the Lower West Side for two unforgettable evenings honoring an inimitable woman.
Buy tickets here.