Today marks the 16th anniversary of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez’s death, and even after all these years, the singer remains an important inspiration for many young Latinos in the United States.
The singer was the Queen of Tejano Music for Mexican-Americans, but for many young Latinos in the states, she was also the first cross-over Spanish music artist to go mainstream. “Amor Prohibido” and “No Me Queda Más” became the most successful Spanish singles of 1994 and 1995 — all while the Texas native was still learning the Spanish language.
She was one the first celebrities to go on Spanish talk shows like “Sabado Gigante” and “El Show de Cristina” and use Spanglish — a mix of the English and Spanish— the language she was desperately trying to master.
Gregory Rodriguez, an associate editor at Pacific News Service at the time called Selena a symbol of today’s cultural ties. “My girlfriend loved Selena because the Tejano star couldn’t quite roll her R’s in Spanish,” he wrote in 1997.
Rodriguez says he liked Selena because she wasn’t too proud to resort to English when she couldn’t find the words to express herself in spanish. “Como se dice ‘cinnamon’?” she once asked a Latin American TV reporter without a hint of embarrassment.
Selena was more than a pop-star for young Latinos in the United States. She was someone who illustrated what many of them were going through at home, an artist who they could talk to their parents about because of her enormous popularity. That popularity only grew after her guest appearances on “Dos Mujeres y un Camino” and after her first English hit single “Dreaming of You,” hit #21 on the Billboard Hot 100.