Fotos y recuerdos, Selena lives on
IF YOU GO
• WHAT: Selena's 18th annual tribute
• WHEN: 4-8 p.m. Sunday
• WHERE: Salinas Park, 1354 Airport Road, Corpus Christi
Riding up and down the highway between Houston and Laredo, my parents would switch between '70s funk and Tejano pop.
The one artist we all looked forward to singing in unison was Selena.
My parents both spent their childhoods in Mexico, so their Spanish was pretty solid; however, my sister Martha and I were a different story.
As Houston natives, English was our first language, and Spanish, second.
Our mother moved to the U.S. when she was 24 years old after marrying my father, who had spent his teenage and college years in Wisconsin.
His English was pretty solid, but we still had to learn bits and scraps of Spanish to communicate with our mother.
Selena's music definitely helped smooth that transition out for us.
It wasn't always easy though.
Her hit song, "Amor Prohibido," or "Forbidden Love," always came out a little different from the back seat of our family suburban.
"Amor Pobido," was the best we could do with our English-dominated tongues.
And then it came - the day that changed our lives and the Mexican-American households everywhere.
Our beloved Selena was shot in cold blood by the president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldivar.
It was my mom's birthday.
We were driving across a bridge on Farm-to-Market Road 1960 headed toward Deerbrook Mall when we heard the news on the radio.
My mother started crying, I sat confused in the passenger's seat wondering how I should feel, whether or not there was a chance she might make it.
We spent that whole day listening to her music.
My hackneyed Spanish blubbering out between tears and Mom's long-distance phone calls to relatives back in Mexico.
At school, everybody knew about it - even the white kids.
When the movie came out two years later, it became a staple in our school district's Spanish classes to watch and learn about the South Texas Wonder Woman.
Selena herself did not speak Spanish fluently, but her bandmates and brother aided her in the process.
And despite the language barrier, she was able to assemble crowds of screaming fans from across the world to her stage.
A.B. Quintanilla, Selena's brother and songwriter for most of her hits, told me in a recent interview, that bands would call ahead and ask venues if Selena was playing before them.
They knew it would be hard to compete against a young, vibrant Mexican-American woman in a black, glittering bustier, he said.
Really, who knows what lengths her career would have reached, but I know that she will always remain the Mexican Madonna in my heart.
My favorites are some of her biggest hits, such as, "Si Una Vez," which is fabulously covered by San Antonio girl punk band, Girl In A Coma.
"No Me Quede Mas," is a classic tearjerker and "Dreaming of You," is the perfect teenage serenade for any starry South Texas night.