The powerful pop and TexMex beat of “Como la Flor” fades in as the late Selena Quintanilla hushes and smiles in awe of her millions of fans roaring in excitement. Delicately she twists her fingers in serpentine motion fingers elongated, and languorously belts the final portion of the chorus with the lines “Pero... ay-ay-ay.” Her left hand clenches into a fist over heart as she finishes “Cómo me duele...” The tempo quickly shifts into a synthesizer-driven melody to showcase her famous back spins and shuffling steps. Selena calls, “¡Con ánimo, raza. Vámonos!” — “With feeling, my people, my fellow fans. Echo!” — inviting a response from the crowd, “Como la flor.”
This moment captures how the late legendary singer captivated millions. Selena was heralded by Billboard to be the Queen of Tejano Music and became one of the biggest stars in the world. Her immense talent won her a Grammy, sold millions of albums and sold out stadiums worldwide. This year marks the 21st anniversary of Selena’s untimely death. Yet her memory and legacy still live on.
Selena’s fusion of musical genres — which included pop, Tejano, calypso, Afro-Caribbean and cumbia music — has won her a wide and enduring fan base. It was her connection to her family and fans, and pride in her culture that turned her into a sensation unlike any other. She continues to be adored by many, including Whittier College students.
Sophomore Brandy Barajas recalled growing up listening to Selena’s Dreaming of You and El Chico del Apartmento 512. “I grew up in a predominantly English-speaking household, [I] only understood the very basic Spanish words and phrases,” Barajas said. “I just love how she had such a bright personality and from a very young age she did what she loved to do, which was to sing. I think what really stuck out to me about Selena was learning that she did not grow up speaking Spanish — over the course of her life she learned to speak it. Now as an adult I’ve realized how important it is for me to practice my own Spanish skills. She not only has inspired me to pursue my career goals, but she has motivated me to practice speaking Spanish in order to speak it fluently with my parents, grandparents and friends.”
Junior Luz Castro, who considers herself a proud Chicana, describes Selena as a inspiration to all Latinos. “I remember that as a child that I would always sing the song ‘Como la Flor’ to my family,” Castro said. “I would come out with a fake microphone and start reciting the lyrics because I loved her persona so much and I wanted to be just like her. The confidence Selena carried really showed me that it›s okay to be Mexican-American and that I should be proud of it because us Latinas are chingonas [badasses]. She will forever be la reyna [the queen].”