Amazing People, Amazing Lives: Selena Quintanilla-Pérez

In Selena’s Memory, Westlake Ave. at 7th St., Los Angeles, 2007; photographer Camilo Vergara; Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

April 16 of this year would have marked the 50th birthday of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, the “Queen of Tejano Music,” who was better known simply as Selena.  Selena’s successful 1990 album, “Ven Conmigo,” went gold, making her the first female Tejano singer to achieve that success. In 2020 that album was added to the Library’s National Recording Registry, which recognizes titles that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and are at least 10 years old. Selena released two more albums in the 1990s before her tragic death; her 1995 album “Dreaming of You” was released posthumously.

In honor of her life and of Hispanic Heritage Month, this blog post explores ways to understand Selena’s life and music by looking, reading, and listening together.

Look: Selena grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, near the US-Mexico border. You can find images of Corpus Christi and of murals in El Paso, also on the border, taken by photographer Carol M. Highsmith that are held in the Library’s collection. Consider together how growing up on a border might have influenced Selena’s life and work (note, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History also has excellent resources to further understanding of borderlands).

Read:  Several recent books introduce young readers to Selena’s life and impact, including:

  • Patty Rodriguez, Ariana Stein, Citlali Reyes, The Life of Selena/La vida de Selena (Lil’ Libros, 2018), ages infant to 3 years
  • Diana López, Sing with Me: The Story of Selena Quintanilla (Dial, July 2021), ages 4-8.
  • Silvia López, Queen of Tejano Music: Selena (little bee books, 2020), ages 6-9.

Listen: Hear traditional Mexican and Mexican-American music, corridos and sones, in these recordings and concerts. Consider how the instruments and rhythms represented here might have inspired Selena, or take inspiration from this workshop with former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and try writing your own corrido together.

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