Two Tejanas Sound Off on Proposed Selena Holiday
Today marks 24 years since late Tejano superstar Selena Quintanilla-Pérez’s passing but her legacy is stronger than ever thanks to efforts from her family, fans and community to keep her memory alive. The reverence the Latinx public feels for her has culminated in a wide-range of events, merchandise, books, tribute bands and television shows in her honor. The latest effort to preserve her contributions to Tejano music and culture is a proposed bill to mark April 16, her birthday, an official Texas holiday.
House Bill 2492 was filed in late February by Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (D-102) and awaits a vote from the House of Representatives before moving on to the Senate and Governor Greg Abbott. If passed, the bill would become law on Sept. 1, 2019. The only other individual to have his own holiday in the state of Texas is late president Lyndon Baines Johnson.
The proposed holiday was met with mixed reactions. Some people took to social media to voice their support of a permanent holiday celebrating Selena’s legacy. Others argued it would be unfair to set aside a day in her honor when so many other notable Texans, past and present, lack such an honor.
We spoke with two Tejanas about their reaction to the proposed holiday. Despite sharing an extreme pride and love for Selena, their views varied widely on an actual Selena Quintanilla-Pérez Day.
Nadia Tamez-Robledo is a 31-year-old digital content specialist in Houston who previously lived in Corpus Christi and grew up in the Rio Grande Valley. She supports a holiday in the late musician’s memory.
She says her craving for a connection to her Mexican-American culture intensifies with time.
“Selena’s music is not only great to listen to but brings up wonderful memories of my childhood on the Texas-Mexico border. It also instantly connects you to any stranger who is also a fan,” Tamez-Robledo says.
Meanwhile, Rachel Pineda, a 40-year-old letter carrier in Connecticut who hails from the Rio Grande Valley, opposes the bill.
“I disapprove of the proposed Selena Day in Texas out of respect for and recognition of Selena’s family’s religion,” Pineda says. “They are Jehovah’s Witnesses and Selena was raised in the religion.”
She pointed out that the proposed holiday falls on Selena’s birthday, something that conflicts with Jehovah’s Witnesses’ values. Selena was not raised to celebrate birthdays because her religion believes such celebrations displease God.
“Most Tejanos and Mexican-Americans I know are Catholic, so I think it is important to recognize that there are other religions in our culture and to respect that,” Pineda says. “I realize there is a separation of church and state, but it goes against the core of the Quintanilla family’s beliefs and it would force them and other Jehovah’s Witnesses to go against their personal conduct to ‘respect the government where we live and obey its laws as long as these do not call on us to disobey God’s laws.’”
Though many fans may disagree with her, Pineda said her opposition to the proposed holiday comes from a place of caring. She was 15 when Selena was murdered by Yolanda Saldívar, her friend and former fan club president on March 31, 1995, in a Corpus Christi hotel.
She recalls watching Selena perform as part of a free Fourth of July concert her sister and now brother-in-law took her to when she was in middle school. She performed to her music when she was a dama in quinceañeras. Growing up on the border, it was a given she would hear Selena on the radio constantly. Pineda admits becoming upset when Jennifer Lopez was cast in the role of the music star in the 1997 Selena flick over an actual Tejana.
Tamez-Robledo says Tejanos and Latinxs haven’t been a big part of the state’s narrative of success. A Selena holiday could begin to change that.
“Selena’s story is an opportunity for us to see ourselves and our community represented in a positive light in Texas history. Not only that, she’s an incredible role model for Texas Latinos and people from all walks of life around the globe,” she says.
She points out that Selena was a successful musician, a small business owner and an education advocate.
“There’s a saying about why representation matters: You have to see it to be it. We need to uplift more stories like Selena’s. Especially at a time when certain groups are trying to narrowly define what it means to be Texan or American,” Tamez-Robledo says. “For some reason, we’re expected to shed our Mexican or Latin American roots to fit into the mold.”
She says that Selena proved Latinxs could forge their own paths and identities without allowing others to define them.
“Selena is an example of someone who rose to great heights but never lost respect for everyone she encountered, no matter how humble,” Tamez-Robledo says. “While I was a reporter in Corpus Christi, one man told me a story of her visit to Cunningham Middle School (when he was a student). He was admittedly a trouble-maker at the time, but the kindness Selena showed him during their brief encounter had a profound impact on him. He turned his life around.”
Selena, she says, is a unique figure in history who deserves recognition of this caliber.
Meanwhile, Pinedo says there are other ways to honor both Selena and Tejano culture. She suggests a Tejano Music Day at the State Capitol.
“The state can do a lot to honor Selena by making sure our history and current day businesses and operations inspire the next Tejano superstar, be it a rodeo cowboy, music, storyteller, politician, businessperson, land steward or domestic engineer,” she says.
WRITTEN BY CHRISTINE BOLAÑOS
About the Writer:
Christine Bolaños is a Salvadoran-American journalist based in Texas who writes about social justice, women's empowerment and Latino issues for numerous national media outlets.
You can follow her work at https://twitter.com/bolanosnews08