Rocks Off pretty much spent half our life down south in Corpus Christi, so it was a big deal in our family when Tejano pop star Selena Quintanilla-Perez was gunned down 15 years ago today. We grew up hearing her music on the radio down there, and you couldn't walk into a taqueria or gift shop of any kind without seeing some kind of Selena memorabilia with her face on it.
Growing up, we always knew that we were getting close to Corpus when the radio stations in the family car would start bumping Selena y Los Dinos cuts. Our little brother even developed a sort of Pavlovian response - when he heard Selena's voice, he asked everyone around him if we were about to see our Grandpa Gonzalez.
Being mixed-race kids, we didn't totally see Selena as another culture's pop star; she was partially ours, at least the part of us that ordered corn tortillas instead of gringo-friendly flour. Sadly, there is a whole generation who can only see Jennifer Lopez's face when they think of Selena. But Selena was way prettier than Lopez, by far. Just watch her final performance at the Astrodome at the rodeo a few weeks before she was killed. Mama was working it.
Selena really owned Corpus' heart in a sense, and when she was shot by her fan-club manager and crooked business associate Yolanda Saldívar at that Days Inn off Navigation near downtown, a big part of the town died with her. When we visited over Easter the next week or so, the town was very much still in shock.
Our parents drove us by all the big points of interest, including her home she kept with her husband Chris Perez and the boutique shop she owned. The Days Inn had turned into a sad shrine to all things Selena too. All the little girls in our sixth grade class asked us to pick up mementos from the hotel, but we felt bad about doing that and it seemed gruesome.
In the spring of 2006 the city of Corpus put up bronze life-size statue of Selena off the city's shorefront on Ocean Drive called "Mirador de la Flor." The area around the monument is now covered in fan graffiti, all loving adoration. The bronze Selena gazes out into the blue Corpus Christi Bay for all time.
Who knows where Selena would be now? She could have done anything in her career. She would have been a huge crossover star, an actress - really anything she touched turned to gold even at the age of 23. And she was just a loving, giving human being. A big hole is still in Corpus' heart, and you can feel it when you visit if only for a few days.