Murder of Selena
|Murder of Selena|
Graffiti left by fans of the singer at the door the day she was shot to death.
|Location||Days Inn, Corpus Christi, Texas|
|Date||March 31, 1995
11:48 am (CST) (Central Time Zone)
|Target||Selena (possible others)|
|Murder by revolver|
|Weapons||.38 Special caliber|
Selena (April 16, 1971 – March 31, 1995) was an American singer who achieved international fame as a member of Selena y Los Dinos and for her subsequent solo career.[nb 1] Her father and manager, Abraham Quintanilla, Jr., appointed Yolanda Saldívar president of Selena's fan club in 1991 after Saldívar had repeatedly asked permission to start one. In January 1994, Saldívar was promoted to manager of the singer's boutiques. Selena's employees, fashion designer, and cousin began complaining about Saldívar's management style. In January 1995, Quintanilla, Jr., began receiving telephone calls and letters from angry fans who had sent membership payments and had received nothing in return. He began investigating their complaints and found evidence that Saldívar had embezzled $60,000 from the fan club and the boutiques using forged checks. After the Quintanilla family confronted her, Saldívar bought a gun, lured Selena to a motel room, and shot her in the back. Although doctors tried to revive Selena, she was pronounced dead from loss of blood and cardiac arrest.
The Hispanic community was deeply affected by the news of Selena's death; some people traveled thousands of miles to visit her house, boutiques, and the crime scene, while churches with large congregations of Hispanics held prayers in her name. All major television networks in the United States interrupted their regular programming to break the news. The public reaction to Selena's death was compared to those that followed the deaths of John Lennon, Elvis Presley, and John F. Kennedy. Many White Americans who were unaware of the singer and her popularity criticized the attention she and her murder received from both the media and the Hispanic community. Radio personality Howard Stern mocked Selena's murder, burial, and her mourners and criticized her music, playing her songs with gunshots in the background, causing an uproar among the Hispanic population. On April 12, 1995—two weeks after her death—then-Texas governor George W. Bush declared her birthday Selena Day in Texas. Some Americans were offended because Selena Day that year coincided with Easter.
At the time of Selena's death, Tejano music was one of the most popular Latin music subgenres in the United States. She was called the "Queen of Tejano music" and became the first Hispanic artist to have a predominately Spanish-language album—Dreaming of You (1995)—debut and peak at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart. After her death, the popularity of Tejano music waned. During Saldívar's trial for the murder—called the "trial of the century" and the most important trial for the Hispanic population—she said she accidentally shot Selena while attempting suicide. Saldívar was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Jennifer Lopez was cast as Selena in a 1997 biopic film about her life and became famous after the film's release. Spanish-language networks in the U.S. often broadcast documentaries about Selena on the anniversary of her death; they are among the most-watched programs in the history of American television and often score record ratings for networks.
- 1 Background
- 2 Murder
- 3 Impact
- 4 Funeral and tributes
- 5 Trial
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
The Selena fan club
Selena was born on April 16, 1971, in Lake Jackson, Texas, to Abraham Quintanilla, Jr., a former musician, and Marcella Ofelia Quintanilla (née Samora). Selena was introduced to the music industry by her father, who saw "a way back into the music business" after discovering Selena's "perfect timing and pitch". He quickly organized his children into a band called Selena y Los Dinos, which included A.B. Quintanilla III on bass, Suzette Quintanilla on drums, and Selena as the lead singer. The band became the family's main source of income after they were evicted from their home during the Texas oil bust of 1982. They filed for bankruptcy after Quintanilla, Jr.'s Mexican restaurant suffered as a result of the oil bust. The family moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, and Selena y Los Dinos began recording music professionally. In 1984, the band released its first LP record, Selena y Los Dinos, with a small, independent record company. Quintanilla, Jr., wanted his children to record Tejano music—a male-dominated music genre popularized by Mexican Americans in the United States. Selena's popularity as a singer grew after she won the Tejano Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year in 1987. She landed her first major record deal with Capitol EMI Latin in 1989.
Yolanda Saldívar became a fan of Tejano music in the mid-1980s. She disliked Selena because she had won awards that Saldívar's favorite Tejano musicians were nominated in. In mid-1991, Saldívar attended one of Selena's concerts in San Antonio, Texas with her niece. She became an ardent Selena fan; she particularly enjoyed the singer's stage presence and especially liked the song "Baila Esta Cumbia". The day after the concert, Saldívar unsuccessfully searched news stands for a souvenir of the event. She got the idea of starting a Selena fan club in the San Antonio area to promote the singer. According to Quintanilla, Jr., Saldívar tried contacting him and left him fifteen messages; she said she left only three. Quintanilla, Jr., contacted her to discuss her idea of starting a fan club. After meeting with Saldívar, he approved of her idea and gave her permission to proceed.
Saldívar became the founder and acting president of the Selena fan club in San Antonio in June 1991. As president, she was responsible for membership benefits and collecting $22 in exchange for products promoting Selena, a T-shirt bearing the singer's name, exclusive interviews with the band, a fact sheet about Selena y Los Dinos, and notifications of upcoming concerts. Proceeds from the fan club were donated to charities. Suzette was the contact person between Saldívar and the Quintanilla family; Saldívar did not meet Selena until December 1991. The two became close friends and the Quintanilla family trusted her. By 1994, Saldívar had signed up more than 8,000 fans. According to television news reporter and anchorwoman María Celeste Arrarás, Saldívar had become the "most efficient assistant" the singer ever had. Arrarás wrote that people noticed how eager Saldívar was to impress Selena, and did anything the singer told her to do. One person told Arrarás, "if Selena would say, 'Jump!', [Saldívar] would jump three times". Saldívar gave up her career as an in-home nurse for patients with terminal cancer and respiratory diseases. She decided to fully invest her time in running the Selena fan club, although she was earning less than she had as a nurse.
Selena Etc. boutiques
In 1994, Selena opened two boutiques called Selena Etc. in Corpus Christi and San Antonio; they were equipped with in-house beauty salons. Quintanilla, Jr., thought Saldívar was a potential candidate to run the businesses because the family would be touring the country. He believed she was the best choice because of her success running the fan club. The family agreed; in January 1994, Saldívar became the manager of the boutiques. In September 1994, Selena signed Saldívar as her registered agent in San Antonio. After being hired to run the boutiques, Saldívar moved from South San Antonio to Corpus Christi to be closer to Selena. In an interview with Primer Impacto in 1995, Quintanilla, Jr., said he "always mistrusted Saldívar", though the family never found anything odd about Saldívar's behavior. Saldívar was authorized to write and cash checks, and had access to bank accounts associated with the fan club and boutiques.
Selena gave Saldívar her American Express card for the purpose of conducting company business. Saldívar used it to rent Lincoln Town Cars, entertain associates in upmarket restaurants, and buy two cellular telephones which she carried. Staff at Selena Etc. complained that Saldívar was always "nice" when Selena was around; when she was not Saldívar treated everyone terribly. In December 1994, the boutiques began to suffer. The company's bank accounts lacked sufficient funds to pay bills. Staff levels at both stores had been reduced from thirty-eight to fourteen employees, mainly because Saldívar fired those she did not like. The remaining employees began complaining to Selena about Saldívar, but Selena did not believe her friend would hurt her or her business. The employees then began to take their concerns to Quintanilla, Jr., who warned Selena that Saldívar might be a dangerous person. Selena did not believe Saldívar would turn on her; her father had a habit of distrusting people.
In January 1995, Debra Ramirez, Selena's cousin, was hired to work in the boutiques and to help Selena expand the business into Mexico. Ramirez quit within a week, telling Saldívar she was dissatisfied with the failure of staff members to report sales. Ramirez also found receipts were missing from the sale of several boutique items. Saldívar told her to "mind [her] business" and that it was not her concern. Saldívar frequently clashed with Martin Gomez, Selena's fashion designer, who complained that Saldívar was mismanaging Selena's affairs. Their animosity intensified during Selena's fashion shows; Gomez accused Saldívar of mutilating or destroying some of his original creations and said she never paid bills. Gomez stated that Saldívar had "established a reign of terror"; the two were constantly complaining about each other to Selena. Saldívar began recording their conversations without Gomez's consent to persuade Selena he was not working for the boutiques' best interests. Gomez was relegated to a supporting role when Selena decided to design her clothes herself. Between late 1994 and early 1995, Saldívar often traveled to Monterrey, Mexico, to expedite the process of opening another Selena Etc. store. When Saldívar visited the factory in Mexico, she intimidated the seamstresses by telling them to either side with her or leave.
Selena and Saldívar's relationship
Saldívar was receiving "tokens of affection from [Selena]", which she was not accustomed to. Her room was covered with Selena posters and pictures, burning votive candles, and a library of Selena videos which she played to entertain guests. During an interview with Saldívar in 1995, reporters from The Dallas Morning News said her devotion to Selena bordered on obsession. Saldívar told employees at Selena Etc. she wanted to "be like Selena". According to an unnamed former employee, Saldívar was "possessive" of her relationship with Selena, and tried to distance Selena from the other employees. This person believed that Saldívar's goal was to "have more control over [the employees] and over Selena". Saldívar said her reason for distancing the employees from Selena was to "shield" the singer from the "petty issues" of managing her boutiques. Along with the responsibility of running the boutiques, Saldívar accompanied Selena on trips and had keys to the singer's house.
When Saldívar became a business associate, their relationship began to deteriorate. In September 1994, Selena met Ricardo Martinez, a doctor who lived in Monterrey, Mexico. Selena wanted to expand the number of boutiques by opening a Selena Etc. store in Monterrey. Martinez said he had contacts in Mexico who could help her grow her business. Martinez became a business adviser to Selena, though her family said he was simply a fan who posed in several pictures with her.[nb 2] Saldívar became envious of Selena's dependency on Martinez. He began sending flowers to Selena's hotel room. Saldívar warned the singer that Martinez might have unprofessional intentions. Selena began visiting Monterrey more frequently, often in disguise. Sebastian D'Silva, Martinez's assistant, would pick up Selena at the airport; he said he noticed she was wearing wigs and using her husband Chris Pérez's surname so others would not identify her. According to Martinez, he had lent several thousand dollars to Selena because she was short on cash.
Saldívar's termination of employment
Starting in January 1995, Quintanilla, Jr., began receiving telephone calls and letters from angry fans who claimed to have paid their enrollment fees but had not received the promised memorabilia. Upon investigation, Quintanilla, Jr., discovered Saldívar had embezzled more than $60,000 using forged checks from both the fan club and the boutiques. Saldívar's brother, Armando Saldívar, supposedly contacted Gomez and "made up a story" that Saldívar was stealing money from the fan club. Gomez then contacted one of Selena's uncles by telephone; the uncle told Quintanilla, Jr. Armando said he was angry with Saldívar but did not want the reason to be made public; later he said he felt guilty for starting the rumor. He apperared on the Spanish-language television news program Primer Impacto but reporters found his comments illogical.
Quintanilla, Jr., held a meeting on March 9, 1995, with Selena and Suzette Quintanilla at Q-Productions to confront Saldívar. Quintanilla, Jr., presented Saldívar with evidence concerning the missing funds. He said Saldívar simply stared at him without answering any of his questions. Quintanilla, Jr., told Saldívar he would involve police if she did not produce evidence that disproved his accusations. When Quintanilla, Jr. asked her why fans were not receiving the promised gift packages, Saldívar said those fans were trying to get the items for free. Quintanilla, Jr., discovered Saldívar had opened the fan club's bank account under her sister's name, "Maria Elida". When asked why she had done this, she replied that the bank would not allow her to open an account in her name; she did not know the reason for this refusal. Saldívar abruptly left the meeting. Quintanilla, Jr., then banned Saldívar from contacting Selena. However, Selena did not want to end their friendship; she felt Saldívar was essential to the success of her clothing line in Mexico. Selena also wanted to keep Saldívar close because she had bank records, statements, and financial records necessary for tax purposes.
After the meeting, Quintanilla, Jr., discovered the fan club's checks were signed with Maria Elida's signature in handwriting identical to Saldívar's. He concluded that Saldívar was writing forged checks using her sister's name then cashing them and keeping the funds. When Quintanilla, Jr., was trying to retrieve the fan club's bank statements, he said they had "vanished". He found a letter in Saldívar's handwriting stating that Maria Elida had to close the bank account because of a major problem. According to the letter, a member of the fan club, Yvonne Perales, was sent to the bank to deposit $3,000 but Perales did not deposit the money and could not be found. The letter stated that Maria Elida found out about the situation "too late" and that Perales and the money were missing. Maria Elida then wrote checks to be cashed by Saldívar, even though the bank account had no funds. The letter said Maria Elida was closing the account for that reason and that the bank would have to cover the checks. Quintanilla, Jr., confronted Saldívar about Perales' identity; he said Saldívar knew nothing about her. Quintanilla, Jr., said Saldívar did not trust the treasurer of the fan club but she had trusted a complete stranger to deposit $3,000. He told Saldívar to "tell that lie to someone else". He concluded that Perales did not exist, since none of the fan club workers had ever met her.
Failed attempts to kill Selena
The day after Saldívar was banned from contacting Selena, Quintanilla, Jr., drove to Q-Productions and chased her from the premises and told her she was no longer welcome there. The same day, Selena and Saldívar argued by telephone; Selena hung up and told Pérez she could no longer trust Saldívar. According to Quintanilla, Jr., there were four attempts to murder Selena. Selena removed Saldívar's name from the boutique's bank account on March 10, 1995; she was replaced as fan club president by Irene Herrera. The next day, Saldívar purchased a gun at A Place to Shoot, a gun shop and shooting range in San Antonio. She bought a Taurus Model 85 snub-nosed .38-caliber revolver and .38 caliber hollow-point bullets; the bullets were designed to cause more extensive injuries than normal bullets. Saldívar told the clerk she needed protection in her job as an in-home nurse because a patient's relatives had threatened her.
On March 13, Saldívar went to her lawyer and wrote her resignation, which Quintanilla, Jr., believed was her alibi. The same day, Saldívar drove to Corpus Christi and checked into the Sand and Sea Motel. Selena was in Miami, Florida, at the time. Quintanilla, Jr., believed this would have been the first attempt to kill Selena. When Selena arrived in Corpus Christi on March 14, Saldívar contacted her to schedule a meeting. Saldívar told Selena there was too much traffic and asked her to meet her at a parking lot twenty-five miles away from Corpus Christi. Upon arriving, Selena told Saldívar she could remain in charge of her business affairs in Mexico. According to Quintanilla, Jr., Selena wanted to continue employing Saldívar until she could find a replacement. Saldívar showed Selena the gun she had bought; Selena told her to "get rid of it" and said she would protect Saldívar from her father, according to Saldívar and Pérez. This, Quintanilla, Jr., believed, had calmed Saldívar and was the reason she did not kill Selena in the parking lot. The next day, Saldívar returned the gun to the shop saying her father had given her a .22-caliber pistol. On March 26, Saldívar stole a perfume sample and more bank statements from Selena in Mexico.
Saldívar accompanied Selena on a trip to Tennessee while the singer finished recording a song for her crossover album. Selena told Saldívar some bank statements were missing and asked her to return them as soon as they returned to Texas. Saldívar re-purchased the gun on March 27 and asked Selena to meet her alone at a motel room; this was her second attempt to kill Selena. News of Selena's arrival spread and she was soon mobbed by fans. Quintanilla, Jr., believed her fans saved her that day; there were "too many witnesses". According to him, the third attempt to kill Selena was during Saldívar's trip to Monterrey in the last week of March. Dr. Martinez received telephone calls from Saldívar crying hysterically and saying she had been raped on March 29. The next day, Saldívar again called Dr. Martinez, who said the calls sounded as though someone was trying to snatch the telephone away from Saldívar. He sent an employee to her motel room to investigate; the employee found she had left a few minutes earlier.
On March 30, Saldívar returned from her Monterrey trip and checked into a Days Inn motel. She contacted Selena and told her she had been raped. According to Quintanilla, Jr., this was the last message they received from Saldívar; he believed this claim was her new alibi. Saldívar asked Selena to visit her at her motel room alone, however, Perez accompanied her. According to Perez, he waited by his truck as Selena went alone to Saldívar's motel room. As Perez was driving back to their house, Selena noticed Saldívar had failed to give her the correct bank statements she needed. Saldívar tried contacting Selena through her pager; she desperately wanted Selena to take her to a hospital that night. She told Selena she was bleeding due to her rape. Quintanilla, Jr., believed Saldívar was trying to get Selena to return to the motel alone. Pérez told Selena it was "too late" and did not want her to go out alone. Unbeknownst to Pérez, Selena agreed to meet Saldívar the next morning.
On March 30, 1995, Selena contacted Leonard Wong about the perfume samples he had made for her. According to Wong, Selena told him she would be meeting Saldívar the next morning to pick up the samples that had been stolen from her. The same day, she told another employee at the boutique she was expecting to fire Saldívar. At 7:30 a.m. (CST) March 31, Selena rose from her bed, donned green workout sweats, and left for Saldívar's motel room. At the motel, Saldívar told Selena she had been raped in Mexico. Selena took her to Doctors Regional Hospital, where medical staff noticed Saldívar showed symptoms of depression. Saldívar told a doctor she had bled "a little". The doctor noticed Selena was angry at Saldívar and told her Saldívar said she had been bleeding copiously the day before. The doctor found no evidence of rape and told Saldívar she should go to San Antonio to get a gynecological examination. According to Texas rape case law, they were unable to perform the examination because Saldívar was a resident of San Antonio and the rape had occurred outside the country. While driving back to the motel, Selena told Saldívar it would be best if they stayed apart for a while to avoid upsetting Quintanilla, Jr.,. According to Dr. Martinez, Selena had tried to contact him that morning but he could not speak on the telephone because he was performing surgery. At 10:00 a.m. (CST), Quintanilla, Jr., contacted Pérez to determine the whereabouts of Selena; she was due to record a song at Q-Productions that morning and had not arrived. Pérez called Selena on her cellular telephone and reminded her of the scheduled recording. She told him she had forgotten the session and she was "taking care of one last [item of] business" and would be at Q-Productions soon after. This was the last telephone call Selena answered and was the last time Pérez heard her voice.
At the motel room, Selena and Saldívar began arguing. Motel guests complained about loud noises coming from Saldívar's room. They said they heard two women arguing about business matters. Selena told Saldívar she could no longer be trusted, and demanded Saldívar return her financial papers. Selena then dumped Saldívar's satchel containing bank statements onto the bed and saw the gun. At 11:48 a.m. (CST), Saldívar pointed it at Selena. As Selena tried to flee, Saldívar shot her once on the lower right shoulder, severing an artery and causing a massive loss of blood. Trinidad Espinoza, the hotel's janitor, reported hearing a "loud bang", which he believed might have been an exploding light bulb. Selena was critically wounded; she ran towards the lobby, leaving a trail of blood 392 feet (119 m) long. She was seen clutching her chest screaming, "Help me! Help me! I've been shot!"; Saldívar was still chasing after her, pointing the gun at her, and calling her a "bitch". According to Carlos Morales, who was waiting outside the motel, he heard screaming and saw Selena running towards him. She grabbed Morales and screamed, "they'll shoot me again". Selena collapsed on the floor at 11:49 a.m. (CST) as hotel clerk Barbara Schultz telephoned the emergency services. The singer identified Saldívar as her assailant and gave the number of the room where she had been shot. Shawna Vela and hotel manager Ruben DeLeon tried to stop the flow of blood. Selena's condition began to deteriorate rapidly as motel staff attended to her. Selena screamed at the staff, telling them, "lock the door, she'll shoot me again". DeLeon tried to talk to Selena but noticed she was beginning to lose consciousness; he said she was moaning and moving less often. DeLeon noticed Selena's eyes had rolled back and that she went limp.
An ambulance arrived at the scene in one minute and 55 seconds. The paramedics tore away the green sweater where the bleeding was taking place and applied a Vaseline gauze to Selena's wound, which stopped the surface bleeding. Selena's heartbeat was now very slow; a paramedic performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation to keep her blood circulating. Paramedic Richard Fredrickson said "it was too late" when he arrived in the lobby. He found a "thick [pool of blood] from her neck to her knees, all the way around on both sides [of her body]". Fredrickson could not locate a pulse; when he placed his fingers on her neck, he felt only muscle twitches.
A paramedic tried inserting an intravenous needle into Selena, but her veins had collapsed because of the massive blood loss and low (or no) blood pressure, making the insertion extremely difficult. Local police closed off Navigation Boulevard. When paramedics delivered Selena to Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital at 12:00 p.m. (CST), her pupils were fixed and dilated, there was no evidence of neurological function, and she had no vital signs. Doctors were able to establish an "erratic heartbeat" long enough to transfer her to the trauma room. Doctors began blood transfusions in an attempt to re-establish blood circulation after opening Selena's chest and finding massive internal bleeding. Selena's right lung was damaged, her collarbone was shattered, and her veins were emptied of blood. Doctors widened her chest opening, administered drugs into her heart, and applied pressure to her wounds. Dr. Louis Elkins said a "pencil-size artery leading from the heart had been cut in two by the hollow-point bullet" and that six units of blood from the transfusion had spilled out from her circulatory system. After fifty minutes the doctors realized the damage was irreparable. Selena was pronounced dead at 1:05 p.m. (CST) from blood loss and cardiac arrest.
Standoff and post-mortem examination
After the shooting, Saldívar entered her red 1994 GMC pickup truck and tried to leave the motel parking lot. Motel employee Rosario Garza saw Saldívar leave her room with a wrapped towel. It was later thought she was going to Q-Productions to shoot Quintanilla, Jr., and others who were waiting for Selena. However, she was spotted by a responding police officer in a vehicle. The officer left his vehicle, drew his gun, and ordered Saldívar out of the truck. Saldívar did not comply; she backed up and parked adjacent to two cars. Her truck was then blocked in by the police vehicle. Saldívar picked up the pistol, pointed it at her right temple, and threatened to commit suicide. A SWAT team and the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit were brought in. Musicologist Himilce Novas later said the event was reminiscent of O.J. Simpson's planned suicide ten months earlier.
Larry Young and Isaac Valencia began negotiating with Saldívar. They ran a telephone line to their base of operations adjacent to Saldívar's pickup truck as the standoff continued. Lead negotiator Young tried to establish a rapport with Saldívar and persuade her to give herself up. Valencia suggested the shooting was accidental; Saldívar later changed her story, saying the "gun went off" by itself. She spoke to relatives in addition to speaking with police. Motel guests were ordered to remain in their rooms until police escorted them out.
During the third hour after the shooting, an autopsy was performed due to overwhelming media interest. It revealed that the bullet had entered Selena's lower back, passed through her chest cavity, severed the right subclavian artery, and exited her right upper chest. Doctors said that if the bullet had been only one millimeter higher or lower, the wound would have been less severe. Later that afternoon, police drained the gasoline from the gas tank of Saldívar's car and turned on floodlights.
After the standoff entered its fourth hour, Valencia succeeded in getting Saldívar to confess that she had intended to shoot herself. Saldívar said when she placed the gun to her own head, Selena tried to tell her not to kill herself. When Selena opened the door to leave, Saldívar said she told her to close it. She also said the gun went off when Selena left. During the sixth hour, Saldívar agreed to give herself up, but when she saw a police officer pointing a rifle at her, she panicked, ran back to her truck, picked up the revolver, and pointed it at her head again. Saldívar surrendered after more than nine hours. By then, hundreds of Selena's fans had gathered at the scene; many wept as police took Saldívar away. A press conference was called within hours of Selena's murder; Saldívar had not yet been named in media reports. Assistant Police Chief Ken Bung and Quintanilla, Jr., told the press the possible motive was Selena's intention to terminate Saldívar's employment; Rudy Treviño, director of the Texas Talent Music Association, and sponsor of the Tejano Music Awards, declared that March 31, 1995 would be known as "Black Friday".
When radio station KEDA-AM broke the news of Selena's death, many people accused the staff of lying because the next day was April Fools' Day. In San Antonio, major Spanish-language radio stations including Tejano 107, KXTN-FM, KRIO-FM and KEDA-AM, began monitoring developments. All major U.S. networks interrupted their regular programming to break the news. The lead item on national television network evening news programs in Corpus Christi had been the end of the 1994–95 Major League Baseball strike; within thirty minutes of its announcement, Selena's murder was the lead item on all television stations in South Texas. Her death was front-page news in The New York Times for two days, and was featured prominently on BBC World News. News of the singer's death reached Japan, where David Byrne first heard of the shooting. Univision and Telemundo were among the first national news stations to arrive at the crime scene. Carlos Lopez of KMIQ-105.1 told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that "Tejano music is dead for at least today" and compared the reactions to Selena's death to reactions to the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and called March 31, 1995, "Black Friday". Radio stations in Texas began playing Selena's music non-stop and taking telephone calls from distressed fans.
News stands were swarmed by people looking for items concerning Selena. A line for the April 1, 1995, edition of the Corpus Christi Caller Times formed; the company added 11,000 copies to their print run and later printed 20,000 more copies to meet continued demand for the paper. A People magazine issue was released several days after her murder. Its publishers believed interest would soon wane; they released a commemorative issue within a week when it became apparent that interest was growing. The issue sold nearly a million copies, selling the entire first and second run within two weeks. It became a collector's item—a first in the history of People. Betty Cortina, editor of People, told Biography, "it was unheard of" for an issue to completely sell out. In the following months, the success of the Selena issue led the company to release People en Español aimed at the Hispanic market. This was followed by Newsweek en Espanol and Latina magazine.
Puerto Rican-American actress Jennifer Lopez was cast to play Selena in the 1997 biopic film about her life; this choice drew criticism because of Lopez' ancestry. After the film's release, fans changed their views on Lopez after seeing her performance in the movie. Lopez became famous after the film's release.
Selena's life and career were covered by a number of television programs, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, E! True Hollywood Story, VH1's Behind The Music, American Justice, Snapped, and Famous Crime Scene. Other networks including MTV, Investigation Discovery, The Biography Channel, and A&E Network have aired special programs about Selena, while Spanish-language networks regularly show documentaries to commemorate the anniversary of her death. These Spanish-language documentaries are among the most-watched programs in the history of American television, and often score record ratings for networks. A documentary titled Selena, A Star is Dimmed—one of the first about her—was broadcast on Univison's Primer Impacto on 4 April 1995; it was watched by 2.09 million people and became the second-most-viewed Spanish-language show in the history of American television at the time. Networks competed with each other to interview Saldívar about the shooting. When news that Arrarás was able to interview her broke, Univision was inundated with requests to use the interview from major networks as far away as Germany. The interview on Primer Impacto was watched by 4.5 million viewers; it was the most-watched program that night according to the Nielsen ratings, and became one of the most-watched Spanish-language programs in American television history.
The news of Selena's death deeply affected the Hispanic community; many people traveled thousands of miles to visit Selena's house, boutiques, and the crime scene. By mid-afternoon, police were asked to form a detour as a line of automobiles began backing up traffic from the Quintanillas' house. On the street where Selena had lived, gang graffiti and cacti distinguished the blue-collar community from other subdivisions across America. A chain-link fence in front of Selena's house became a shrine festooned with mementoes as fans from across America left messages to Selena and the Quintanilla family. Most car drivers in Corpus Christi, and those driving cars on Interstate 37 from Mexico, turned their headlights on in her memory. Fans scribbled notes and messages, and placed them on the door and doorstep of the room in which Selena had been shot.
Soon after learning of Selena's death, people began speculating about the identity of her murderer. Some fans thought Emilio Navaira's wife had shot Selena; they believed she was jealous of Selena and Navaira's relationship. Johnny Pasillas, Emilio's brother-in-law and manager, frantically called radio stations in an attempt to quash the rumor. Among the celebrities who believed the rumor were record producer Manny Guerra, Pete Rodriguez, and American singer Ramon Hernandez. According to anchorwoman Arrarás, Selena's death became "the most important news [story] of the year for Hispanics". Texas Monthly editor Pamela Colloff wrote that reactions to her death were equivalent to those following a political assassination. Reactions were compared to those that followed the deaths of John Lennon, Elvis Presley, and John F. Kennedy.
Selena had a "cult-like" following among Hispanics; after her death she became a household name in the United States and a part of the American pop culture. She was more popular after her death than when she was alive. Selena became a cultural icon for Latinos and was seen as "a woman who was proud of her roots [who had] achieved her dreams". According to Antonio Lopez of the Santa Fe New Mexican, the day Selena was killed "is a bookmark in time in the memories of many Latinos". According to Arrarás, "women imitated her, men worshiped her". In the aftermath of Selena's murder, two linked deaths in California were reported. A drag queen planned to dress as Selena for a performance; he was hit by a car and left to die. Actor Gloria de la Cruz auditioned for the role of Selena; her body was later found dumped in a dumpster in Los Angeles dumpster. Her killer had strangled her and set her body on fire.
Celebrities' and politicians' reactions
Spanish singer Julio Iglesias interrupted a recording session in Miami for a moment of silence. Among the celebrities who contacted the Quintanilla family following the news were Gloria Estefan, Celia Cruz, Iglesias, and Madonna. Concerts throughout Texas were canceled; La Mafia canceled their concert in Guatemala and flew back to Texas. Tejano singer Ramiro Herrera and dozens of other Tejano artists also canceled their concerts. Ben Benavidez, radio personality and owner of Tejano Review, told Corpus Christi Caller Times that March 31 would be remembered as "the worst day in Corpus Christi history". American singer-songwriter Rhett Lawrence published an advertisement in Billboard magazine's 22 April 1995 issue; it said, "music I heard with you was more than music. You will be deeply missed." Other celebrities interviewed on radio stations, including Stefanie Ridel, Jaime DeAnda (of Los Chamacos), Elsa Garcia, and Shelly Lares, expressed their thoughts about Selena's death. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey called Selena's life "short but significant" during a March 1997 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. American singer-songwriter Mariah Carey told MTV Selena's death was shocking to her because of "the way it had happened so abruptly in a young life". State senator Carlos Truan and state representative Solomon P. Ortiz reportedly mourned Selena's death. American music industry executive Daniel Glass told Texas Monthly he believed Selena would have enjoyed greater career success had it not been for her death. A few days after her death, president of the United States Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary sent a letter of condolence to Selena's husband Chris Pérez.
A few days later, Howard Stern mocked Selena's murder, burial, and mourners, and criticized her music. Stern said, "This music does absolutely nothing for me. Alvin and the Chipmunks have more soul ... Spanish people have the worst taste in music. They have no depth." He then played Selena's songs with gunshot noises in the background. Stern's comments and actions outraged and infuriated the Hispanic community in Texas. After an arrest warrant for disorderly conduct was issued for him, Stern made an on-air statement, in Spanish, saying his comments were not made to cause "more anguish to her family, friends and those who loved her". The League of United Latin American Citizens found Stern's apology unacceptable and urged a boycott of his show. Texas retailers removed products related to Stern. Sears and McDonalds sent a letter expressing their disapproval of Stern's comments to the media because fans believed they sponsored his show. Within a week, on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Stern and his co-host Robin Quivers were asked if Stern's remarks about Selena were acceptable. Quivers decided not to talk about the situation to avoid arguing with Stern. When Linda Ronstadt, a pop singer of Mexican-American heritage, appeared on the show, she and Quivers argued when Ronstadt defended Selena.
On April 12, 1995, two weeks after Selena's death, Texas governor George W. Bush declared her birthday Selena Day in Texas. Bush said Selena represented "the essence of south Texas culture". On Selena Day, approximately a thousand fans gathered at her grave and began singing traditional Mexican folk songs; police were brought in to control the crowd. On the same day, a crowd of three thousand attended an organized mass of the resurrection for Selena at Johnnyland Concert Park.
In April and May that year, some European-Americans in Texas wrote to the editor of the Brazosport Facts questioning the fuss over her death; some were offended because Selena Day coincided with Easter Sunday. Others said, "Easter is more important than Selena Day", and believed people should let Selena rest in peace and get on with their lives. Mexican-Americans living in Texas also wrote to the newspaper; some agreed that others were too critical of Selena Day, stating they did not need to celebrate the day and should not have responded to its announcement so rudely. This was also seen by the Corpus Christi Caller Times, which said it had printed several of the negative comments left by people and that many comments were "unprintable". Hispanic filmmaker Lourdes Portillo said she did not know who Selena was when she heard about the shooting.
When the news of Selena's death broke, many white Americans asked who she was and said she was "not that important", suggesting Hispanics "get over it". Author and Texas Monthly magazine contributor Joe Nick Patoski said Anglo-Americans and Mexican-Americans were divided in their reactions to Selena's death. Patoski said that Anglo-Americans "didn't understand what all the fuss was about". This was echoed in the Corpus Christi Caller Times, where they found racial divisions in the reactions to Selena's death. Educators who had observed the reactions said, "the emergence of an icon in a minority culture can be both bewildering and threatening to Anglos". Melicent Rothschild said white Americans often do not understand "the cultural role models of groups who have felt discriminated against". Following Selena's death, cultural confrontations between Hispanics and white Americans were reported. Many white Americans vocally opposed any memorials to the singer, feeling they would be costed to taxpayers. Others complained to newspapers about the media interest in Selena's death. Many media outlets received negative comments from people around the country. Many white Americans were baffled that the Rossler massacre, which occurred around the same time of Selena's death, did not generate the same amount of media exposure. Mayor Mary Rhodes said many of the people complaining about the media exposure Selena was receiving had never heard of her.
In the 1997 biopic film about Selena, a white American store manager asks Hispanics running towards the singer for an autograph, "Who's Selena?". White Americans felt the scene was "irrelevant" and "over dramatized". One Selena fan said the event depicted in the scene "happens all the time" to Hispanics and their friends, and that they feel their community has been "ignored". Lauraine Miller said, "Selena has opened my eyes", and that Miller had become "more American". Another fan said, "nobody ever lets you forget you are Mexican American" in the U.S.
At the time of Selena's death, 52% of all Latin music sales were generated by regional Mexican music; most of this was Tejano, which had become one of the most popular Latin music genres. Selena's music led the genre's 1990s revival and made it marketable for the first time. Many media outlets described her as the "Queen of Tejano music".[nb 3] Major record companies including EMI Records, SBK Records, Warner Music Group, CBS Records, and Sony Music began signing Tejano artists to compete in the Latin music market. Following Selena's death, the Tejano music market suffered and its popularity waned. Radio stations in the United States that played Tejano music switched to regional Mexican music, and by 1997, KQQK was the only radio station playing non-stop Tejano music. By the mid-2000s, radio stations in the United States no longer played Tejano music, large auditoria stopped hosting Tejano artists by 2007, and major record companies abandoned their Tejano artists after 1995. Selena remains the best-selling Tejano artist of all time, and continues to outsell living Tejano artists. She remains the only Tejano musician whose recordings continue to chart on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.[nb 4] After her death, Tejano music was replaced with Latin pop as the most popular Latin music genre in the United States.
Within hours of Selena's murder, record stores sold out of her albums; EMI Latin began pressing several million CDs and cassettes to meet the expected demand. Gloria Ballesteros, a sales representative of Southwestern Wholesalers in San Antonio, told Billboard their inventory of 5,000 copies of Selena albums was sold out by the afternoon of her death. Record stores ordering more copies of her recordings were told by EMI Latin representatives they would not be able to restock for a few days. EMI Latin shipped 500,000 units of Selena's recordings to stores in the two weeks following her death. Her song "Fotos y Recuerdos" was number four on the US Billboard Hot Latin Tracks chart the day she was killed; it peaked at number one on April 15, 1995. Selena's singles "No Me Queda Mas", "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom", "Como la Flor", and "Amor Prohibido", re-entered the Hot Latin Tracks and the Regional Mexican Airplay chart in the issue of Billboard magazine dated April 15, 1995. Selena's 1994 album Amor Prohibido re-entered the Billboard 200 chart at number 92, representing a 520 percent increase in sales. 12,040 units sold the week Selena was murdered. The following week, the album rose to number 32 with 28,238 units sold representing a 135 percent increase. Amor Prohibido, which was positioned at number four on March 31, peaked at number one on the Top Latin Albums chart in the issue dated April 15, 1995. Three albums, Entre a Mi Mundo (1992), Live! (1993), and 12 Super Exitos (1994), re-entered the Top Latin Albums chart, while Selena's albums took chart positions one to four on the Regional Mexican Albums chart that same week. Her albums sparked a buying frenzy for Latin music in Japan, Germany, and China.
Dreaming of You, the crossover album Selena was working on at the time of her death, was released in July 1995. On the day of its release, 175,000 copies were sold in the U.S.—a record for a female vocalist—and 331,000 copies sold in its first week. Selena became the third female artist after Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey to sell over 300,000 units in one week. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, becoming the first album by a Hispanic artist to do so. Dreaming of You was the first posthumous album by a solo artist to debut at number one. The recording was among the top ten best-selling debuts for a musician, and was the best-selling debut by a female act. Dreaming of You joined five of Selena's studio albums on the Billboard 200 chart simultaneously, making her the first female artist in Billboard history to accomplish this feat. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified it 35x platinum for shipping more than 3.5 million copies in the U.S. As of 2015, the recording has sold five million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling Latin album of all-time in the United States. Five of Selena's albums generated $4 million in sales within five years. Selena was inducted into the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame, the Hard Rock Cafe's Hall of Fame in 1995, the South Texas Music Hall of Fame, and the Tejano Music Hall of Fame in 2001. In December 1999, she was named the "top Latin artist of the '90s" and "best-selling Latin artist of the decade" by Billboard for her fourteen top-ten singles—including seven number-one hits—in the Top Latin Songs chart.
Funeral and tributes
On the day Selena was killed, vigils and memorials were held throughout Texas and California. Radio station Tejano 107 sponsored a candlelight vigil at the Sunken Gardens, while KRIO-FM sponsored another at South Park Mall on March 31 which was attended by 5,000 people. Radio stations in Texas played her music non-stop. On April 1, Bayfront Plaza in Corpus Christi held a vigil which drew 3,000 fans. During the event, it was announced that a public viewing of the casket would be held at the Bayfront Auditorium the following day. Fans lined up for almost a mile. An hour before the doors opened, rumors that the casket was empty began circulating, which prompted the Quintanilla family to have an open-casket viewing. About 30,000 to 40,000 fans passed by Selena's casket. More than 78,000 signed a book of condolence. Flowers for the casket viewing were imported from The Netherlands. At the request of Selena's family, video and flash photography was banned. The same day, an unannounced bilingual Sunday morning mass for Selena featuring a mariachi choir was held at the San Fernando Cathedral in downtown San Antonio. In the United States, churches with a high proportion of Hispanic worshippers held prayers for Selena. A reporter noticed that many "mythic symbols" such as the Christian symbols of angels, saints, healers, and saviors, were "attached to Selena" by fans. There was a tribute for the singer during a St. Patrick's Day celebration in a Catholic church in Houston, Texas. Priest Father Sal DeGeorge decided to hold a tribute to Selena that day after people—especially children—asked him what was being planned for the singer. That same day, a disc jockey played Selena's music near the church in a small park.
On April 3, 1995, six hundred guests—mostly family members—attended Selena's burial at Seaside Memorial Park, which was broadcast live by a Corpus Christi and San Antonio radio station without the consent of her family. A Jehovah's Witness minister from Lake Jackson preached in English, quoting Paul the Apostle's words in 1 Corinthians 15. Hundreds of people began circling the area in their vehicles. Among the celebrities who attended the funeral were Roberto Pulido, Bobby Pulido, David Lee Garza, Navaira, Laura Canales, Elsa Garcia, La Mafia, Ram Herrera, Imagen Latina, and Astudillo. A special mass held the same day at Los Angeles Sports Arena drew a crowd of 4,000. Selena had been booked to play there that night for her Amor Prohibido Tour. The promoter charged an admission fee, which upset Quintanilla, Jr. Modesto Lopez Portillo drove from El Salvador to Los Angeles to be the officiating priest for the gathering; the consul general of El Salvador attended as well. In Lake Jackson, a thousand fans and friends of Selena gathered at the municipal park in neighboring Clute, where she had played at the Mosquito Festival in July 1994. The next day, Our Lady of the Pillar, a church in Spain, held a mass for Selena which drew 450 people to the 225-seat church. In the weeks following her death, cars throughout Texas were seen with pictures of Selena painted on them. On April 28, during a fireworks display for Buccaneer Days in Corpus Christi, the music was reworked to include "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" in her memory. Selena Etc. boutiques became shrines to the singer as fans left balloons, flowers, pictures, and poems. Street murals of Selena were found across Texas after her death. In the months following Selena's death, an average of 12,000 people visited her grave site and the Days Inn motel where the shooting occurred. The motel's manager rearranged its room numbers so guests would not know in which room Selena had been shot. The singer became part of the Day of the dead celebration. In 1997, Selena was commemorated with a museum and a life-sized bronze statue, Mirador de la Flor, in Corpus Christi, which are visited by hundreds of fans each week. Fans flocked to her statue and murals, seeing them as a symbols of self-identity, unionism, religious expression, resistance, self-expression, equality, liberation, passion, optimism, possibility, and "encouragement and hope to the poor".
Musicians used music to express their thoughts about Selena or recorded compositions as tributes to her. These included American country artist Tony Joe White, Haitian singer-songwriter Wyclef Jean, American Tejano artist Pete Astudillo, Puerto Rican American group the Barrio Boyzz, Mexican American singer Graciela Beltran, American Tejano artist Jennifer Pena, American hip-hop singer Lil Ray, American Tejano artists Emilio Navaria, Bobby Pulido, Cuban salsa singer Celia Cruz, Dominican salsa singer José Alberto "El Canario", Puerto Rican American salsa singers Ray Sepulveda, Michael Stuart, Manny Manuel, Puerto Rican American jazz singer Hilton Ruiz, American singer Jenni Rivera, Mexican singer Lupillo Rivera, Venezuelan rock singer Mikel Erentxun, Puerto Rican American singer Tony Garcia, and American rapper King L.
Selena's family and her former band Los Dinos held a tribute concert a week after the 10th anniversary of her murder on April 7, 2005. The concert, titled Selena ¡VIVE!, was broadcast live on Univision and achieved a 35.9 household rating. It was the highest-rated and most-viewed Spanish-language television special in the history of American television. It was the most-watched program—regardless of language—among adults ages 18 to 34 in Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco; it tied for first in New York, beating that night's episode of Fox's American Idol. Among Hispanic viewers, figures for Selena ¡VIVE! exceeded those for Super Bowl XLV between the Packers and the Steelers and the telenovela Soy Tu Dueña, during what was the "most-watched NFL season ever among Hispanics".
In January 2015, it was announced that a two-day annual event called Fiesta de la Flor would be held in Corpus Christi by the Corpus Christi Visitors Bureau as a tribute to Selena. Musical acts for the first annual event included Kumbia All-Starz, Chris Pérez, Los Lobos, Jay Perez, Little Joe y la Familia, Los Palominos, Stefani Montiel of Las 3 Divas, Girl in a Coma's Nina Diaz, Las Fenix, and The Voice competitor Clarissa Serna. The event raised $13 million and was attended by 52,000 people, 72% of whom lived outside Corpus Christi. The event sparked interest from people in thirty-five U.S. states and five countries including Mexico, Brazil, and Ecuador.
Within twenty minutes of Saldívar's surrender, she was taken to the downtown police station in Corpus Christi and placed in an interrogation room with investigators Paul and Ray Rivera. Paul Rivera, who had investigated homicides since 1978, informed Saldívar of her right to an attorney, which she waived. When police investigators surrounded Saldívar's truck, she had cried out, "I can't believe I killed my best friend". Within hours, she was saying the shooting was accidental. Saldívar's bail bond was initially set at $100,000, but District Attorney Carlos Valdez persuaded the presiding judge to raise it to $500,000. When bail was announced, fans asked why the death penalty had not been sought. The Nueces County jail was deluged with death threats and there were public calls for vigilante justice. Some gang members in Texas were reported to have taken up collections to raise the bond for Saldívar so they could kill her when she was released. In prison, she faced more death threats from inmates. The Mexican Mafia, a dominant gang in the Texas penal system, reportedly placed a price on her head and spread the word that anyone who committed the crime would be a hero.
Saldívar's crime was punishable by up to ninety-nine years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Saldívar was kept at Nueces County Jail under a suicide watch before her trial. The state had difficulty arranging defense counsel for Saldívar; a spokesperson said any lawyer defending Saldívar could face death threats. She was assigned attorney Douglas Tinker, paid for by the people of Texas. Tinker's wife feared they would suffer from community retribution and asked him not to take the case. Tinker chose Arnold Garcia, a former district prosecutor, as his legal counsel. Valdez, who lived a few blocks away from the Quintanilla family, chose Mark Skurka as his legal counsel. Mike Westergren presided over the case, which was moved to the Harris County Courthouse in Houston, Texas, to ensure an impartial jury. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Selena murder trial's publicity "rivaled that of the O.J. Simpson proceedings". Westergren ordered that the trial would not be televised or taped, and limited the number of reporters in the courtroom to avoid a "repeat of the Simpson circus". The Chicago Tribune reported the division of interest in the trial between Hispanics and white Americans. Donna Dickerson, a white American magazine publisher, told the Chicago Tribune she had no interest in the trial because of Selena's "Hispanic background", and said Mexican-Americans had not shown the same enthusiasm when Elvis Presley was found dead. The Selena murder trial was called the "trial of the century" and the most important trial to the Hispanic population. The trial generated interest in Europe, South America, Australia, and Japan.
Saldívar pleaded not guilty, saying the shooting was accidental. In his opening statement, Valdez said he believed Saldívar "deliberately killed Selena". Valdez also called it a "senseless and cowardly" act because Selena was shot in the back. Tinker said the shooting was accidental and denied rumors Saldívar wanted to be romantically involved with Selena. On October 23, 1995, the jury deliberated for two hours before finding Saldívar guilty of murder. She received the maximum sentence of life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 30 years. On November 22, 1995, she arrived at the Gatesville Unit—now the Christina Crain Unit—in Gatesville, Texas, for processing. As of 2015[update], Saldívar is serving her sentence in Gatesville at the Mountain View Unit, which is operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. She will be eligible for parole on March 30, 2025. Because of multiple internal death threats from incarcerated Selena fans, Saldívar was placed in isolation and spends twenty-three hours a day alone in her 9 by 6 feet (2.7 by 1.8 m) cell.
- 1995 in music
- 1995 in the United States
- Governorship of George W. Bush
- History of the United States (1991–present)
- History of Texas
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Selena wanted to sing American pop music, but her father had learned some hard lessons playing music in Texas with a band he'd had years before called Los Dinos
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