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It was 17 years ago today that singer Selena Quintanilla was murdered in a Days Inn motel room in Corpus Christi, Texas. Just 23 years old and 16 days away from her 24th birthday, she stood at the apex of her career and the precipice of international stardom, having just recorded her first (and only) English language album, but Selena was already a household name through much of central and South America, thanks to several tours in the region and hits like “Como La Flor,” which reached No. 1 on the U.S. Latin Tracks chart in 1992, followed in short order by “Amor Prohibido,” “No Me Queda Más” and “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” all chart-toppers in 1994.
She had amassed so many fervent fans, in fact, that in the end, it would be one such obsessive who would take her life — Yolanda Saldívar, the president of the Selena fanclub and manager of the singer’s “Selena Etc.” clothing boutiques.
The sequence of events was tragic: after Selena’s family discovered Saldivar was embezzling money, her father Abraham confronted Saldivar on March 9 and subsequently banned her from Q-Productions, the recording facility he ran, a few days later. On March 13, Selena and Saldivar got into a heated argument on the phone, but the singer chose not to sever ties completely in order to recover key bank records and statements from Saldivar that were vital to the opening of a boutique in Mexico.
On March 30, Selena and her husband Chris Perez went to Saldivar’s room at the Days Inn to pick up the papers, but Selena realized some were still missing. Late that night, Saldivar called Selena and told her she had been raped in Mexico. The two made plans to meet the following morning.
At the motel, Selena demanded a handover of her financial statements while Saldivar persisted in telling the rape story. Selena then drove Saldivar to nearby Doctors Regional Hospital, where doctors did not discover evidence of rape. The two women returned to the motel and at 11:49 a.m. Saldivar shot Selena with a .38 caliber gun. Selena stumbled to the lobby where she collapsed. She was pronounced dead at Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital at 1:05 p.m.
Since her death in 1995, interest in the singer has only intensified — and exponentially. The album Dreaming of You, released by EMI in July 1995, three months after the murder, reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and sold more than two million copies. The single of the same name (see official video here) made it to No. 1 on Billboard’s U.S. radio chart. Another big boost came in 1997 when then newcomer Jennifer Lopez portrayed Selena in the feature film Selena (Edward James Olmos played Abraham) and received a Golden Globe nomination for the breakout role.
Since then, a Selena museum was founded in Corpus Christi and a memorial structure (the Mirador de la Flor, see photo at right) erected in her honor. She was named the Top Latin Artist of the 90s by Billboard and, more recently, was featured on a U.S. postage stamp. Her husband Chris Perez just released a book, To Selena, With Love, that is selling swiftly, VISA has plans for a Selena pre-paid debit card and next week, a new posthumous album, Enamorada de Ti, will be released featuring duets with the likes of Don Omar and Selena Gomez (named after Selena when she was born in 1992), who sings “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” a favorite of her touring set list (E! News aired a snippet of the song on Friday).
This year, Selena would have turned 41 and likely sold as many if not far more than the 60 millions albums bought in the last two decades, and while many Latin superstars have arrived in her wake — from Shakira to Marc Anthony to Ricky Martin — there will only be one “Queen of Tejano.”
Watch the official video for “Amor Prohibido” below:
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