“To most of America, Selena is the kinda cheesy biopic that put Jennifer Lopez on the map. Maybe once in a while it comes on Lifetime, and you just can’t turn away. (Jonah Hill, for one, has been known to tweet about such occurrences.) But for a Hispanic girl from a border town in south Texas, this movie is everything. Absolutely everything.
I was in fifth grade when Selena was murdered (just a couple weeks over 20 years ago). Up to that point, I can’t remember anything shaking up my community so completely. Everybody in Laredo, TX (and the rest of south Texas) absolutely loved her. You’d see her picture up everywhere, moreso after her death. Practially every Mexican restaurant you’d go to would have her framed on the walls. Maybe you’d see a mural or a cardboard standee. A good friend at the time named her cat after Selena. And of course, her music was everywhere. I didn’t pay any attention to Tejano music (which was everywhere), but I knew who Selena was. (Bidi Bidi Bom Bom was my favorite, although now I’d prolly go with Como La Flor). To this day, you don’t have to go too far to find something Selena in town.
You have no idea what a big deal the movie was for us, and that’s that Laredo wasn’t even a part of it. The local newspaper had front page updates, including a profile on a local girl that almost got the part of young Selena. The film’s release was an event itself. Everybody went. I still remember going to the current newest movie theater (every few years a new one would open, then the oldest would become a dollar theater and eventuall close) with my entire family. And I mean my entire family. In my whole life, the only time I remember my grandparents going to the movies was to see Selena. There may have also been a cousin involved. A few weeks ago, I shared an article on FB about Selena’s anniversary and my mom quickly commented about how much my grandpa had loved her music.
This movie was mainly a big deal because of how loved she was, but it was also a rare chance to see our people and our culture on film. Corpus Christi, where much of the film takes place, may be 150 miles away from Laredo, but it’s similar enough. I only now fully appreciate what that meant to see Hispanic culture displayed with such wide distribution.
As for the movie itself, some of it gets a little cheesy (particularly the romance), but overall it fit the spirit of Selena beautifully. I don’t think anyone back home was disappointed with the film. It was exactly what we all hoped it would be. The then unknown Jennifer Lopez was perfect, oftentimes indistinguishable from Selena as she recreated so many of her iconic looks. She embodied who we all believed Selena was.
Watching this movie just brings back so many memories. There may be times when I try to distance myself from my home town, but this is one of the few when I’m particularly proud of where I came from.”