I was a freshman in high school, sitting in 5th period government class. It was right after lunch. As soon as class began, I overheard a classmate say that while she was driving back to school from eating off campus, a local radio station said Selena died. Soon, the entire class was talking about it.
Back then, the internet wasn’t as ubiquitous as today. There was no place to get instant verified information. Luckily, our classroom had a radio which we quickly turned on and listened as a radio DJ confirmed the news. She was 23 years old. Beyond that, we knew little else. At least, not during the middle of a school day. As that class ended, and we walked the crowded halls to our next period, you could hear the halls buzzing with what had just happened. The entire thing felt surreal. I doubt I’ll ever forget where I was on the day Selena died.
I wasn’t a fan of Selena. I didn’t dislike her, but neither did I listen to her music. And yet, where I grew up in El Paso, it felt impossible not to know who she was. To know her songs, even if one didn’t seek out her music. To know how she smiled and how she danced. To know see she had charisma and see how others wanted to emulate her. Selena and her music were just there.
This year, March 31 will mark 25 years since the day Selena died. She has now been dead longer than she lived. In the last quarter-century, who Selena was has evolved into what she is now. She has become a symbol of identity, inspired murals and festivals. She remains an inspiration to those alive when she sang and danced and to those who only know her from music, videos, memories, and more. And because her popularity is seemingly just increasing decades past her death, Selena is also a commodity.
In this month’s issue of D Magazine, I wrote about Selena. Who she was, how she died, how Latinos in Dallas processed her death, and how—today—people here continue to honor all she represents.