On the way to a junior high school field trip, I snagged one of the window seats on our yellow school bus, put on my headphones and excitedly pressed play on my Walkman. I had recently saved enough cash to buy Selena’s “Amor Prohibido” cassette, and so when a classmate asked what I was listening to, I proudly flashed the tape cover featuring the Tejano star’s image.
It will have been 20 years since the death of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez on March 31, but her music and legacy live on in the hearts of fans who watched her rise to fame and hoped to see her reach superstardom as a crossover artist.
Growing up in the small border town of Eagle Pass, I remember seeing the signs for “Selena y Los Dinos” outside the ballrooms where she played frequent weekend shows. Tejano music was hot at the time but dominated by mostly male artists. Quintanilla-Pérez infused the Tejano music scene with energy, invigorating the music with a contemporary edge that spoke to a new generation.
But most importantly to me, she offered hope to young Mexican-American girls. Here was someone who looked like the women around me, who spoke like people I knew, who was also from South Texas and was proving that she could be successful and accepted beyond the region. So when one of my schoolmates rushed into class to alert us of the shocking news of her death, it stunned us all.
As the nation remembers Quintanilla-Pérez’s life, fans are honoring her legacy in different ways. On March 14, the Austin360 Rock the Lot two-day free festival will feature music by the Selena tribute band Bidi Bidi Banda, among others. Singer Stephanie Bergara, who also serves as a music programs specialist with the city of Austin’s music division, leads the local group. Bidi Bidi Banda’s performance begins at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Austin American-Statesman’s west parking lot. For more details, visit rockthelot.austin360.com.
In April, Quintanilla-Pérez would have celebrated her 44th birthday, and some fans are honoring the cultural icon then. On April 10, local art group Puro Chingón Collective will present an interactive screening of the film “Selena” as part of Fusebox Festival’s 2015 ThinkEast series. Guests who attend the 8 p.m. screening at 1036 Jain Lane will receive a bag of props to be used at key moments throughout the movie. Visit fuseboxfestival.com/festival/selena for more information.
Celebrating César Chávez
As we become more aware of where our food comes from and how it’s grown, let’s not forget the hundreds of thousands of migrant farmworkers who call Texas home and help nourish you and your family by laboring in the fields and canneries across the United States.
Every meal has a story, and when labor leader and civil rights activist César Chávez advocated for migrant farmworker rights, he was also trying to ensure that all Americans have a safe food supply.
In March, Chávez’s efforts will be honored across the country with everything from marches to film screenings. In Austin, community members are invited to gather on March 28 for the annual “Sí Se Puede” March. Attendees will assemble at Terrazas Library (1105 E. Cesar Chavez St.) at 10 a.m. and march to City Hall Plaza, where there will be music, speakers and entertainment. Paul Chávez, the son of the late labor leader, will be this year’s guest speaker.
Learn more about Cesar Chávez and the Mexican-American/Latino civil rights movement with free documentary screenings at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center at 7 p.m. March 12-13 at the Black Box Theatre. Visit austintexas.gov/esbmacc for more details.
Free music during SXSW
While the crowds descend on downtown during South by Southwest, there are two festivals where you can enjoy Tejano and Latin rhythms for free while taking in the city’s awe-inspiring lakeside views and festive atmosphere.
Head to the courtyard of the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center on March 18-21, where music kicks off at 6 p.m. with the Mexican American Experience festival. Sunny and the Sunliners, which was the first Tejano music group to appear on “American Bandstand,” headlines on Wednesday night. Other featured artists that evening include Mariachi Amor, Cañonazo, Street People and Latin Express.
On Thursday, San Antonio native and Tejano music star Chente Barrera wraps up the fest after performances by Tejano Idol contest winner Erica Rangel, Beyond Therapy, Llueve and Baraja de Oro.
The hip-shaking music continues after the Mexican American Experience festival ends and the Pan Americana Festival begins on March 20. Master accordionist and party instigator Celso Piña returns this year to headline Friday night. Nicknamed “El Rebelde del Acordeón” (Accordion Rebel), Piña created a hybrid cumbia sound that incorporated reggae, hip-hop, ska and rock. Also bringing innovative genre-blending sounds will be San Antonio’s Piñata Protest, who play accordion-style punk music.
Monterrey electronic rockers Kinky return to the festival as well, this time headlining Saturday night. Los Masters Plus and Austin’s Cilantro Boombox will also energize the stage. For a complete listing of bands, check out facebook.com/PanAmericanaFestival.
WELCOME TO CULTURA EN AUSTIN
Cultura en Austin is a monthly column highlighting Latino-related cultural events in Austin. Look for it on the last Friday of the month.
Nancy Flores grew up in the Texas border town of Eagle Pass and has been covering Latino culture for the American-Statesman and Austin360 since 2011. Before that, she covered Latino issues as a journalist in Mexico City. Send tips or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find more news about Latino cultural art happenings on the Cultura en Austin blog on cultura.blog.austin360.com. Also, check out Austin Gente, a video/story series that explores what it means to be Latino in the U.S. on austin360.com/cultura.
Do you have your own fond memories of Selena? Show us your love of the Queen of Tejano music by visiting the Selena mural on the Butler Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake. Find it on the west side of Pleasant Valley Road just south of the bridge over Longhorn Dam and across the street from the Krieg Softball Complex. Send us a photo of you and your friends by the mural and tag @austin360 on Instagram. Use the hashtags #SelenaVive and #SelenaForeverinATX. Your photos will appear in an online photo gallery and may also appear in print.