It may not have a 7.5 or higher rating on IMDB, nor was it directed by Martin Scorsese or Wes Anderson, but Selena (1997) is still the most important film to my adolescent and young adult life. Selena is a biographical film about the amazing Latin artist Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. We all know that Selena was the queen of Texas and always will be, and her music has immensely impacted the Latino community, but the film offers so much more than a biography about a very talented, beautiful, kind hearted Latin soul.
I remember as a little girl going to school fall/spring festivals where they sold foods like menudo, aguas frescas, and elote en vaso, and watching little kids run out of the haunted house screaming and crying – all while Selena songs blasted in the background. Being so young, I wasn’t aware of whose songs were playing all the time at every elementary school function, but when I watched the Selena movie for the first time, it changed my adolescence in some way. I’d always go to the TV Guide channel to check if TNT were screening it (let’s face it, they’d show that movie like 4 times each week).
The film’s aesthetics are vital, and I’d kill for all the costumes used in the film (even her dad’s over sized glasses and Sunday dad shirts), but The portrayal of a lower middle class Mexican family trying to make ends meet has always felt too true to me. Sure, people will argue that Selena’s father “sold her out,” but their family never broke apart, and her success was done in a fair and well-respected manner. It was always about family, and I think every teenager with strong Mexican roots can agree that even though your family may be close-minded because of their traditional conservative upbringing, they’re still there for you, and that is a strong theme of this film.
It’s a confusing thing to be a Mexican living in Texas. A quote that has stood out for me in this film is the scene where Selena’s dad Abraham says, “We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time! It’s exhausting!” And it’s very true. We face prejudice from both sides of the border. Is my Spanish accent noticeable when I speak English? Will they notice that I have trouble rolling my r’s when I speak Spanish?
Selena elaborates on the amazing but short life of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. It tells the story of her rise to fame, her struggles, her outfits, her love life, but it also shows minority viewpoints of things like having the first Tejano album recorded by a female. This movie has made me more comfortable with my ethnicity, especially when I’m the only morena in a high fashion retail store.