Selena, Latinos, and the Performance of Memory


Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: 40 illustrations Published: August 2009

Author: Deborah Paredez

American Studies, Chicanx and Latinx Studies, Theater and Performance

An outpouring of memorial tributes and public expressions of grief followed the death of the Tejana recording artist Selena Quintanilla Pérez in 1995. The Latina superstar was remembered and mourned in documentaries, magazines, websites, monuments, biographies, murals, look-alike contests, musicals, drag shows, and more. Deborah Paredez explores the significance and broader meanings of this posthumous celebration of Selena, which she labels “Selenidad.” She considers the performer’s career and emergence as an icon within the political and cultural transformations in the United States during the 1990s, a decade that witnessed a “Latin explosion” in culture and commerce alongside a resurgence of anti-immigrant discourse and policy.

Paredez argues that Selena’s death galvanized Latina/o efforts to publicly mourn collective tragedies (such as the murders of young women along the U.S.-Mexico border) and to envision a brighter future. At the same time, reactions to the star’s death catalyzed political jockeying for the Latino vote and corporate attempts to corner the Latino market. Foregrounding the role of performance in the politics of remembering, Paredez unravels the cultural, political, and economic dynamics at work in specific commemorations of Selena. She analyzes Selena’s final concert, the controversy surrounding the memorial erected in the star’s hometown of Corpus Christi, and the political climate that served as the backdrop to the touring musicals Selena Forever and Selena: A Musical Celebration of Life. Paredez considers what “becoming” Selena meant to the young Latinas who auditioned for the biopic Selena, released in 1997, and she surveys a range of Latina/o queer engagements with Selena, including Latina lesbian readings of the star’s death scene and queer Selena drag. Selenidad is a provocative exploration of how commemorations of Selena reflected and changed Latinidad.


“[T]his invigorating example of interdisciplinary Latina/o scholarship goes beyond Selena and models a methodological and theoretical technique that embraces and enunciates the melancholy, joy, and intellectual integrity of its subject(s).” — Priscilla Peña Ovalle, Theatre Journal

“Deborah Paredez’ study on Selena’s posthumous importance is well written, engaging, and timely. She reveals the cultural, political, and economic dynamics of some commemorations of Selena. She further explores the reactions of Latinos and mainstream Americans after Selena’s death. Selenidad enables—if only for a moment—a sense of belonging to communities of the living. A great and easy read coupled with a selection of interesting photographs.”
— Anna Hamling, Feminist Review blog

“The present reviewer . . . comes to Selenidad as neither sociologist nor adept with the at-times clinical and cold loupe and tweezers of the deconstructionist's toolbox, neither Latino nor expert in Hispanic life and culture in the Estados Unidos himself, but merely as a knowledge-thirsty Selena devotee. . . . [M]y posting of this review on is directed primarily at other Selena devotees. Should y'all run out and buy Selenidad? Unquestionably, without any hesitation, absolutely. . . . Selenidad is about us, the living, not Selena, the beloved departed; it is about what we (although focused on the Latino/a community) thought and think about Selena, the brilliant star who passed so quickly over the Texas plains.“ — Bernard Greenberg,

“What is certain and undeniable about Corpus Christi's most famous daughter is this: What we can now never know about Selena's rising star reveals other truths after her death. . . . For the decade-long project, Paredez . . . did painstaking research, including interviewing the young women who auditioned for the title role in the biopic and stage versions of her life story. She looked as well into the ways in which young girls still adopt the ‘everyday ways’ of Selena's style.” — Yvette Benavides, San Antonio Express-News

“In this outstanding book, Deborah Paredez teaches us important lessons about the politics of Latinidad. She makes insightful connections between Selena’s memorialization and contemporary issues including U.S. policy toward Latinos, the continued relevance of Texas’s colonial and conquest history, the political economy of NAFTA, and even strategies for containing urban popular expression.” — Arlene Dávila, author of Latinos, Inc.: The Marketing and Making of a People

“Selena, as Deborah Paredez compellingly shows, functions as a cultural hinge figure: issues pertaining to economics, ethnic identity, music, body language, sexuality, and politics are all negotiated around and through her body. More than that, Paredez demonstrates that the mourning around the star’s death—the outpouring of grief by Latinos and the reluctant observance by mainstream audiences—enacts the troubled relationship of Latinos and the mainstream generally.” — Diana Taylor, author of The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas


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Price: $26.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Deborah Paredez is Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance at the University of Texas, Austin.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface xi

Acknowledgments xix

Introduction: Selenidad and Latinidad in the 1990s 1

1. Soundtracks of Selenidad: "Disco Medley" and "Como la Flor" 31

2. Colonial Past, Tejano Present: Civic Maintenance is Selena's Memorial 56

3. Selena Forever, Latin Futures 95

4. Becoming Selena, Becoming Latina 126

5. "Como la Flor" Reprised: Queer Selenidad 155

Epilogue 187

Notes 193

Selected Bibliography 231

Index 245
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4502-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4489-6
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