Selena Quintanilla-Perez Costume
Selena was a powerful woman who really carved out her own identity. She could be the Beyoncé of today; she had that kind of power and influence. To be a young woman pursuing your dreams and how hard that is and how much she was up against to do it and the courage that it took — to again see someone like her on the national stage and to be recognized and celebrated and to be an icon is so hugely important in terms of, you know, how we see culture and who the icons are.
Selena became so powerful, and U.S. pop culture still sees her as the only expression of Latino identity. She encapsulates that identity. It’s an amazing legacy that we didn’t evolve from. [It’s] super powerful, but still puts us in a box.
At a time when she was popular across the Southwest and in Mexico but relatively little known in other parts of the U.S., we saw Selena perform in Washington, D.C., in 1993. That year's Hispanic Heritage Month provided a forum for members of Congress and Hispanic arts organizations to showcase the amazing talent in their respective districts. My memory is a little fuzzy as to the event we attended but it was most likely the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala as Representative Solomon Ortiz of Texas, whose district included Corpus Christi where Selena grew up, was the chairman responsible for the program. But my memory is clear about the energetic performance Selena gave. In her signature leather jacket with bejeweled bra underneath, her mane of hair flew as she crossed the stage to the rousing rhythm of the large band behind her, sending out the sounds of South Texas – familiar to us from weddings, quinceañeras, and bailes (dances) – out into the nation’s capital.