Selena Artifacts Highlight Hispanic Advertising History at the Smithsonian

National Museum of American History Examines Latino Market in “American Enterprise” Exhibit

A new display opening Sept. 12 within the museum’s “American Enterprise” exhibition will explore advertising history through the lens of Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Perez (1971 – 1995). In the 1960s and 1970s, Latinos in advertising and Spanish-language broadcasting began advocating for the buying power of Latino consumers. This exhibition case looks at the transition the advertising industry made from mass market to targeting specific demographic groups through the work of the San Antonio-based Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar & Associates, which was founded in 1981 and became the top-billing Latino agency in the industry.

Selena was an American singer-songwriter who came to be known as the “Queen of Tejano music,” a popular form of music originating in Texas and taking influences from polka, rock, conjunto and mariachi. She rose to fame in the late 1980s among Mexican-Americans. She would go on to sign with a major record label and the agency worked with her as a spokesperson for Coca-Cola from 1989 until her death.   

Objects on display include a black leather jacket and black satin bustier worn by Selena between 1990 and 1995 for performances in both the United States and Mexico. The singer is depicted wearing the same outfit at the Selena Memorial statue in Corpus Christi, Texas. The case also includes transparencies from a Coca-Cola photo shoot, some of which were never published, and an image from the 1994 Coca-Cola ad developed by Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar & Associates as well as materials related to the agency’s work on HIV/AIDS awareness in the Latino community. The photos are the work of San Antonio-based photographer, Al Rendon.

“Selena is a reflection of a second wave of Hispanic marketing,” said Kathleen Franz, the chair of the museum’s Work & Industry division and curator of American Business. “Her selection as a spokesperson for Coca-Cola is based in the growth of the Mexican-American consumer market in the Southwest.”

Lionel Sosa, the agency’s founder. commended the museum for including the story of Hispanic advertising within its permanent business exhibition. “Our client, Coca-Cola, was a true pioneer in Hispanic marketing. They set the stage for brand imagery and participation in all facets of American society," he said.

Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar & Associates donated business records, public service announcements, the 1988 Clio award for “Hispanics get AIDs,” which was the first Clio to be awarded to a Latino agency, other print materials and video of landmark campaigns developed for companies such as American Airlines, Burger King, Coca-Cola (including a print tribute marking Selena’s passing in 1995), Kroger Grocery and Western Union during a 2015 special ceremony in San Antonio. In addition to donating their pioneering work in developing advertising that appealed to Latino consumers, Sosa, Ernest Bromley and Al Aguilar contributed oral histories. Their materials are located in the museum’s Archives Center.

Our work for one of America's iconic brands almost 30 years ago allowed us to creatively express our proud Latino heritage,” said Aguilar, now CEO of Creative Civilization, which he founded in 1999. “The campaigns created by the innovative and diverse advertising professionals at Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar & Associates not only reflected the growing influence that Latinos were exerting on the changing face of America but did so in a way that Latino consumers could relate to and embrace.”

The museum’s Archives Center holds archival materials (documents, photographs, oral histories, film and video) and three-dimensional objects (packaging, point-of-sale displays, signage, premiums and personal objects from advertising agents). It preserves significant campaigns from companies such as Alka-Seltzer, Federal Express, Cover Girl and Nike as well as the records of the NW Ayer Agency.

The museum continues to add campaign materials and personal artifacts related to Hispanic advertising agencies and their founders, including, most recently, items associated with the 50-plus-year career of Isabel Norniella, the founder of Olé TV Media and numerous agencies. Through a collaboration with AHAA: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing, the museum has collected the archives of Sara Sunshine, a Cuban immigrant, that include her work for Colgate and Palmolive; the legacy of Tere A. Zubizarreta, who founded her agency in 1976; Lopez Negrete Communications, founded in 1985; Orci Advertising, established in 1986; the IAC Group and Dieste Inc.

A video of an interview with Selena on the program “Tejano USA” was part of a separate donation to the museum’s Spanish-language television project by Univision, the parent company of San Antonio’s KWEX-TV, Channel 41. The interview, with footage of Selena from approximately 1994–95, can be viewed here:

“American Enterprise” is a permanent exhibition that opened July, 1 2015, and chronicles the interaction of capitalism and democracy that resulted in the continual remaking of American business. The exhibition includes stories of entrepreneurs including Raoul A. Cortez who founded KCOR-radio in San Antonio in 1946 and then KCOR-TV which became KWEX-TV. The Zubizarreta family is featured in the exhibition’s “Families in Business” video about the founding of Zubi Advertising, a Miami-based full service agency. For more information on the exhibition visit:

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Amelia Thompson      
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Melinda Machado         
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