Hawaii Loves Selena

23 Mar
At the Selena Vive Concert

Me at the Selena Vive Concert, Houston TX, 2005

There is a story that has now become a legend in Latino households. Selena, the Mexican-American singer, was to give her first press conference in Mexico. Having grown in the United State exclusively speaking English, she had not yet mastered Spanish. Although she was a multi-platinum Spanish singing icon to Latinos by now, she had learned most of her songs phonetically and only as an adult was actively learning the native tongue of her ancestors. Her record label was nervous the Mexican press would eat her alive if her Spanish faltered even a little for they are notoriously mean to artists from the US who try to invade Mexico. Selena, however, had it under her control. She came into the press conference and greeted each person in the room, be it a camera man or a reporter, with a hug and a kiss. She chatted with them, made them feel human, and by the time she sat down to give her interview the people in the room felt like they were talking to their best friend and not just another celebrity.

The Mexican newspapers the next day crowed Selena “An artist of the people.” This story made me think of how much Selena would have loved Hawaii. We hug and kiss here all the time, we talk to each other like family, and embrace our similarities. However, growing up Mexican in the little town of Lahaina I really didn’t have many people who I felt had the same experiences as me. I really hated being Mexican, I wanted to be something else, Filipino, Chinese, anything but Mexican. We didn’t fit, at least I didn’t think so. Our food was different, our language recognized by no one. My name was never pronounced right, except in my own home. Then came 1995, when Selena was shot to death by her fan club president. The movie starring Jennifer Lopez came a few years later. It brought national attention to something I was so familiar with, and even in Lahaina people began to talk about Selena, play her music, and appreciate her style.

In a way because she was embraced I realized that I was embraceable too. Til that time I had been trying to hide so much my Mexican-ness that it provided people who disliked me ammo to break me down. They’d tease me about my family being immigrants, and would pronounce my name wrong(er), not to mention would say things like “Hey Pedro, Do you Quiero Taco Bell?”. But the Selena movie and her albums did pretty well in Hawaii. What was different between me and Selena? The difference was that Selena was proud of her Mexican roots, and accentuated her Mexican attributes. She didn’t deny she was who she was and didn’t deny she was also American, a Texas girl. Could I be that also? Be local while being international? Could I be a walking dichotomy, embracing the language of my home while becoming eloquent in English ? Why not. Other ethnic groups in Hawaii have done it for centuries, now it was time for this local Mexican kid to join in the melting pot..

I was an impressionable teenager during that time and I thank Selena for showing me a positive multi-ethnic role model. A few years later a local group called Milo Shade did a local version of her bouncy hit Bidi Bidi Bom Bom. There was no doubt in my mind now that Selena would have loved Hawaii, and Hawaii would have loved Selena, had she only lived long enough to visit. .

This year marked the 10th anniversary of her death. The Latino world still loves and misses Selena very much, me included. I was able to attend a huge concert honoring her life earlier this month, held in Houston, aired live through Spanish networks, which now has become the most watched Spanish show ever. I bought some markers and a red poster board. I’m no artist so my sign was clear and simple: Hawaii Loves Selena. .

Thanks Selena, for helping a skinny Mexican kid from Hawaii fit in a little more.

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One Response to “Hawaii Loves Selena”

  1. Olivia October 12, 2010 at 5:42 am #

    Just had to say, we luv her on the mainland as well! Stumbled onto your blog while searching for something Selena related (I don’t recall what now, hahah).
    She is certainly someone to emulate. Truly kind. :) Good post!

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