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"Selena: The Series" Released this Month on Netflix

A new Netflix program Selena: The Series, is set to be released this month. The series covers the life of beloved Tejano queen, singer Selena Quintanilla. The first half of the series will be released tomorrow and will focus on the struggles her and her band faced in their early days. 

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Hello and welcome to the Latinx Files. I’m Fidel Martinez, and it’s Thursday, Dec. 3. (Is this your first Latinx Files newsletter? Have questions about the name? We have an explainer for that.)

By this time tomorrow, Netflix will have released the first half of “Selena: The Series.” The first nine episodes of the long-awaited drama focus on the early struggles that the Tejano queen and her family band Los Dinos faced on their road to stardom.

I’m not a betting man — years of working in sports have taught me that the unexpected always happens — but if I were, I’d wager that the Netflix show will be a massive success. I don’t need to tell you that anything slapped with Selena’s name will be a moneymaker. I’m looking at you, MAC Cosmetics and Funko.

So far, “Selena: The Series” has had mixed reviews. My colleague Lorraine Ali thought it missed the mark, that it focused too much on Abraham and A.B. Quintanilla — the “dadager” and songwriting brother, respectively — and less on Selena.

I’ll spare you my thoughts because quite frankly I’m more interested in what you have to say about it. Seriously, send me an email at latinxfiles@latimes.com and tell me what you think.

The one thing I will say is that as a native of South Texas, where much of this story takes place, I was pleasantly taken aback to see names, faces and places that I grew up with. I really enjoyed seeing Pete Astudillo, a Tejano icon in his own right if only for that mullet, be recognized as the creative genius that he is. I also appreciated that the showrunners acknowledged the role that the legendary variety show host Johnny Canales played in helping launch Selena’s career — so much so that I even wrote a primer on “The Johnny Canales Show” and its legacy.

Retelling Selena’s story is no easy task. How could it be? Selena, along with Pacoima’s own Ritchie Valens, pelotero Roberto Clemente and comedian Freddie Prinze, are on the Latinx Mt. Rushmore of icons who were gone way too soon. (I’ve often wondered if that common thread, one of unfulfilled potential, is part of the broader Latinx ethos.)

The magnitude of this herculean task was not lost on actor Christian Serratos, who plays Selena.

I “knew I was never going to make everybody happy,” Serratos told my colleague Yvonne Villareal. “I knew that because she had that star quality. We all feel a sense of ownership when it comes to Selena — that’s my homie, that’s my family, that’s my sister.”

It doesn’t make it any easier when fans already have “Selena,” the 1997 Gregory Nava film that’s so ubiquitous it’s been memefied — “Anything for Selenas.”

Still, Jaime Dávila, one of the executive producers on “Selena: The Series,” hopes that the likely success of the Netflix show will open the door for Latinx creatives to tell stories other than Selena’s.

“More than anything, we’re trying to show Hollywood that there’s this huge market of Latinx/Latino people; that our stories are American stories; that our stories are global stories,” he told Yvonne for her profile of Dávila and his company Campanario.

“Being able to point to a story like ‘Selena: The Series,’ which is all of those things, is really great. I would love for more doors to open up.”

I would love that, too. But given Hollywood’s track record, I’ll believe it when I see it.

The time we went to go see Selena

One of the privileges of growing up in the Rio Grande Valley during the early ’90s was living in a time and place where seeing Selena in concert was a thing that people could do. My family did, in 1993 at the Feria de Reynosa across the border.

Miraculously, footage of that show exists online. Check out her questionable dreadlocks. Notice the tracking!

The specifics of what became our first concert experience are vague — I was 8 years old at the time, my brother Jeb was 6, and my sister Gloria was 4. Our recollection of that night can’t be trusted, so I spoke with my dad, my mom, y mi abuelita Paula — my maternal grandmother — for a more accurate account of what happened.

What everyone seems to remember is the size of the crowd.

“Fuimos a verla porque ella era de la gente,” my mom explained of Selena’s “of the people” image, pointing out that Reynosa’s annual fair had two stages: el palenque, which required paid admission, and el teatro del pueblo.

“El teatro del pueblo era para todos,” she added. “Era un ambiente más familiar.”

That’s her euphemistic way of saying that the concert was free. And because there was no charge and Selena was at the height of her fame, families like mine packed the venue long before the star — our star — was scheduled to perform. We arrived early, but not early enough.

Despite the packed crowd, everybody was calm. That lasted only until the band walked onstage.

“Se desordenó,” my old man told me. “El público se volvió loco, todos querían verla, todos se amontonaron.”

The orderly audience turned into a hysterical crowd wanting to be as close to Selena as possible. That included my grandmother and my sister.

“I remember wanting to see her up close, so Grandma took me by the hand saying, ‘vente, vente, vente!’ and then we started crawling under the benches until we got to the pit,” Gloria said.

“Nos fuimos muy emocionadas, y pues orale! Nos metimos por debajo de las bancas y nos cruzamos por debajo como soldados,” Paulita said, confirming my sister’s account of their mission.

“Tu abuelo se puso bien enojado después porque fuimos hacer el ridículo.”

My grandfather was furious, she said. I couldn’t confirm this with Lazaro because he was napping when I called, but it checks out.

In the end, my sister Gloria claims it was worth it just to have a glimpse of Selena. My grandmother insists it was too crowded for them to see.

“Gloria will say that not only did she get to see her, but that Selena invited her up to dance with her and even took her backstage,” Jeb joked of my sister’s propensity to view the past with a much rosier outlook.
Jeb doesn’t remember much, but my dad told me the two of us stayed back with him and took turns going up on his shoulders.

I asked my dad what he thought of a bunch of Mexicans in Mexico going this crazy for an American. A Mexican American, but an American no less.

“Pues su carisma era tan grande así,” he said after pausing to reflect on my question. “A la gente no les importo que era de allá.”

That’s when it hit me: The narrative that Selena was killed before she had a chance to cross over isn’t a real one. She did. Into Mexico, into a place where anything with roots north of the border is met with initial suspicion. That, to me, is a testament of just how big of a star she was and continues to be.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/newsletter/2020-12-03/latinx-files-selena-series-latinx-files



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