Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

Young, old remember slain singer

Local church pays tribute to Selena


Copyright 1996 Houston Chronicle

Whenever she talks, Cristy Ibarra pulls an errant strand of her long black hair behind an ear or brings her right hand to the center of her chest, palm in and fingers slightly spread apart.

Subconsciously or not, the Berry Elementary fourth grader emulates every gesture she has seen made by the late Tejano singing sensation Selena from her many televised interviews.

The 10-year-old, like many young Hispanic girls, loves Selena and cherishes her memories of her.

"I wish I could be like her, (but) I know I will never be because nobody can and nobody will ever be like Selena," said Cristy, who attended a Sunday tribute to Selena at St. Patrick's Catholic Church dressed in black shorts, a lacy black top with flared sleeves and a black mariner's cap.

"For a girl, she was number one,"said Cristy, who most mornings puts on one of the Selena costumes her grandmother made and then sings and dances to Selena songs in her bedroom.

She joined hundreds statewide who remembered the slain Tejano singer on the first anniversary of her shooting death at a Corpus Christi motel. Selena was shot and killed by Yolanda Saldivar, the singer's former fan club president. Saldivar was subsequently found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Tejano radio stations played only Selena songs from midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday while airing live testimonials from Selena fans. In Corpus Christi, mourners arrived from as far away as Mexico to drive by the motel where Selena was slain and to leave flowers at Selena's grave and outside her home.

During one Houston tribute at a small park adjacent to St. Patrick's, a disc jockey played Selena tapes while young and old danced cumbias to the music, their heels kicking up dust as they twirled around their partners.

The tribute was organized after young people in the parish asked Father Sal DeGeorge what was being planned as a tribute to Selena on the anniversary of her death. DeGeorge held a special memorial Mass two days after Selena was killed last year, also after a request by children in the parish.

"Selena was blessed at an early age, her personality, her talent. I think she was just born to do this, go out to the people and sing her heart out to the people," said Brenda Rodriguez, who organized Sunday's tribute.

She said children felt comfortable around Selena and were drawn to her. Above that, she said Selena was the ideal role model for Hispanic youths.

Jose and Delicia Garcia agreed and brought their 2-year-old daughter dressed in a Selena costume, complete with bustier and a lock of hair curled on the corner of her forehead.

"She knows Selena. I don't think that she knows that Selena died. I just think that she knows that she won't be able to see her," her mother said.

When asked if she wants her daughter to be another Selena, she answered, "I want her to be Selena."

Ramiro Bautista, 36, brought his '82 Pontiac Grand Prix lowrider he had painted with the image of Selena on the door and white roses on the hood and trunk.

"After she died last year we redid the whole car in her memory," said Bautista.

Like many there, Bautista could remember where he was and what he was doing the moment he heard Selena had been shot. The news of her death evoked within fans a sorrow usually felt for very close family members. For many of her fans, Selena was not a superstar, she was like a member of the family.

"I couldn't believe it. It was just a shock," said Gracie Alejandro, who attended the St. Patrick's tribute with her children and 76-year-old mother. "(The radio) kept repeating it and repeating it and I just couldn't believe it."

Alejandro's mother, Martina Alaniz, compared the loss of Selena to the loss of a daughter and added, "I have her in my mind all the time."

"She's dead but it seems like she's here. She's more alive now than ever among the people," Alejandro said. "We can't accept the fact that she's gone."