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