CORPUS CHRISTI - Fans in Tejano singing star Selena's hometown
marked the first anniversary of her death Sunday with prayers and
poems, flowers and hand-scrawled messages stuffed into the wire mesh
fences at her home and gravesite. Some found it hard to hold back
They came from as far away as Mexico and Massachusetts,
California and Portugal, fueled by an outpouring of emotion for
Selena Quintanilla Perez - beloved as the queen of Tejano music
during her lifetime and elevated to the status of a folk saint since
In English and in Spanish, they recited what has become a
familiar litany of Selena's attributes, calling her everything from
an ""angel" to a positive role model for Hispanic youth who advised
them to stay in school and off drugs.
Others transcribed messages from their hearts with white shoe
polish on the windshields of their Chevy pickups and Buick sedans,
immortalizing Selena with such phrases as: ""The Queen of Tejano
still lives. Viva Selena!?"
Like thousands who have made the pilgrimage to Corpus Christi
since Selena was fatally shot on March 31, 1995, the out-of-towners
joined local residents visiting the singer's home in a working-class
neighborhood on the city's predominantly Hispanic west side; the
cemetery where she is buried; her boutique and salon, and the motel
where she was gunned down by the former manager of her fan club,
For cousins Jennifer and Veronica Martinez the effort cost $180
apiece and 2 1/2 days on a Greyhound bus.
They saved up all year for the bus fare from San Jose, Calif.,
and it was the first time Jennifer, a 25-year-old wife and mother of
four, had ever left California - all to spend 3 1/2 days in Selena's
""It was worth it even to spend 15 minutes here," said Jennifer
Martinez, who works part time at a school. ""I have children, and
this (Selena's death) made me open my eyes. I realized how special
it is to have children."
Veronica, 19, said Selena had opened her eyes in another way.
""We are Mexicans," said the college student, who also holds down a
job. ""I was acting more American, and she made us realize our
heritage was important."
Like many of those who made the pilgrimage to Corpus Christi from
out of town, the two cousins are staying at the Days Inn where
Selena was shot. A desk clerk said weekend occupancy was 100
At the Days Inn, the Martinez cousins met Debra Gonzalez and two
of her daughters, who had flown to Houston from Chicago on Saturday,
and, accompanied by relatives, drove to Corpus Christi Sunday
morning. The Martinezes and Gonzalezes drove together to Selena's
With great fanfare, they attached to the fence around the
residence a hand-lettered sign drawn in multicolored pencil, that
read ""Selena, We Miss You."
""We loved her warmth," Debra Gonzalez said. ""You can still feel
it. She still lives in her music."
Also in the crowd outside the home was Jose Cheta, a composer and
musician from Lisbon, Portugal, who was spending three days in
Corpus Christi to honor Selena and to try to meet her family to talk
about music. He said Selena's music became popular in his country
after her death. ""This is a special day," Cheta said. ""I am very
sensitive, and I have special feelings for this young lady."
Houstonian Ana Herrada found it difficult to hide her emotions
and tears, even behind her tinted sunglasses. Dressed in a Selena
T-shirt and cap, she talked about her fourth trip to Corpus Christi
since Selena's death. She had met Selena at her Houston
performances, and reminisced about a conversation they had had about
Selena's craving for nachos without worrying about the calories.
""I don't think we can have another person like her," said
Herrada, a mother and grandmother. ""She was a sweetheart, not like
a star, but a sweet human being. ... If I don't listen to her music
once a day I feel like something is missing."
At any given time there were approximately 50 mourners outside
the star's home on Bloomington Street, which police eventually
blocked off Sunday evening after a stream of vehicles all day long
blaring Selena's music from tape players. And cemetery officials
reported 6,000 cars drove through Seaside Memorial Park where Selena
is buried. Her grave was marked with a large spray of white roses
resting on palm leaves on this Palm Sunday. A budding young mesquite
tree hovered over the gravestone.
At the request of parishioners, several of the city's Roman
Catholic churches included prayers for Selena's soul during Sunday
Mass services, even though she was not a Catholic.
And a local radio station in the neighborhood erected on its roof
an 8-foot, star- shaped, illuminated sign with ""Selena" scrawled
across it in red script. The sign will remain in place through April
16, which would have been Selena's 25th birthday.
Selena's family planned nothing special to observe the painful
anniversary. ""It's no different from any other day," said Joe
Villarreal, marketing director for Q Productions, the Quintanilla
family's business. ""They live with this every day."
At Selena's grave, Ampara Lozano Guajardo of Nuevo Laredo paid
her respects with her two daughters and four granddaughters. ""This
is a sad day," she said. ""She was too young."