Nearly 4,000 fans gathered at the Los Angeles Sports Arena on Sunday to mourn the death of pop singer Selena, who was murdered in Texas on Friday.
Hundreds of fans, mainly teen-age Latinas, clutched pictures of Selena and watched as religious figures urged the crowd to celebrate Selena's life and music.
"We offer this Eucharist to that young girl, Selena, a young artist who was able to win the sympathy of not only the young people but all of us, not only here, but in other countries as well," said one of the officiating priests, Msgr. Modesto Lopez Portillo, who had come to Los Angeles from El Salvador to accompany two vast 500-year-old painted religious artifacts on their first trip ever out of El Salvador.
"We'll remember her with all our affection."
Portillo and other church officials in both countries had already planned the Mass Sunday at the Sports Arena as part of a two-day Latin American Festival, but decided to dedicate the event to the 23-year-old Selena, who had been scheduled to perform Saturday.
"She (Selena) was a vibrant spirit," said Gerardo A. Sol Mixco, consul general of El Salvador in Los Angeles at the Mass. "She was at her peak, and was able to awaken an intense Latin warmth. It is a great loss. An artist was lost, but a legend was born."
The Grammy-winning entertainer, born Selena Quintanilla Perez, was popular for her Tejano music, a mix of Mexican ranchera and German polka with pop, country and Caribbean influences.
Selena was one of the fastest rising stars in the pop music business.
She died Friday afternoon after being shot twice at a hotel in Corpus Christi, Tex. Police have arrested 32-year-old Yolanda Saldivar in the slaying.
Saldivar had headed Selena's fan club and managed one of her clothing boutiques.
During a standoff with police after the shooting, Saldivar locked herself inside a red pickup truck in the hotel parking lot for more than nine hours. As hundreds of fans flocked to the hotel, police threw the woman a cellular phone and negotiated until she surrendered. Saldivar was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail, and was expected to be arraigned today on murder charges.
In Texas, thousands of fans inundated the area's freeways en route to Corpus Christi for a public viewing of Selena's closed casket.
Many drivers flashed their headlights and adorned their antennas with yellow ribbons to show their love for the singer.
Ed Salazar, events coordinator for Corpus Christi's Bayfront Plaza and Convention Center, where the memorial was held, said people began showing up as early as 3 a.m.
By Sunday afternoon, well over 10,000 people had passed by the coffin, which rested on a stage amid two dozen arrangements of white roses.
"The line outside the convention center has been as long as a mile," Salazar said from Texas. "And there has been a cross-section of people, some wearing tuxedos and Selena T-shirts. They are coming from as far away as Mexico and Los Angeles."
During the Mass in Los Angeles, many fans sat stunned as a mariachi group sang two traditional songs, "Vaya con Dios" ("Go With God") and "Las Golondrinas" ("The Swallows").
Elida Aguilar of Moreno Valley had to take her 17-year-old daughter, Marlene, out of school Friday because the teen-ager was so distraught over the slaying of her idol.
After hearing about Selena's death, the girl's mother--herself a native Texan--bought new CDs for her daughter to ensure that if her cassette tapes broke, she would always have the music of Selena.
Marlene, who bears a resemblance to the singer, said she felt personally touched by the images and lyrics in Selena's songs.
"The words in her songs were so emotional and they described how I feel sometimes," said Marlene, who had her purse in one hand and a brightly colored Selena sticker in the other.
Carmen Gutierrez, who sat reading the Bible and holding an 8-by-10-inch photo of Selena in her lap, said the woman suspected of killing Selena has robbed her fans of inspiring music.
"I still can't believe it," Gutierrez said.
"Everything seems so normal and all of a sudden a good person, important for many people's lives, dies in a most absurd way.
"It is not fair that those who make this world more beautiful have to go like that."