What does Selena mean to you?

By Steve Saldivar

Updated April 17, 2018

Selena fans parade her photo down Hollywood Boulevard on Nov. 4, 2017, after the unveiling of the singer's Hollywood Walk of Fame star. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

In Selena, they saw themselves.

For many, it was the first time they saw a Latina, proud of her heritage, unapologetically herself in mainstream media.

For some, it was Jennifer Lopez’s depiction of the singer in the 1997 film that became their introduction. One reader recalled “Baila esta cumbia” playing at a family wedding. Many were born after Selena was fatally shot in 1995, but they still felt the pain of losing a family member when they heard the news.

Some learned Spanish through her music. Others, like their star, felt at peace with not speaking it perfectly.

They’ll tell you it was about the music. They’ll also tell you it was about so much more.

Angelica Hernandez was so affected, she included Selena in her personal statement for law school applications. For Clarissa Aguilar, the musician became an inspiration to finish her doctoral degree from Texas A&M University. “The power of having someone who grew up just like you and looks like you succeed at that scale was beyond comprehension,” Aguilar said in our call out to readers asking,“What does Selena mean to you?”

On Monday, which would have been Selena’s 47th birthday, fans share their memories and express the ways her music and story affected their lives.

“I was 13 and she made me feel every word of what she sang.”

Angelica Hernandez

“Selena is literally the first person in the media I saw like me.”

Clarissa Aguilar

“I watched the Selena Movie so many times that the disk didn’t play correctly any more. ”

Cynthia Gomez

“Selena is a symbol of empowerment.”

“She was brown-skinned and made it look beautiful.”

Erika Aguilar

“Selena is someone who reminds me of my childhood.”

Frances Perez

“She saved me with her music while I was going through a terrible breakup and now her music is what keeps me positive going through my week.”

“I can see me in her music, I can see me in her struggles.”

Kathy Martinez
Laleña Arenas
Lauren Gambardella

“I can still remember the day she passed away like it was yesterday.”

“She is my link to my dad's culture.”

Monique Mondragon
Pedro Haro
Rebecca Arellano
Reyna Marie Hernandez
Roger Gomez
William Chavez

Originally published April 16, 2018

Additional credits: Development by Vanessa Martínez