Selena Quintanilla, known to millions of fans as the queen of Tejano music, is one of the most celebrated Mexican-American entertainers of the late 20th century. Her immense talent and tragic death captivated millions, and now with a Netflix series and a new podcast, Selena is inspiring a new generation of fans.
On January 13, WBUR and Futuro Media launched Anything for Selena, a nine-episode podcast about the music icon’s life story, her enduring legacy, and what she means to the Latinx community. Ultimately, as host Maria Garcia describes it, “it’s a podcast about belonging.”
Using a deeply personal lens, Garcia weaves her own story as a queer, first-generation Mexican immigrant, while using cultural analysis, social justice history, and real-time politics to explore the impact of Selena. Each episode, available in both English and Spanish, unwraps another layer on Garcia's journey "to understand what it means to love, mourn and remember Selena."
That journey begins at the border where Garcia was born in Juarez, Mexico, and later grew up in El Paso. “[It was] a place where for a long time, I felt divided in two,” she says in her podcast promo.
When she started attending school in El Paso, her schoolteachers anglicized her name to Mary. “This was the early '90s when assimilation was incredibly rewarded,” she says during a phone interview. Around the age of 7, Garcia discovered the rising star on television.
“Red lips, brown skin, big hoops, [Selena] was magnetic no matter what side of the border she was on,” Garcia explains.
Selena debuted on the music scene in 1981 as the lead singer of the band Selena y Los Dinos, which included members of her family. Later, after breaking out as a solo artist, she achieved stardom with songs like "Como la Flor" and "Amor Prohibido."
In 1995, Selena's life came to an end when she was shot and killed by Yolanda Saldivar, her friend and former boutique-store manager.
Pop music fans who may be unfamiliar with Selena's Spanish-language work may remember her posthumously released 1995 hit song "Dreaming of You." Two years later, the film Selena was released starring Jennifer Lopez in the title role, catapulting Lopez into international stardom.
Only nine when Selena died and 11 when the biopic was released, both had a formative impact on the young Garcia. “This [podcast] is like my dream,” she said in a phone interview. “I’ve been thinking of her all of my life.”
And so, when creating Anything for Selena, Garcia says she needed to tell the story from her own perspective, a goal she feels she has accomplished.
“I wanted to situate it in today,” the host says. “I didn’t want to make a podcast that was just looking back. I wanted to make a podcast that was helping us make meaning of our culture today, of the moment today, of our lives today with the insight of the last quarter-century since her death.”
The podcast will likely find a very public audience in San Antonio, a city where depictions of Selena are almost as ubiquitous as the Virgin Mary. But for Garcia, it's a personal homage to the superstar who helped inspire a little girl growing up in El Paso. Even today, Garcia still listens to Selena's greatest hits whenever she feels she needs a little motivation.
“I love 'La Carcacha',” she says. “It always makes me want to party.”
How about if you’re in a pensive mood?
“'No Me Queda Más',” she replies without skipping a beat.