Cultura in Pilsen pays tribute to Selena

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here is no single word to describe the Queen of Tejano music. Selena was a limitless, rebellious, talented and ambitious artist. And while it was 20 years ago this week that Selena was shot and killed by her fan club president, in the hearts of her fans she lives on through her timeless music every time they hear the familiar beat of her songs.

That’s how her fans chose to remember her this past Friday when Cultura in Pilsen, 1900 S Carpenter St., premiered its first Selena drag contest and open karaoke event. The event sold out in about one day and featured several live performances and tributes to Selena. One of the performers was Chicago native Angel, who had previously done Selena tributes with friends while living in Texas.

“It wasn’t really coordinated, it was just us off impulse, off our artistry just pouring our hearts out for her,” said Angel, who paid tribute to Selena’s La Carcacha. She was hesitant when she first heard about the event but after a while she decided to go for it.

“Her music is everything to me. She encouraged me to sing,” she said. “She was always humble, she was always true and willing to communicate whatever she felt.”

And because Selena was a fashion icon the event not only paid tribute to her music but also to her sense of style. Many people wore shirts with Selena’s face on it and clothing inspired by the outfits she wore on a daily basis, such as her infamous crop tops and red lipstick.

Selena’s music is known for being limitless, with her musical style including Tejano, cumbias and ballads. So it should come as no surprise to hear that her fans are as diverse as her music. Espuer Roronoa has been performing for years and describes herself as a diehard Selena fan. Upon moving back to Pilsen, Roronoa said she heard Selena’s music from a different perspective.

“Of course, there are upbeat songs but a lot of her songs have to do with the hardships that she dealt with and it wasn’t just love, it was life itself. Just knowing that a song in could broaden somebody’s mind in three minutes, it was very emotionally moving,” she said.

Selena lives on in the hearts of her fans. Her music continues to cross language and generational barriers despite the fact it’s been 20 years since her death. There are people who still know every song, every beat and every dance step. Last Friday it didn’t matter if you were someone who was just getting to know her music or if you were a die-hard fan because you felt welcome at the event.

“No one is going to judge you for missing a word or a beat,” said the event’s MC, La Tony, who spent the first part of the evening encouraging fans to go on stage to sing their favorite Selena songs.

“When I came back here, I just re-experienced the beauty of her actual lyrics and, going through certain things myself, it was very heartbreaking actually understanding a lot of her lyrics where so much emotion was actually played,” said Roronoa.

That seemed to be the theme of the night: re-experiencing the beauty of Selena’s music and lyrics and joining someone you may have never met before in a dance. But that was the point, to encourage people to let go of their inhibitions and to keep the Queen of Tejano music alive.

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