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Go Behind the Scenes

Artists: Selena

Essay | Video Transcript

Meeting Selena's Father
by Salme M. López Sabina

The phone rang and on the other side was Abraham Quintanilla. His voice sounded deep, authoritative, completely in control. I had been given the task of engaging Abraham in negotiations to obtain archive photos and film footage of Selena, to be included in the piece that we were producing about her. The conversation was tense, swinging between Spanish and English at lightning speed. It was clear that Abraham did not trust our intentions in the treatment of the story. He had the clear mission of protecting the memory of his daughter and saving his family from more heartache. It was Thursday; we were in a huge time crunch to finish editing. I told Abraham, "I will see you tomorrow in Corpus," and he agreed to sit down with us and talk. I packed an overnight bag and was on my way from Boston to Corpus Christi to met Selena's father.

I peered through the airplane's window to see the deep green-blue of the Gulf of Mexico. The light was intense. It reminded me of my home, Cuba. I left my island sixteen years ago, in search of freedom and opportunity. About that same time I discovered Selena's voice. I was given a cassette copy of her album "Mis Primeros Exitos" and I played the songs over and over until the tape broke and I mended it with nail polish. Selena quickly became my friend and confidante, especially when it came to my first crushes. There were boys that I admired from a distance; I wanted to sing to them "Dame un Beso"(Kiss me), "Te Extraño" (I miss you), or "Cien Años" (One hundred years). So began my admiration for Selena. I followed her successes, sang her songs, tried to imitate her dance moves and even copied some of her outfits (a big favorite of mine was the short white shirt, jean jacket and long sarong skirt from the video for "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom"). And now I was on my way to meet Mr. Quintanilla.

I was apprehensive about meeting Abraham. He is a man of serious demeanor, a straight shooter and a savvy businessman. We drove to the hotel, only a mile or so away from the Q-Productions building, which doubles as the Selena Museum. The air was filled with tropical humidity. I dialed Abraham on his cell phone and he answered immediately and offered to pick us up at the hotel (I was traveling with Producer John Valadez). We sat for lunch with Abraham and on the way to Q-Productions, he showed us a little of downtown Corpus. Passing by the statue of Selena in the bay front, I felt a knot in my throat, remembering that this was a monument built by the citizens of Corpus to honor Selena after she died.

We arrived at Q-Productions and were greeted by Suzette Quintanilla, Selena's sister. She gave us a big smile, and then it was time to talk to Abraham about business. I was surrounded by Selena's things, her childhood photos, her beautiful performance gowns, her red Porsche. Selena's smile everywhere. I was overcome with emotion to be there, but I needed to focus on completing the mission that had brought me there. We sat down and Abraham started to talk about his "hija" (daughter), her talent and disposition. I looked in his eyes and saw his fatherly pride and his immense love for his family. Abraham agreed to allow us access to priceless materials of Selena. He let me take his master of the Astrodome concert. I took the tape and did not lose sight of it until I got to Boston. At the airport I asked the officer three times if it was OK to put the tape through the X-ray machine. He was annoyed but I had to get the tape home to Boston, and then back to the hands of Abraham, as we had agreed. He trusted me with this footage of Selena, as he trusted us to tell her story. I am glad that I kept his trust, and glad that I had an opportunity to honor Selena, her family, and her fans.

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