SAN ANTONIO, March 31 (UPI) -- Music fans, the recording industry and the Latin community are remembering Selena Quintanilla Perez -- the rising Tejano singer who was murdered by her fan club president 20 years ago Tuesday.
Known simply by her first name, Selena was known as the "Queen of Tejano Music" and released five albums between 1989 and her death in 1995. Though she was American-born, Selena was viewed by many as a crossover star -- which typically qualifies to foreign singers who subsequently release songs and albums in English. In fact, Selena's first four albums were in Spanish but her final LP, "Dreaming of You," was recorded in English.
On March 31, 1995, the 23-year-old music star was shot and killed by Yolanda Saldivar, who had become president of her official fan club. Saldivar engaged in a protracted standoff with Corpus Christi, Tex., police in a motel parking lot after the murder before she was arrested. Saldivar was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
"Selena was relatable, lovable, identifiable and an artist that just spoke to me as an individual," college student Angelica Silva said in a NBC News report Tuesday. "Her life story had similar struggles to mine and to hear about how she overcame them all was always very inspiring. Her music was also incredibly beautiful."
"She [had been] in the studio when she passed away that morning. She was working on her English recordings," sister Suzette Quintanilla told The Real on Tuesday. "It seems crazy, 20 years. It's amazing how her legacy has continued ... It's awesome. That's just my favorite word to use when it comes to her."
Selena, who dreamed of becoming a music star as a child, was nominated for a Grammy award a month before her death for best Mexican/American album -- the category in which she won a Grammy the year before. She also appeared briefly in the film Don Juan DeMarco, which starred Johnny Depp and Marlon Brando, as a Mariachi singer. The film, like her final album, was released after her death.
That final album, "Dreaming of You," went on to become the best-selling Latin album in the United States -- a distinction it still holds today. It has been certified 35 times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. It also peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart and spawned multiple hit singles.
Two years after her death, Selena was portrayed by actress/singer Jennifer Lopez in a major motion picture about the singer's life.
"I felt she had a sense to live in the moment, that you're not promised tomorrow," Lopez remarked to Billboard, about the 20th anniversary of Selena' death. "For me that was the biggest lesson. That affected me in my life far more profoundly than the movie did in career terms."
Selena, who would have turned 44 in two weeks, had also launched a fashion line and was considered by some to be the "Madonna of Latin Music." In fact, Saldivar was also involved in the operation of the Selena clothing boutiques and was suspected of embezzling money from the family's business affairs. It was this suspicion that led to her firing and subsequent confrontation between her and the singer at the southeast Texas motel.
Authorities said Selena was shot in the back as she attempted to leave Saldivar's room. The mortally wounded Selena made it all the way to the motel's lobby and identified her killer before she collapsed -- a major artery in her shoulder severed by Saldivar's .38-caliber bullet.
Saldivar was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. However, she will be eligible for parole on March 30, 2025 -- one day before the 30th anniversary of Selena's death.
Selena's immediate family, who were heavily involved in her recording career, said they do not observe the day of Selena's death because they celebrate her life and achievements every day. Her brother, Abraham, continues to be a producer in the music industry. Selena's collaborator and widower, Chris Perez, who later remarried and fathered two children, also continues to work in the music industry.
"Back then, [Selena's death] was mainly a source of sadness, of darkness for me," Perez told CBS Los Angeles. "Now, it has kind of become more of light and happiness in remembering the good stuff.
"Some days it does feel like it has been 20 years. Some days, in a weird way, it feels like it never happened. But I do think about her quite a bit ... What she would want to be remembered for is her music, because that's what was her main source of pride and joy."
"It has always bugged me that people would try to think that there's a 'next Selena,'" Lopez said. "It's like saying there's another James Dean or Marilyn Monroe. People like that don't come along every day."
"There is never going to be another Selena."