Selena’s legacy goes beyond her music, she was one of the most prominent and successful Latinas in entertainment and she is a symbol of dual identities as a Mexican-American who crossed over to the U.S. While many of us were introduced to her story through the eponymous 1997 Gregory Nava biopic, journalist Maria Elena Garcia was first exposed to the Tejano icon as an undocumented child from Juarez growing up int he border city of El Paso, Texas. Garcia – a self-proclaimed Chola Fronteriza – is the senior editor of arts and culture for Boston’s NPR station WBUR and tells HipLatina that now at 35 she’s “come to realize Selena was there all along in these major milestones in my life.”
in collaboration with WBUR and Futuro Studios, she launched the Anything for Selena podcast today detailing the impact the Queen of Tejano music had on her life and the Latino community in and outside the U.S. overall. The podcast intertwines Garcia’s personal story as a queer, first-generation Mexican immigrant with cultural analysis, history, and politics to explore the longterm cultural legacy of Selena’s life and career.
“This journey begins at the border, a place in the in-between where, for a long time, I felt divided in two. Then I discovered her, red lips, brown skin, big hoops; She was magnetic no matter what side of the border she was on. I was a young kid, but I remember what it felt like seeing that one of us had made it, and she brought us with her,” she says in the trailer for the podcast. “Selena’s legacy has shown me some of the biggest revelations about my identity, my community, my country.”
In the first episode entitled “Selena and Me” she starts off describing her experience as a young girl who moved from Juarez to El Paso and how both cultures shaped her as she grew up with one foot in each city essentially. Garcia shares how she was called “Mary” by her teacher in the U.S. and how that, in part, signaled the start of her dual identity as Mary/Maria, the American and the Mexican. This toggling between two cultures was famously described in the film when Selena’s dad, Abraham (Edward James Olmos) talks about not being accepted by either the U.S. or Mexico saying “we have to be twice as perfect.” The scene is often quoted and continues to resonate with Latino immigrants living in between two cultures and Selena’s career and life embodied that duality.
“I felt a rejection, a stigma in both countries. I toggled between Mary and Maria, switching at either side of the border. In both places it felt like the other half of me was missing. Like these two parts of myself were divorced from each other, a gash inside of me separating them.The border defined me and divided me,” Garcia states in “Selena and Me.”
The episode then pivots to how her life changed when she first saw Selena perform and noted her style, dancing, and look and how she alternated between English and Spanish songs. Throughout the segment there’s audio from her music and interviews adding Selena’s presence to the episode and bringing to life Garcia’s references.
“To 7-year-old me in 1993 it felt nothing short of revolutionary to see a Mexican-American woman with working class roots take pride in who she was and have the world love her for it,” Garcia shares in the episode.
I’ve thought so much about what to write as we announce Anything For Selena, the biggest project of my career, the podcast that has brought me to my knees, to tears, to heartache and healing. Thread: https://t.co/KjEYOnKLkL
— Maria Elena Garcia (@NopalitaMami) October 13, 2020
This is the heart of the series showcasing Selena’s impact on the Latino community through not only her success but her identity that stood at the forefront. Garcia describes the podcast as one that’s about “belonging”. This is why Garcia felt compelled to develop the series to commemorate the layers in Selena’s legacy and truly investigate why and how she’s touched so many lives.
“I’ve been thinking about Selena all of my life and I was hungry for a deep examination of how she really changed culture. I don’t think her impact on Latino identity, American culture and body politics has been truly unpacked. I wanted to combine my love for rigorous journalism, deep cultural analysis, and vulnerable, personal storytelling to do the Queen justice,” she tells HipLatina.
Garcia calls Selena’s music “the soundtrack of my childhood” and she’s not the only one with Selena’s fans, both longtime and newfound, having a fanatical and loyal devotion to the icon. With her continued presence in pop culture from her recent MAC collection to the new Netflix show, Selena: The Series, it’s clear she continues to touch lives 25 after her tragic death.
“Her legacy helped me articulate my own Latino identity and I’m not alone. In the podcast, I examine how her image has become a shorthand for an entire American experience and how she came to help define Latinidad,” Garcia adds.
The second episode, “Selena and Abraham” explores their father/daughter relationship which was also explored in the biopic and has become a microcosm for Latino machismo in fatherhood. She looks at their dynamic and Abraham’s presence as a father and manager: “I knew if I really wanted to understand Selena I had to start with Abraham,” she says in the episode. Garcia shares the evolution of her own relationship with Abraham as she tried to work with him while developing the podcast.
In Episode 2, @NopalitaMami's quest to understand Selena takes her to Abraham Quintanilla, Selena's notoriously guarded father. Maria confronts his complicated legacy and reflects on fatherhood in Latinx cultures. pic.twitter.com/3nXYG3C6ZX
— Anything for Selena Podcast (@selena_podcast) January 13, 2021
In the coming weeks there will be episodes focused on the evolution of the curvy body and “big butt culture”, the tensions between new immigrants and 3rd or 4th generation Latinos through the lens of Tejano music, and the relationship between Latinos and Blackness in the last 25 years years.
The podcast is an anthology of nine episodes, with a bonus 10th episode of a live recording with listeners. Each episode has a companion Spanish episode that is formatted as a conversation with special guests who respond to the episode.
“More than anything, this podcast is an ode to the icon who helped me make meaning of my identity, the artist who showed me the power of symbolism and the woman who changed my life. Selena changed culture and it’s an honor to tell the story of her legacy in a way that’s never been done.”