The 1997 film Selena directed by Mexican American filmmaker Gregory Nava remains iconic nearly 25 years after its release following the untimely death of Tejano star Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. The movie is a biographical look into the life of the beloved star, portrayed by Jennifer Lopez in her breakout role, and her rise to fame before her murder when she was just 23. Lopez received a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Selena and the film was both a box office and critical success. It’s also recognized as an authentic portrayal of the Mexican-American experience in the U.S. and its because of these factors and more that it’s officially one of 25 films inducted into the National Film Registry, according to a news release from the Library of Congress.
“Selena’s life, music and the film became touchstones in Latin American culture, and her infectious appeal crossed over to audiences of all kinds,” the Library of Congress said. Edward James Olmos, who portrayed Selena’s father and band manager, referred to it as a film that, “will stand the test of time”.
Selena was one of 25 films selected for preservation as it meets certain criteria including carrying “universal themes”. The film illuminated the Mexican American experience most famously through the speech Abraham Quintanilla gives about being a part of both cultures.
“Being Mexican American is tough. … We’ve gotta be twice as perfect as anybody else. I mean, we gotta know about John Wayne and Pedro Infante. We gotta know about Frank Sinatra and Agustín Lara. We gotta know about Oprah and Cristina. … Japanese Americans, Italian Americans, German Americans. Their homeland is on the other side of the ocean. Ours is right here … We gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time. It’s exhausting!”
U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro was among the lawmakers pushing for the inclusion of the film. In his letter to Dr. Carla Hayden, the librarian of Congress, he highlighted key points of the films that made it worthy. He wrote, “the film [also] touches on important themes of cultural identity and assimilation faced by Mexican American communities as they navigate their personal connections to two cultures and languages. The film has become a beloved icon of Latino culture and has found widespread mainstream success, proving once and for all that Latino stories are American stories.”
In his conversation with the Library of Congress, Olmos further added that the film “is a masterpiece because it allows people to learn about themselves by watching other people’s culture”.