Ten years after Tejano music superstar Selena Quintanilla Pérez was murdered at age 23, her image is still inescapable in her hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas. At the bayfront marina, a concrete cupola covers a statue of her. In town fans can stop by the Selena Museum and Selena Etc. boutique. On a wall near her childhood home is a life-size portrait of the slain singer, accompanied by a poem entitled "The Brightest Star." "To us she was just a neighbor," says Dicky Valdez, 47, who created the mural. But the day she died, Valdez recalls, "there must have been 20,000 people in the streets. That's when it hit me that she was really something special."
Celebrated in a 1997 biopic starring Jennifer Lopez
, the singer dubbed the queen of Tejano music—a fusion of Tex-Mex, pop and polka—was on the brink of crossover stardom when she was shot to death by her fan club's founder Yolanda Saldívar on March 31,1995. While the singer's popularity soared after her death—her posthumously released English-language debut, Dreaming of You
, sold more than 4 million copies—her loved ones and bandmates were left to pick up the pieces. "It's hard, because they're around her music and her pictures all the time," says Pete Astudillo, who played in Selena's band, Selena y Los Dinos, along with her brother A.B., sister Suzette and husband Chris Pérez. "When people meet them, the first thing they want to ask about is Selena, so they're constantly reminded."
Selena's father and manager, Abraham, has embraced all the positive reminders, devoting himself to preserving his daughter's legacy. With Suzette's help, Abraham, now 66, manages the Selena merchandise, museum and charitable foundation in addition to representing a stable of Latin acts signed to his Q-Productions. (Suzette, 37, also oversees the boutique that her sister, known for her flashy stage outfits, opened in 1994.) Abraham's work, says friend and music executive Rick Garcia, "might be his therapy." While visitors to the museum are often greeted by Abraham or Suzette, Selena's mother, Marcella, 60, keeps a low profile. "I know [Selena's death] affects her terribly still," says Abraham's cousin Manuel Quintanilla Jr., 36. "I don't talk to her about it."
For a long time Selena was all her husband could talk about: Pérez, who was married to the singer for three years, has said that he once went everywhere with a book of snapshots of Selena. But as the years passed, he made a fresh start, moving to San Antonio and marrying Venessa Pérez, with whom he has a 6-year-old daughter (a second child is on the way). In 2002 the guitarist joined A.B. in the Grammy-nominated band Kumbia Kings, which always performs a medley of Selena songs at its concerts. "He's enjoying playing with A.B.," says former Los Dinos bandmate Joe Ojeda. "They play from the heart."
As they will again on April 7, when Los Dinos reunite, for the first time since Selena's death, at a tribute concert in Houston that will be aired live on Univision. A.B., 41, who lives with his wife in Mission, Texas, helped organize the show, which will feature stars such as Gloria Estefan covering Selena songs. "Emotionally, it's very difficult," A.B. told PEOPLE EN ESPANOL. "But I'm doing it with love and respect, because everything I am I owe to my sister." When they hit the stage, says Los Dinos' Astudillo, "there's going to be this great void there, even though we are celebrating her music and her life, because Selena's not there."
Chris Strauss. Gabrielle Cosgriff and Cary Cardwell in Corpus Christi
- Gabrielle Cosgriff,
- Cary Cardwell.