By: Fredwill Hernandez
When people talk about or mention Bob Marley, many [probably] don’t know or hardly anything is [ever] mentioned or talked about Danny Sims, the man who knew he had found something special when he heard Marley sing at a Rastafarian ceremony in [Jamaica in] 1968, who is credited with discovering and first signing the artist, before selling his contract to Island Records, and [in my opinion] a “similarity” can be argued or said about [Latin Music Veteran] Jose Behar in reference to Selena Quintanilla [her maiden name] known artistically as [plainly] Selena, the Tejano singer discovered and signed by Behar [as Selena y Los Dinos] when he launched EMI Latin in 1989, even though Selena had previously honed her skills and recorded a few [early] albums first for Freddie Records, then for Cara Records, and then also with GP Productions before meeting Behar. All classic Selena songs were recorded and released under Behar’s helm at EMI Latin.
After Selena’s tragic death [on March 31, 1995] at the young age of twenty-three, the Tejano singer known as the Queen of Tejano [music] has become to many [even myself] a worldwide Legend and musical Icon whose popularity keeps growing daily and as a testament to her “music, popularity and legacy,” the City of Corpus Christi where she grew up and lived celebrates yearly what it dubbed [El] Festival de la Flor, [Spanish for The Festival of the Flower], presented by CITGO, a two-day family friendly festival held this year on April 12-13, 2019.
“We are the organizers of this wonderful event [fiesta] that started five years ago with the idea of embracing our beloved “Selena” [Quintanilla]. She was a great ambassador for our city and continues to be a great ambassador, and that’s why we decided [and said] we have to do something to honor that life and legacy. We got together with the Quintanilla family, [her sister] Suzette, [her father] Mr. Abraham Quintanilla, and together we came up with the festival,” eloquently explained Teresa Rodriguez, Chief Domestic & International Business Development, Corpus Christi Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). “First, we didn’t know how many people were going to come, we [however] knew there were going to be a lot of fans but it surpassed our expectations. We had over fifty-five thousand people during the first year of the festival. The word is spreading and every year it has been growing and more fans are coming on. We have had fans from all over the United States [attend], one year or another and we are very proud. People from Mexico, South America, Guatemala, Columbia, people from Poland, people from United Kingdom just to mention a few and they are coming here [to Corpus Christi and the festival] to honor that legacy. We have two days of music — we have [music] artists that are going to be singing throughout the two-days but then at the same time we have different things to go enjoy with the whole family. You can see the families coming together [at the fiesta] to honor that legacy. You see little girls dressed up as Selena. They never had the opportunity to see her alive but through their parents, through her music, and so forth, they [have learned about her and] have become fans.”
Aside from [Fri. – April 12] live performances by Corpus Christi’s own JonMikael Mrez, Tejano vocal powerhouse Isabel Marie, 14X Grammy/Latin Grammy winner Gilbert Velasquez and Friends [David Marez, Joe Posada, Ricardo Castillon, Oscar G and Stevie D], and Tejano pioneer Little Joe y La Familia who headlined [and closed] day one, the festival had La Plaza Food Truck Court with 20 [plus] food trucks, El Mercado which featured more than 80 artisans from Mexico, Central and South America, and within the U.S., El Parque Kids Zone filled with games and activities including face painting for the kids, and the Tejano Lowrider [Car] Extravaganza held at the American Bank Center Arena which included the “famous” 1969 Chevy Impala convertible lowrider and actual bumper pulled off during the “anything for Selenas” [Selena] movie scene.
“I was at a local [custom car] shop in town and they were calling around for auditions because the lowrider scene in the Selena movie was being shot in San Antonio, [TX] – So I took the car to one audition, it won the audition but they wanted to do some modifications to it. They got Dayton [wires] to sponsor the wheels and gave me some money to do all the gold, the murals, the paint, and [custom] interior, so they basically gave me a new car to be featured in the movie,” explained Lewis Sevilla of San Antonio who owns what is [now] considered a famous lowrider. “The car was originally all original, I had white leather interior and the car was plain red, it was not customized. It was original bone stock, no murals no nothing so they did all that prepping up just for the movie. They liked the fact the car was a convertible, so they put some money into it, put all the gold on it, the wheels, a new interior and got it going. Most of the car was done at a shop called West Coast Customs in San Antonio. I had a little part to do in the shop so we did most of it there, we even painted the car inside the shop. For the scene in the movie we gold plated three [identical] bumpers, and on the third try [in the movie] we finally got it right, so I ended up with a new bumper on my car and two extra ones laying around.”
The weather which seemed to be [almost] changing every two hours [from cold in the morning to hot and humid and at times even real windy] “did not deter” Selena fans who while visiting Corpus Christi for the fiesta also took the opportunity to visit the Selena Museum, the Mirador de la Flor statue also known as Selena’s seawall, the life-size bronze statue of Selena sculpted by H.W. “Buddy” Tatus, a Corpus Christ artist unveiled in 1997 or her grave site to leave flowers or take pictures at Seaside Memorial Park [in Corpus Christi].
Amongst one of the most anticipated events of the fiesta’s “second day” aside from the musical line up which included [JonMikael]Mrez, Lucky Joe, Raulito con Grupo Remedio, Isabel Marie [who filled in for scheduled Jenny and the Mexicats], Mariachi Las Campanas, Jay Perez, Erick y Su Grupo Massore, and headliner Leslie Grace, was the “One Person Unites Us,” panel were Selena’s sister Suzette [Quintanilla] was joined by former Cheetah Girls and current daytime co-host on The REAL, Adrienne Houghton, at the American Bank Center Selena Auditorium to discuss with fiesta attendees [everything about] Selena and her continued impact and relevance today.
“I obviously like so many people are a huge fan of Selena and when the Cheetah Girls were touring in this area [in 2008] I had a day off before our show in Corpus at the arena, so I said I got to make sure I see all the landmarks, I got to go see the statue, I got to stop by Selena Etc., at the time I made it to the museum — It was raining and actually it was closed that day but the secretary that was working there brought me in and your dad [Mr. Quintanilla] gave me a private tour,” explained Houghton as she addressed the press after the One Person Unites Us panel event. “When you look at somebody and you admire somebody like Selena, you love the entire story about the family and I think being able to personally meet Suzette [that day at the museum] meant so much to me that not only was I a huge fan of her but how sweet and welcoming her family was. So kind to fans and I feel like we’ve become family.”
As to that day at the museum, Suzette [Quintanilla] added, “I didn’t know she was actually in the building but I had read the article in [Corpus Christi’s] Caller Times newspaper. Somebody told me, one of the Cheetah Girls, her name is Adrienne – she’s a big Selena fan, so I said oh’ let me reach out to the American Bank Center to see if we can maybe get her over here [to the Selena Museum]. So I hung up the phone and about two minutes later, there’s a knock at my door and my dad peaks in and says there’s someone here who wants to meet you, [and to my surprise] it was Adrienne screaming Oh my God, Oh my God – It’s so nice to meet you.”
After the “One Person Unites Us” discussion one hundred and fifty [lucky] attendees [through wristbands given out] also got a chance to a personal meet and greet with Houghton.
“It feels incredible I think there’s nothing like actually seeing live and in action so many people. I love the name of what we just did ‘One Person Unites Us’ because you see how many people come out so many years later and how relevant she [Selena] is in so many ways, more than her music but just her spirit and how we keep that alive. It means so much for me to be here. Even when I checked into my hotel and I saw the Fiesta De La Flor guide, I already packed it in my suitcase, more memorabilia that I [have] put together. But it means so much and I think it’s awesome to see how other people have been impacted as much as I have by Selena. So, I think she really does “unite us,” added Houghton.
Amongst day two performers, artists’ stories varied on how they felt performing at Fiesta De La Flor, and what Selena meant to them but no one [in my opinion] had spent more time around and was closer to Selena [and her family] than Raulito Nevaira [through his association with his Brother Emilio and his group Rio] who performed at the fiesta with his son [Rigo on bass] and daughter [Destiny on vocals] as Grupo Remedio.
Nevaira’s brother Emilio [years before his passing on May 16, 2016] was featured and sang a duet with Selena titled “Tú Robaste Mi Corazón” on her “Selena Live!,” album which was recorded live during a free concert at the Memorial Coliseum in Corpus Christi on Feb. 7, 1993. Live! led Selena to win a Grammy Award for Best Mexican/American album at the 36thAnnual Grammy Awards therefore becoming the “first” Tejano album to do so. Emilio and Raulito [and his signature dance the shuffle] also performed and shared the concert with Selena at the Houston Astrodome [recorded live] on Feb. 26, 1995, which became her final “famous” televised concert.
“I feel honored and blessed to be here at Fiesta de la Flor for my first time, we’ve known Selena and the Quintanilla family for years. We shared the stage many [many] times, so I have a lot of great memories. My brother Emilio loved Selena, she was like a sister to all of us who we consider family,” eloquently expressed Raulito. “When my brother had his bus accident — I had to continue to work, so my kids who from time to time would perform one or two songs [at our shows] were ready and stepped in. I never forced them to do music, they were just around it growing up and picked it up naturally and now we have our own family group similar to the Quintanillas.”
Another touching moment and fiesta highlight “rightly deserved” was when Suzette [Quintanilla] acknowledged the “presence” of Leslie Grace’s manager, [Jose] Behar, who had in 1989 signed [her as the drummer for] Selena y Los Dinos, before “introducing” Grace [day two headliner] who would eventually honor Selena’s legacy in her own “authentic and memorable” way by performing a beautiful medley of “No Me Queda Mas,” “Amor Prohibido,” and “Como La Flor,” and among other songs also performing “Como Duele El Silencio,” with Luis Coronel, “Lunes a Jueves,” with Farina, and “Sola,” and “Si Una Vez,” with [Grammy winners, producers, and brothers from Dallas, TX.] Play-N-Skillz.
Grace who was born in 1995, was three months old when Selena was tragically killed, but who growing up [among other ways] learned about Selena through her older sister who was a “die hard Selena fan.”
“It’s a blessing for me to be here, it’s a privileged, it’s an an honor to be headliner this year. For everyone on my [management] team and my family, it’s a “full-circle moment.” I know there are so many of us who love Selena and hold her dearly to our hearts but there are key people in my team and family that have told me so many stories about Selena — that have had so many [memorable] moments with her and we’re all going to be here tonight. Jose Behar who’s my manager has spent so much of his time sharing with me so many encouraging stories about Selena’s life that have brought me through a lot, similar obstacles that she [as a woman] had to face in her career that early on in my career and still now are very similar things that I had to go through. So for us to be able to headline at Fiesta de la Flor, and for him [Behar] to be able to be here, for us to have this moment with the Quintanilla family and with all of you filled with so much love of everyone who loves Selena, and just honor her and be in her presence and [also] feel her energy — it’s going to be such a beautiful experience and it already has been. This is my first time in Corpus Christi — so I’m very [very] blessed and excited about tonight,” eloquently expressed Grace [after sound check] the Bachata singer who has dabbled and tackled everything [beyond Bachata] that has musically came her way.
No matter what [Leslie] Grace goes on to accomplish, [through her music or beyond] her performance at [the 5thAnnual] Fiesta De La Flor and her musical tribute to Selena will always be considered a “highlight of her career,” and [according to those who witnessed it, like myself] something she will “always be remembered for!”