On the last day of March 1995, shocked and confused fans around the world heard the news of the death of Selena Quintanilla (almost always, simply Selena), the Queen of Tejano music, who had died at just 23 years of age.

The cause: murder. The killer: her best friend and president of her fan club.

With a career that started at just ten years of age, Selena had a life devoted to showing business. From her humble beginnings singing (sometimes just for food and gas money) alongside her father in their band, Selena y Los Dinos, to the gigantic status that she had gained by the mid-1990s, the ascent to fame of Selena was unheard of among artists from the Latino community in the United States.

Named by Billboard magazine as the best-selling Latin artist of the decade, her death meant the death of the whole of Tejano music as a mainstream genre, and it’s a tragedy still remembered by millions of people who enjoyed her music as much as her sweet and charismatic personality.

A quarter-century after her death, we review ten interesting facts about that dark Friday at Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1995.

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10 Her Best Friend Was Embezzling Money

Yolanda Saldívar is the name of who once was Selena’s best friend and manager. After approaching her father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., in 1990 with a request to form a fan club in San Antonio, Texas, she became a member of his daughter’s close circle and one of the people that Selena trusted more, eventually becoming manager of her boutiques in early 1994.

But Saldívar didn’t pay back her trust: by January 1995, she had embezzled over $30,000 from her businesses, and the supposed fan club that she had started. When her father revealed all of this to her, she refused to believe him… at first.

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9 The Fan Club Scams

But then came also the concerns about the supposed fan club. Although some people were receiving the club’s paid merchandise, by early 1995, Quintanilla Jr. started receiving a large number of angry letters stating the dissatisfaction and anger of fans that didn’t get anything of what they were promised after paying the entry fee of $22.

Concrete evidence was starting to pile up against Saldívar, and Quintanilla Jr., Selena’s father, was beginning to suspect that something was very, very wrong.



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8 Her Businesses Were Having Trouble

Then there was also, of course, the matter of Saldívar’s treatment of Selena’s employees. Both regular employees and other people that Selena trusted often reported that Saldívar was “erratic” and that she was “two-faced and unstable.”

Saldívar used to tyrannize Selena’s boutiques’ employees, from clerks to sewists, and the number of staff had decreased rapidly from thirty-eight to fourteen, as Saldívar fired anyone she did not like. By March of 1995, Selena told her cousin Suzette that she would soon cease to employ Saldívar.

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7 Previous Murder Attempts?

On March 11th, two days after being confronted by Selena’s father and forbidden from contacting her, Yolanda Saldívar quietly drove to a gun store in San Antonio and bought a .38 caliber-revolver, supposedly for defense purposes.

According to her father, Saldívar would try to find an opening to kill Selena four times between this date and March 31st.

On March 14th, she had even subtly threatened Selena by showing her the gun in a parking lot and claiming that she had bought it to defend herself from Selena’s father. She would continue to schedule meetings where both could be alone until the fateful day arrived.

6 A Single Bullet

Finally, during their penultimate meeting on March 30th, Selena agreed to meet with Saldívar the next day to return bank statements and merchandise that she had stolen from her.

She arrived at a Days Inn motel in San Antonio and went to Saldívar’s room, where the two promptly started arguing. Amidst the discussion, Selena told Saldivar that she could no longer trust her, and upon dumping Saldivar’s purse to retrieve the stolen bank statements, she saw the gun.

Saldívar grabbed it and pointed it at her, and, a few minutes before midday, she shot her in the right shoulder as she attempted to flee.

5 She Revealed Her Killer

Selena, mortally wounded by the bullet, which had severed an artery and caused immediate and copious blood loss, had time to leave the room and reach the lobby and the motel entrance while screaming, “Help me! Help me! I’ve been shot!,” and with Saldívar in pursuit behind her, hurling insults at the singer.

She would collapse on the sidewalk in front of the motel, as Saldívar ran away in her car. Selena’s last words were exact: “Yolanda… room 158.”

4 The Police Standoff

A police officer intercepted Saldívar while she attempted to leave the scene in her pickup truck.

The officer blocked her exit path with his car, drew his gun, and demanded of her to exit her vehicle: at this moment, Saldívar pointed the revolver to her temple and threatened to commit suicide.

A nine-hour long standoff would ensue, which ended with Saldívar convinced to deliver herself to the agents by police negotiators.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

3 Saldivar Claims Her Death Was Accidental

Even after surrendering to police forces, Saldívar claimed that Selena’s death had been the result of an accident.

According to her version, she intended to commit suicide, but Selena had tried to stop her, and in the ensuing struggle, she had accidentally shot her. Surrounded in her truck, she had cried out, “I can’t believe I shot my best friend.”

2 Breaking News

Before the standoff had even ended, all major news channels and radio stations had already started to report on Selena’s death, interrupting their regularly scheduled broadcasts.

Some people dismissed it as a joke of bad taste, made in anticipation for the April Fool’s celebration of the next day, but within hours it was everything everyone was talking about.

The reaction was unprecedented for a Latina singer. Selena’s death would be discussed for weeks and occupying The New York Time’s front page for the next two consecutive days.

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1 Selena Day And The Aftermath

The death of Selena Quintanilla was so impactful that magazines and newspapers sold out and often had to issue second impressions of the day’s print to meet national demands.

Texas governor George W. Bush declared April 16th, the day of her birthday, as Selena Day in a move that caused widespread debate and revealed the alienation that many Latino people felt within American society.

Even today, Selena’s death is remembered with deep sadness as a sort of shared cultural mourning of Mexican-Americans, and her memory is not likely to wane in years to come.

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