Latinx Screens: Film, TV, and Video

Selena and Remembering Selena, Re-membering Latinidad

Entry Question

Is there a contemporary Latinx artist that has a similar impact as Selena in the 90s? How this artist resembles Selena, if so?

Writer-director Gregory Nava on his process of creating Selena

Nava positions Selena alongside this trinity of icons not simply to assert her presence within this pantheon but, in fact, to destabilize their iconic American status by suggesting that Selena’s story is more tragic than the others precisely because of her exemplary performance as an American. Here, Nava displays an acute awareness of the classical mandate that tragic status is contingent upon citizenship status, and he exploits this construct as a way to position Selena within the American rubric. (72)

Professor, scholar, and poet, Deborah Paredez, argues that the case of Selena in the 90s represents how “the Latina body was often and variously celebrated both as the means through which hegemonic forces sought to occlude and thereby to ignore the political-economic plights of Latina/os and as the site upon which Latina/o communities attempted to stage their presence within the nation.” (63-4)

Mainstream representational and corporate forces capitalized on Selena’s posthumous iconization, invoking her as a means for increasing profits by tapping into the Latina/o market (through film and theater musicals, for instance) and for reinforcing the borders of America (by asking who belongs to the nation?). Thus, while for many Latina/o communities Selena’s tragedy offered a site upon which to render visible their own tragic plights resulting from concurrent xenophobic legislation, numerous corporate forces acknowledged Selena’s tragedy as a way to inform Latina/os that they could become American only by becoming consumers (the debate over advanced tickets demonstrates this point). Undeniably, the Selena tragedy has emerged as both a significant site of (counter) cultural affirmation and as a lucrative industry. (65)

Oral/Slide Presentations 

Sanchez,Perla S



Selena Latina/os Forever: Tragedy and Latinidad

The tragedy of Selena offers many Latina/os a narrative framework through which to critique the political economic positions of Latina/os within the theatre and indeed throughout the US. Moreover, his desire for and subsequent articulation of an alternative narrative closure for the story of Selena’s tragedy reveals how the act of mourning Selena invariably begets the imagining of a future for Latina/os that moves past her murder and toward a space of cultural and political reclamation. (66)

Do you think that the film represents a “space of cultural and political reclamation” for Chicanx and Latinx people in the US or an exercise of iconization?

Model Citizenship

Nava’s attention to the function of tragedy within the maintenance of the state surfaces in his equation of the ultimate tragic status with the fulfillment of the American Dream, characterized by Selena’s lack of a self-destructive nature. Within the context of the concurrent legislation and new nativist discourse that often criminalized Latina/o behavior, Nava’s evocation of Selena emerges as a way to (re)position discursively Latina/os within the borders of the nation. Here the Selena tragedy emerges as a means through which Latina/os strive to re-configure traditional notions of American identity. As such, Nava’s comments do not merely suggest a Latina/ o /American binary, but rather, they trouble the very line insisting on their mutual exclusivity. (73)

While these categories of stardom overlap within Selena’s career, do you believe the film’s main goal is to position Selena as a US-American, Chicanx, Latinx, or transnational superstar? What market (s) the film is trying to appeal to?

Do you think that having Jennifer López as a protagonist instead of a Chicana was a move to turn Selena into a pan-Latin icon? Was that casting choice a way to “polish” her image? What about the new Netflix show?