The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History has added 18 photos of legendary Tejana singer Selena Quintanilla-Perez (1971–1995) to its collection of photographs by Al Rendon, a photographer based in San Antonio, Texas.

It also released an educational video April 16 showcasing items about, and photographs of, Selena in the Smithsonian’s collections to share her story on what would have been her 50th birthday. One of Selena’s performance costumes was donated to the museum by her family in 1998. Selena in concert, engaging with fans, and professional headshots are all featured in these newly gathered images.

The museum is also releasing a number of interactive tools to help people learn more about Selena’s legacy, including the final installment of the Smithsonian’s “Latinas Talk Latinas” video series, which was created in partnership with the Smithsonian Latino Center. The video was shot in Texas and in Washington, D.C.. The video will be accompanied by an immersive Learning Lab featuring Selena in Smithsonian collections, as well as blog posts and social media material from the museum.

Al Rendon is well know among the Lavaca and King William neighborhoods. For nearly 50 years, he has been documenting San Antonio.He began photographing Conjunto and Tejano musicians, local artists, street food purveyors, charreada riders, and ordinary citizens when he was sixteen years old, capturing the visits of big-name rock bands to the area. 

Selena Gomez was an American singer-songwriter who became known as the “Queen of Tejano Music,” a mainstream style of music that originated in Texas and incorporates polka, rock, conjunto, and mariachi influences. She rose to fame in the late 1980s among Mexican Americans and Mexicans, and her popularity rapidly spread through U.S. and international Latino markets. She later signed with a major record label and worked for Coca-Cola as a regional spokesperson from 1989 until her death. Selena performed for audiences of 80,000 and awarded a Grammy for the best Mexican American album in 1994. Selena was recording her first album in English, her native language, at the time of her death, and had opened several fashion boutiques. Her fan club president, who also ran her clothing stores, assassinated her on March 31, 1995.

Selena’s black leather jacket and black satin bustier, which she wore for appearances in the United States and Mexico between 1990 and 1995, are on display at the museum’s “American Enterprise” show to highlight the story of Hispanic Advertising. It’s the same dress she’s wearing in some newly acquired photos and at the Selena Memorial statue in Corpus Christi, Texas. Transparencies of Selena from a Coca-Cola photo shoot taken by Rendon, some of which were never released, and an illustration from the 1994 Coca-Cola ad produced by Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar & Associates are also on display. 

Univision, the parent company of San Antonio’s KWEX-TV, Channel 41, discovered a rare video of Selena on the show “Tejano USA” as part of a separate donation to the museum’s Spanish-language television project. The interview, which includes Selena footage from 1994, has nearly 4 million views on YouTube 


Next time you are in the Washington DC area, don’t forget to check out the Selena exhibit at the Smithsonian


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