#TBT: Fans have flocked to Selena statue on Corpus Christi bayfront since '97 dedication
The Mirador de la Flor on Corpus Christi’s bayfront rarely is without visitors. Fans flock from all corners of the globe to pay their respects to Selena Quintanilla-Perez, the beloved singer and performer who was murdered March 31, 1995.
Selena and her band, Selena y los Dinos, had performed before more than 61,000 fans in February that year at the Houston Rodeo, she had won a Grammy Award for Best Mexican/American Performance the year before and was set to release her first English crossover album. But her rise was cut short and fans were devastated by the loss.
Planning the memorial
While she had admirers all over the world, locally her music was known mainly by Tejano fans and thus there was a distinct division along ethnic lines. Many of the city’s Anglo population struggled to understand what the big deal was, while her Hispanic fans decried the ambivalence and outright hostility locals and outsiders (I’m looking at you, Howard Stern) heaped on the family and mourners.
Mayor Mary Rhodes appointed members to a Selena Memorial Committee in mid-April 1995 to come up with proposals on how best to honor Selena. Business owner and philanthropist Dusty Durrill stepped into the fray and proposed a memorial overlook and statue, designed to blend in with the bayfront miradors he helped create and fund several years earlier. After some back and forth – Durrill felt the City Council should have accepted the offer immediately, but the council wanted to consider it along with several other proposals – the mirador plan was approved.
Construction and dedication
Construction of the memorial began in late 1996. Durrill selected sculptor H.W. “Buddy” Tatum to create the statue. An early mockup of the statue shows Selena wearing a slinky dress and holding a white rose, but the final bronze sculpture depicts the singer looking toward the bay and wearing leather pants, bustier, boots and motorcycle jacket, a replica of her outfit housed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
The statue and pavilion cost $600,000, paid for by the Devary Durrill Foundation, and was dedicated May 25, 1997. The memorial also includes a white sculpted rose above a dedication plaque. The foundation also enlisted the public’s help and a $100 contribution earned an engraved brick paver in the plaza’s floor.
Paseo de la Flor
One aspect of the memorial that visitors may overlook is the walkway below the mirador. Steps on both sides of the pavilion lead down to a short sidewalk lined with mosaic rose tiles. More than 500 children from McAllen, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Premont, Mathis, Alice, San Diego and San Antonio along with senior citizens from the Zavala Senior Center helped paint the tiles. Artist Ricardo Ruiz created the design based on ideas from Ed and Cornelia Gates of Aloe Tile Works, whose business created the mural.
Ed Gates described the design as "a big bouquet of roses thrown up in the air – exploding like Selena's music exploded – with a ribbon of music running through them." Tiles on both ends include the inscriptions “Hand-painted by Texas children who loved Selena." The walkway was dedicated on Oct. 4, 1997.
By 2000, fans were writing messages on the memorial so often that city maintenance crews had to repaint the area at least once a week, and sometimes as often as three times a week. Some had even defaced the statue itself, carving their initials into the bronze.
The city approached the Quintanilla family about putting up a barrier to protect the statue. The Selena Foundation approved a design and in September 2000 a 4-foot-high, stainless steel railing encircling the statue and rose was installed. The Devary Durrill Foundation paid for the barrier and its installation.
Fans continue to write messages on the bricks and in 2012 the Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Department spent about $24,000 to complete minor repair and restoration work of the statue and mirador. The money was part of budgeted public art maintenance funds.
At the statue dedication in 1997, Selena’s father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr, commented, "20 or 30 years from now, her fans will remember her, besides her music. A lot of tourists are coming in wanting to know about Selena. This will work to that effect."
I stopped by the mirador this week on my lunch break and even on a random weekday there was a small crowd gathered in the plaza, taking photos and reading the inscriptions. It’s now 21 years later and fans still remember.
Allison Ehrlich is the archive coordinator for the Caller-Times. Contact her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @CallerArchives.
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