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Celebrating Selena Quintanilla
Celebrating Selena! #SelenaDoodle #GoogleDoodle

Celebrating Selena Quintanilla

Today we celebrate Selena Quintanilla: Mexican-American music & entertainment icon, fashion trendsetter, passionate entrepreneur, community philanthropist, and one of the people who taught me growing up that no matter who you are or where you come from, anything is possible.

Selena Quintanilla’s talent shone from an early age. She and her family’s band began by playing at their restaurant, quiceañeras, and fairs. However, Selena was often discriminated against for being a woman in the male-dominated Tejano music genre, and some venues refused to book the band.

On October 17, 1989 she released her first studio album, Selena.

Selena became a beacon of inspiration and hope for the Latinx, immigrant, and bicultural communities around the globe. Her story of embracing and celebrating all parts of her cultural heritage and persevering in the face of adversity forged an emotional connection with millions.

Google has also created an interactive museum about Selena.

Siempre Selena

Javier Solís, Jorge Negrete, Lola Beltrán, Pedro Infante, José Alfredo Jiménez, Rocío Dúrcal y Antonio Aguilar

This was at this mexican restaurant near my house. it’s so awesome i sit facing it every time i go.

10

Juan Gabriel, Gay Mexican Icon

(January 7, 1950 – August 28, 2016)

With his glittery capes, slinky dance moves and ultra-romantic lyrics, Mexican superstar Juan Gabriel was an unlikely king in a country known for its machismo. He never spoke about his sexuality, yet was widely assumed to be gay. It’s no surprise that the singer was an icon in Mexico’s gay subculture.

Having sold over 100 million copies worldwide, Gabriel is among Latin America’s best-selling singer-songwriters. His eighteenth studio album, Recuerdos, Vol. II, holds the distinction of being the best-selling album of all-time in Mexico, with over eight million copies sold.

During his career, Gabriel wrote around 1,800 songs. Releasing 35 albums over the course of his 45-year career, he became beloved by multiple generations of fans in Latin America, Spain and the United States. His genres varied widely, from mariachi to salsa to disco.

In 2002, a few years before Mexico City legalized gay marriage, the famously effeminate singer shut down a journalist who asked if he was gay.  “You don’t ask about what can be seen,” he said.

Although Gabriel never publicly claimed the gay community, that community certainly claimed him, with his romantic Spanish-language ballads belted late into the night in drag bars on both sides of the border.

Many have credited Juan Gabriel with opening the door to greater expression of gender and sexuality, even if he never explicitly called for it. Like Prince, or David Bowie, Juan Gabriel was known for his gender-bending clothing and occasional touch of eye makeup.

“I think he made a deep cultural change not by talking about his sexuality but by living it out on stage,” said Alejandro Madrazo, a law professor in Mexico who is an expert on the legal battle for same-sex marriage in the country. “Juan Gabriel taught us how to be feminine.”

Madrazo recalled seeing Juan Gabriel perform before a large crowd at a cockfight, a sport that exemplifies Mexico’s machismo culture.  

“He would dance in a way that was sexy and provocative in front of all these stereotypes of a Mexican man,” Madrazo said. “He would literally shake … in their faces, and they would go crazy.”

In an homage to Juan Gabriel published on the website of Mexico’s Millenio newspaper, journalist Alvaro Cueva recalled friends making fun of Juan Gabriel for his effeminate stage presence. At some schools, his name was used as an anti-gay slur.

Cueva called Juan Gabriel subversive. “You … became an idol in a country of macho men,” he wrote. “You made homophobic people sing and dance.”

Eduardo C. Corral, the gay Chicano poet, shared a story on Twitter about how it was easier for his parents to accept him after he came out to them because of Juan Gabriel. “In high school, I came out first to my mom. She told my dad when he got off work at midnight. She was nervous. Afraid of his reaction. My dad’s response? He said, in Spanish, ‘So what? So is Juan Gabriel,’” Corral wrote.

The poet relayed an experience that was common for LGBT Latinos and their families. “Over the years, Juan Gabriel became part of many Mexican families. Yes, he was mocked. But there he was. In our homes. Familiar & strange. Queerness, then, became a presence in Mexican homes. In my home. This familiarity with queerness helped my father to keep loving his son,” tweeted the poet.

In all his glory, Juan Gabriel was an incredible performer and singer-songwriter, but it is his impact on the LGBT Latino community that must not be erased from the narrative of his legacy.