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'Selena,' a 'beloved icon,' belongs in National Film Registry, Joaquin Castro says to Library of Congress

Eric Webb
Austin 360
"Selena," starring Jennifer Lopez as the late Tejano superstar Selena Quintanilla, was released in 1997.

Texans have always known that "Selena" is a can't-miss flick. Now, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wants to add it to the American film canon officially.

Writing on behalf of his colleagues, caucus chair U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro on Jan. 1 recommended the 1997 biopic of Tejano music superstar Selena Quintanilla-Pérez for inclusion in the National Film Registry. The nomination came in a letter addressed to Dr. Carla Hayden (the librarian of Congress) and the members of the National Film Preservation Board.

The film "touches on important themes of cultural identity and assimilation faced by Mexican American communities as they navigate their personal connections to two cultures and languages," wrote Castro, a Democrat representing Texas' 20th district, which includes the western part of San Antonio. "The film has become a beloved icon of Latino culture and has found widespread mainstream success, proving once and for all that Latino stories are American stories."

More:Selena Quintanilla inducted into Texas Women’s Hall of Fame

Nominating "Selena" — directed by Gregory Nava and starring Jennifer Lopez and Edward James Olmos — is part of a broader push by the caucus to "ensure that the experiences of American Latinos are well represented in the films selected for preservation in the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress," according to the letter.

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world and the U.S. legislature's main research arm, according to its website. Each year, the library's National Film Registry adds 25 films to its canon, with the stated purpose of "showcasing the range and diversity of American film heritage to increase awareness for its preservation." 

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas, writing on behalf of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that he chairs, in a Jan. 1 letter recommended "Selena" for inclusion in the National Film Registry.

"Given the film industry’s continued exclusion of Latinos, we must therefore make a special effort to ensure that Latino Americans’ accomplishments in the film industry are appropriately celebrated and included in the National Film Registry," Castro wrote in the letter.

The caucus also praised the registry's previous inclusion of Latino-focused films like "Salt of the Earth," "I Am Joaquin," "Zoot Suit," "El Norte," "Stand and Deliver" and "Real Women Have Curves." The caucus urged the registry to highlight such movies, adding that the inclusion of "Selena" would be a "next step."

More:Catching up with Chris Pérez as ‘Selena: The Series’ hits Netflix

"Given its importance as a work of Latino cinema, we believe ('Selena') is deserving of preservation at the Library of Congress," Castro wrote. "We trust you will give 'Selena' careful consideration, and hope to see it included in the titles added to the National Film Registry in 2021. We also expect to identify other films which feature the American Latino experience and urge you to devote careful consideration to Latino films when considering films for the registry as well."

The National Film Registry last month announced its 2020 additions, ranging from silent pictures like Charlie Chaplin's "Kid Auto Races at Venice" to time-tested classics like "Grease" and "A Clockwork Orange" to modern blockbusters like "The Dark Knight" and "Shrek." The 2020 class notably included several landmark films from female filmmakers, like Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker," and directors of color, like "The Joy Luck Club" and "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song."

Selena Quintanilla-Perez in San Antonio in April 1994, a year before her death.

"Selena" holds a special place in the hearts of Texans. Nava's film tells the story of the Corpus Christi-based singer's rocket to fame in the 1990s as she released hit songs like "Como la Flor," "Bidi BIdi Bom Bom" and "Dreaming of You." On the cusp of crossover success into the English-speaking market, Quintanilla-Pérez was shot to death in 1995 by Yolanda Saldívar.

The 1997 film helped make a household name of Jennifer Lopez, who played the singer.

Last month, Netflix debuted the first season of "Selena: The Series," coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the star's death. Christian Serratos plays Quintanilla-Pérez in the show, which was produced in collaboration with the late star's family.