Angel Ferrer sings in the Chris Perez Project, Chris' new band
In one of the final chapters of his book To Selena, With Love ($24.95, Celebra, March 6), Selena’s widower Chris Perez mentions that Abraham Quintanilla, his former father-in-law, once called him “a cancer” in the family. “I turned out to be benign. Nobody detected the real cancer, which appeared in the form of a short, homely woman named Yolanda Saldivar.”
That “nobody” includes himself, who wonders what would have happened had he told Quintanilla or the police about the fact that Saldivar, the former president of Selena’s fan club and manager of her boutiques, was carrying a gun days before she killed the Tejano superstar on March 31, 1995.
The book describes how, during one of several meetings between Selena and Saldivar leading to the murder, Saldivar showed Selena the gun she had bought in San Antonio for “protection” against unnamed “threats.” Saldivar had been accused of embezzling funds from the fan club, and only big-hearted Selena was willing to give her friend second, third, and fourth chances, even though it was obvious Saldivar was lying left and right. Perez says he carries "a certain sense of guilt" about not telling anyone about Yolanda's gun.
"What if I had told the police? Or Abraham? Who knows how Abraham would have reacted?" he wrote. "Maybe he would have called in a favor with the police and had them scare Yolanda, and it would have been over. I still live with those questions."
Yes, Selena had a big heart, but she was no fool: Saldivar kept important tax documents Selena desperately needed before getting rid of her, so she tried to keep her trust until the very end. The book describes the last night Selena spent at home with Perez and her father-in-law, and includes her last photo alive: taken by Perez's father, it shows a focused Selena paying bills sitting at a desk, with Chris standing in front of her.
The characters in the book are the usual: Abraham Quintanilla, the over-protective father who trusted no one and who reluctantly accepted Chris into the family. Yolanda, the deranged “small, sad, ugly little woman" who stole, lied, and killed. And Selena, the perfect goddess of goodness whose heart was spotlessly humble and whose talent and drive was unparalleled.
This isn't a bitter nor accusatory, finger-pointing book. Whatever negative comments Perez makes of his former father-in-law have been done before, and anyone who knows Mr. Quintanilla (even those who like him, such as myself), know it isn't easy to win his trust and, hell yes, he didn't want anyone to mess with his daughter. According to Perez, Abraham didn't want Selena to open a boutique.
"What do you want to do that for?" Abraham reportedly told her. "That's a crazy idea. You're making plenty of money and you don't have enough time as it is. Why don't you just sit back and enjoy life?"
But Perez ends the book in a respectful, conciliatory note, and includes the whole Quintanilla family (Abraham first) in the "Special Thanks" section of the book.
The book is easy to read and includes background info on Perez's own creative life: his love for rock, his controversial 1999 Grammy win for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Performance ("I knew [Café Tacuba's Revés Yosoy] deserved the award"), and, mostly, his amazing love story with Selena. It is an entertaining account of the life of a legend, but also the ultimate source of information on the low-key Perez, who has his own career and sounds finally ready to leave the past behind. — Enrique Lopetegui
Chris Perez book signing
5pm Thu, Mar 8
6pm Fri, Mar 9
6818 S. Zarzamora
Support Local Journalism.
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the San Antonio Press Club for as little as $5 a month.