The estate of legendary Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla has sent a cease and desist letter to a man they say is exploiting the late star as he promotes a rally for President Donald Trump in Texas, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported this week.
A Texas man named Joe Michael Perez announced last week he planned to hold a Trump rally Saturday at a memorial to Selena in Corpus Christi, a seaside city about 150 miles southeast of San Antonio, where the singer lived and died.
According to a copy of the letter obtained by the Caller-Times, the rally “falsely implicates” that Trump has the Quintanilla family’s endorsement by using the cumbia star’s name, image and likeness, which the family owns the rights to.
Attorney Michael Trauben, speaking for the Quintanilla clan, told Forbes in a statement that Perez has misappropriated Selena “for personal profit,” including through “merchandise and apparel depicting Selena.”
According to media reports, promotion for the event included the phrase “Bidi, Bidi, Trump, Trump,” a play on words of Selena’s 1994 hit “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” which the family owns the common law trademark for, the Caller-Times reported.
Perez “denied the allegations” to the Caller-Times, telling the newspaper, “the Selena statue is a symbol of the Hispanic community. I wanted to deliver a message that minorities who support Trump are not alone.”
Perez told TMZ he plans to hold the rally despite the objections of the Quintanilla family and the city government: with coronavirus infections surging in Texas, the city reportedly denied him a permit to hold the demonstration due to health risks and a state executive order prohibiting gatherings larger than 10 people.
Perez caused a stir online last month when he placed a Make America Great Again hat on the Selena statue’s head and posed for a picture with it, which led Selena’s father, Abraham Quinantilla, to call him “a disrespectful idiot,” in an interview with the Houston Chronicle, adding that “Selena was never involved with politics.”
“Selena is an inspirational and uplifting figure to millions of people around the world, of all races, creeds, religions, and national origin, including young children and families,” the letter stated, according to the Caller-Times. “Associating Selena with any single politician, and particularly with the divisiveness and discord commonly attributed to Donald J. Trump, is entirely inconsistent with, and damaging to, Selena’s image and brand and is thereby damaging to Quintanilla.”
This isn’t the first time in recent weeks that artists’ camps have railed against the appropriation of their work for political ends: Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, Panic! At The Disco singer Brendan Urie, Tom Petty’s family and R.E.M. have protested the Trump campaign’s use of their music at rallies this year.
Selena, known as “The Queen of Tejano,” was a Texan cumbia star with a Grammy win under her belt when she was murdered in 1995 at age 23 by her fan club’s president, Yolanda Saldivar, in a motel room in Corpus Christi after the Quintanilla family accused Saldivar of embezzling money. “News of her death was greeted with the sort of widespread mourning usually reserved for a political assassination,” according to Texas Monthly, and the Caller-Times reported more than 50,000 mourners paid their respects at a viewing before Selena was buried.
Dreaming of You, Selena’s first English-language album, was released posthumously and sold upwards of 400,000 copies in the first week of release, the Washington Post reported at the time. Jennifer Lopez, who portrayed the singer in her breakout role in the 1997 biopic Selena, said in a 2015 interview with Billboard, “it’s a special thing that Selena had. That’s why we’re still talking about her 20 years later.”