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SDSU journalism introduces class on Selena, identity for spring 2020

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SDSU journalism introduces class on Selena, identity for spring 2020

Alejandra Luna-Gallegos

Alejandra Luna-Gallegos

Alejandra Luna-Gallegos

by Lauren J. Mapp, Senior Staff Writer

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Tejano pop culture idol Selena Quintanilla-Pérez will be the subject of a course on Latin identity and representation in the media at San Diego State during the spring 2020 semester.

The announcement from the School of Journalism and Media Studies came on April 16, what would have been the singer’s 48th birthday. Though she was shot and killed at age 23, her stage presence and story continue to live on in today’s pop culture.

“Her music, her fashion, her personality, everything about her was just so contagious and influenced so many people,” Nathian Shae Rodriguez, assistant professor of digital media studies, said.. “After a tragic death in 1995, a lot of individuals still kept on listening to her, paying homage to her — her memory stayed alive.”

Known by her eponymous stage name Selena, the singer, songwriter, fashion designer and more who rose to fame by performing Tejano or Tex-Mex music fused with pop, R&B, mariachi and cumbia.

Often referred to as the Queen of Tejano music and the Tejano Madonna, she inspired generations of musicians, artists and fashion designers.

Cardi B has said her music video is inspired by Selena, MAC Cosmetics released a Selena line of makeup in 2016 and Forever 21 has the White Rose Collection of clothing dedicated to her. The Q Austin in Austin, Texas celebrates her legacy with a Selena Drag Brunch and Centro Cultural de la Raza in San Diego holds an annual music and art tribute to her.

“People are still making music that pays homage to her, people are still covering her songs, people were still dressing like her,” Rodriguez said. “We have people that aren’t just Latinx performing and paying homage to her.”

Selena’s story will be used in the course as a platform to cover the intersectionality of the Latin community, marketing, pop culture, music, television, film, social media and representation in the media. Students will listen to her music, attend art events and dissect the upcoming Netflix series about Selena’s life, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez, who designed and will teach this new course, said he has worked for years to make this class possible. He hopes that it will become a full course offered each spring semester, when local events are held to celebrate Selena’s life.

“Right now it’s a special topics course, but we are looking to develop it into a full fledged standalone course that is interdisciplinary,” Rodriguez said.

Following the April 16 announcement, alumni and current students quickly turned to social media platforms to express their excitement for the upcoming course.

Though she was born a year after Selena’s death, Emely Navarro, an SDSU School of Journalism and Media Studies alumna, said she felt inspired by Selena’s music when she was growing up. As a Salvadoran woman who grew up in the United States, Navarro said Selena’s story helped her to connect with her culture.

“I can just relate to her so much because Spanish is my first language, but I grew up in the U.S., so I always felt like I wasn’t super connected with my culture all the way as much as I wanted to be,” she said.

SDSU is designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution because at least 25% of its population is Hispanic. When Navarro attended the university, she said she didn’t feel like there were many opportunities to learn about Latin journalism and media.

“I think when I went into SDSU, I think there was a lack of classes that Latinos could take,” Navarro said. “I think it’s awesome that now there are more opportunities for people to learn about the Latino community in journalism and kind of weave those two together.”

Navarro wished she could come back to take the course, but hopes that students who take it will learn about how inclusive Selena was and what her impact has been on pop culture.

“She influenced people of all colors and all ethnicities and all backgrounds, so I hope (students) take away that she was super inclusive in everything she did,” Navarro said.

Students interested in taking the class can begin registering for the course on November 1. The course will be offered as an elective for upper division students in the School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rodriguez said.

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