By Erick Galindo
Selena’s death, 23 years ago on Saturday, was the first time Patty Rodriguez had seen her father cry. The author and radio personality contemplated this memory on Saturday afternoon during a lively book signing at Local Fixture, a hip multicultural mom and pop shop in Uptown Whittier.
Rodriguez and her co-author and business partner Ariana Stein had just signed about 400 copies of their best-selling children’s book “The life of/La Vida de Selena” and were getting ready to sign 400 more.
Selena Quintanilla’s 1992 hit “Como La Flor” was playing lightly in the background–the chilling refrain, as if the pain of love was a little slice of heaven, “Ay ay ay cómo me duele”, marking the end of the 9 times Platinum song.
Rodriguez looked around the room and thought about the hundreds of little girls dressed in Selena costumes who were waiting outside the room for a chance to meet the women keeping Selena’s legacy alive. She clasped her patented “Sin Miedo” gold necklace charm and continued, “But it’s also like she never left, like she’s still here.”
Line Out the Door
More than 1,000 people, many of them kids in costumes, descended on Local Fixture to celebrate the release of the first ever children’s picture book about Selena’s life, and the first similar book about iconic Mexican film star Mario Moreno, known simply as Cantiflas.
“The reaction has been way beyond our expectations,” Stein told LA Taco. “We just knew we wanted to pass her legacy on to the next generation and we hope that it continues to grow.”
Rodriguez and Stein, two first-generation Mexican American moms, are the founders of Lil’ Libros, a little independent children’s book company based in a little Latino hamlet called Huntington Park, that has recently taken the whole children’s book world by storm.
The bilingual board books “The life of/La Vida de Selena” and “Around The World With – Alrededor Del Mundo Con Cantinflas” dropped at midnight March 13th on Amazon and later at Target, Barnes & Noble, and mom and pop shops everywhere, taking down websites and setting Latino social media on high alert.
Rodriguez and Stein went on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and called on their supporters to get the word out. Tweets started coming in like this one from Nelzy Rojas: “Also purchased 5 books of @pattyrodriguez Lil Libros collection today for my girls! And turns out hubby made two other surprise orders as well! Is he not the best!? Can’t wait to get them on Friday!! So excited!”
Within 24 hours, Selena was the No. 1 kids book on Amazon and Cantinflas was in the top 10. Celebrities like Vanessa Bryant, wife of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, George Lopez, and Cristela Alonzo all gave props and Billboard ran a story about the books meteoric rise. Selena had rose to the top of the charts once again.
‘It’s important for us to emerge them in all of their cultures, like we’ve been to visit their family in Mexico and also their cousins in Hong Kong.’
“Selena lives on because she inspired women, she inspired me,” Vanessa Reyes told LA Taco. She and her 11-year-old son Raul, were first in line to get her book signed at Saturday’s official release party. They arrived at 9 am for the 1 pm event.
“I love this book because now I can show my niece, who has no idea who Selena is, an example of a strong, awesome Latina,” she said.
By 10 am, the line behind the Reyes family had started to form, and by 11 it was covering the front of the store. By 12:30 it wrapped around the block. The event, which was supposed to end at 3 pm extended well past 5 pm.
“This is one of our most successful events ever,” Local Fixture owner Jason Chung told LA Taco. “I don’t have exact numbers yet but this is the best selling book we’ve ever had.”
Chung, who is Chinese American, runs the store with his family, including his Mexican American wife Erica. They have a three kids, including a 6-year-old daughter who asked dad to throw her favorite Selena song “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” on the PA system. Dad obliged and daughter and her small entourage of Selena fanatics all started dancing.
“My wife loves Selena so she loves Selena. It’s important for us to emerge them in all of their cultures, like we’ve been to visit their family in Mexico and also their cousins in Hong Kong,” Chung explained. “Also the food in both cultures is amazing so we just get the best of both worlds.”
The blending of cultures was in full effect throughout the day at Local Fixture. There was a churro and ice cream truck parked in front of the store, a cotton candy station, arts and crafts tables, a musical duo from Downey playing Selena covers inside the store were Lil’ Libros books were moving faster than Selena’s hips in “Baila Esta Cumbia.”
In the green room, where the autograph and picture sessions were taking place, Selena’s greatest hits were bumping and a classic Cantiflas flick was being projected onto one of the walls. Across the room, there were artisanal Selena and Cantiflas themed cookies and giant cardboard cutouts of the late Latino icons, as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles from all over LA brought their babies, toddlers, kids and teens some of them in “Star Wars” Ts, others repping the Dodgers, Yankees or Patriots.
There were more than a few babies sporting Cantiflas mustaches and at least one little girl in full Cantiflas outfit complete with a cardboard biplane.
And then there were the little Selenas. Girls of ages ranging from age 4 to 7 paraded through the store all day wearing a variety of Selena Quintanilla’s iconic outfits.
Alexia Flores, 4, was rocking the iconic purple jumpsuit Selena famously wore at her last concert at the Houston Astrodome, Feb. 26, 1995. The moment was recreated in the wildly popular biopic “Selena” starring Jennifer Lopez. “I love Selena ‘cause she sings the bestest songs,” Alexia told LA Taco.
“She basically thinks she is Selena,” Alexia’s mom Donnie explained. “The movie was on one day and she just started singing along and copying all the moves. Once we got her the outfit, she was like, ‘That’s it. I’m Selena.’”
Stein, who got emotional emotional when thinking about Selena’s death, told LA Taco that she used play Selena dress up too. “I used to dress like her and act like her and pretend to be her. I definitely saw myself in her.”