Although it’s been 25 years since Selena Quintanilla’s untimely death, the endless love between the Queen of Tejano music and her husband, Chris Pérez, is still alive and well.
“I’ve never had the kind of love that I had with Selena,” Pérez, 51, told The Post of his late wife, who was gunned down at 23 by the president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldívar, in March 1995.
“[Selena’s] way of being made me realize the power in being vulnerable,” the Grammy-award winning songwriter and guitar player said. “Like no matter what, you’re going to take your heart out, figuratively, and get on one knee and hand it to that other person. And I’d never done that.”
Selena and Pérez’s amor prohibido — her father initially disapproved of the relationship — captivated global audiences in the 1997 blockbuster biopic “Selena,” starring Jennifer Lopez. Now, their undying adoration is back in the spotlight in the acclaimed release this month of Netflix’s “Selena: The Series,” featuring actress Christian Serratos in the titular role.
However, Pérez, who served for six years as lead guitarist of his wife’s family band, Selena y Los Dinos, was neither consulted nor involved in the making of the biographical drama, produced by Selena’s father and sister, Abraham and Suzette Quintanilla.
“You can line us all up, the guys in the band and the members of her family, and ask us to tell the full story of all the things we experienced together, and it’d be the same story but told from a bunch of different perspectives. And [‘Selena: The Series’] is their perspective,” Pérez said, noting his exclusion from the Netflix project is likely due to former legal contentions with his estranged in-laws.
“We haven’t spoken since the lawsuit,” Pérez said, referring to litigation Abraham Quintanilla filed against him in 2016. The suit was a successful attempt to block a television adaptation of a memoir Pérez penned in tribute to his slain sweetheart in 2012 entitled: “To Selena, With Love.”
“I’m a believer that if you truly ever did love somebody you don’t just stop loving them,” Pérez continued. “So, there’s always going to be that love and respect [for her family]. But things are not as good as they should be and that hurts.”
Pérez married Venessa Villanueva, who he met through a mutual friend, in 2001, six years after Selena’s death. The couple welcomed two children, Cassie, 22, and Noah, 15, before divorcing in 2008.
Although fully engaged in his new life as a father, musician, and more recently, a hot-pepper-sauce entrepreneur, Pérez continues to feel the pangs of Selena’s passing every day.
“When I got remarried, that was me trying to downplay [Selena’s death] in my life. It was too painful. I never talked about [Selena’s death],” he said. “Getting remarried and starting my new life was a way to get over losing her. I thought getting remarried would help, and it did. But the pain is still there. It’ll always be there.”
Pérez fondly remembers being in an “amazing place” of love with Selena in the days leading up to her murder. Saldívar shot her outside of a Days Inn in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“We eloped on April 2, 1992, and she died March 31, 1995. So she died two days before our third wedding anniversary,” Pérez said. “So, every year around that time, I try to not let my heart and mind think about her too much because the feelings are just too intense. It’s still a constant struggle.”
Despite the agony of his loss, Pérez said he does not feel any lingering animosity towards Saldívar — who’s currently serving her life sentence at the Mountain View Unit, a maximum security women’s prison in Gatesville, Texas. She will be eligible for parole in 2025.
Forever celebrating her life and legacy, Pérez was scheduled to perform at the SXSW Selena for Sanctuary charity concert in Texas earlier this year; however, the showcase was cancelled due to the pandemic.
But he still sees his late love in his dreams.
“It happens on a daily basis. She comes to me … either when I’m sleeping or in a daydream,” said Pérez, who is open to the possibility of one day writing another book about life with, and after, Selena. He said she encourages him to “keep your head up.”
“I hear her talking to me all the time,” he added. “And even though she was taken from us at such a young age so many years ago, when I hear her spirit speaking to me, I hear who I believe she would be now, today, as if she’s been here with me, sharing my life experiences all this time.”