In 1992, Chris Pérez and Selena eloped against her family's wishes and stayed married for three years before she was tragically murdered.
When Chris Pérez first met Selena Quintanilla, she was already a rising star in the Latin music industry. Her popular songs and stylish flair would eventually earn her the title “Queen of Tejano.” In 1990, Pérez was hired as a new guitarist for Selena’s band.
Before long, the two bandmates bonded and fell in love. Despite objections from Selena’s father, who was also her manager, the couple eloped. In 1992, Chris Pérez became Selena’s husband.
Sadly, their marital bliss lasted for only about three years before Selena was murdered by the former president of her own fan club. After Selena’s death, Pérez largely disappeared from the public eye, choosing to grieve in private.
Years later, Pérez opened up about his struggle in a candid memoir. Although his book was positively received, his relationship with Selena’s family has reportedly soured over the years.
How Chris Pérez Became Selena’s Husband
Born on August 14, 1969, in San Antonio, Texas, Chris Pérez showed a clear talent for music growing up. His role in the high school music band eventually evolved into a passion for playing the guitar.
By the late 1980s, Chris Pérez met his future wife, Selena. Shortly thereafter, he was hired as a new member of her Tejano band Selena y Los Dinos. At the time, Selena had already been crowned Female Entertainer of the Year at the Tejano Music Awards.
Romance began to blossom between the two young bandmates during a group trip to Acapulco, Mexico. Soon afterward, they started seeing each other in secret. When the truth came out, most of Selena’s family was reportedly supportive of the young couple — except for Selena’s father and manager, Abraham Quintanilla.
Her father’s disapproval — likely due to Pérez’s juvenile run-ins with the law and “bad boy” image — caused a lot of drama amongst the group. According to Pérez, Selena’s father even compared him to a “cancer to his family.”
“I think the main reason for that was it kind of hurt his pride and his ego to find out that he was the last to know and when things got tense and things were said by him,” Selena’s husband said years later. “It hurt me that he was saying it but I didn’t let it get to me because I knew deep down he knew the kind of person I was.”
In 1992, Selena and Chris decided to elope. At the time, he was 22 and she was 20. And as the couple made it official, Selena’s stardom began to skyrocket. Her album Entre a Mi Mundo was named the second best-selling regional Mexican album of all time by Billboard magazine, and the best-selling female Tejano record in history.
In 1994, her concert album Selena Live! won a Grammy for best Mexican-American album at the 36th Grammy Awards, making Selena the first Tejano artist to win the award. Selena’s husband was with her all along the way — and he couldn’t have been prouder.
“The fans saw Selena’s sincerity and generosity, and felt her love for them,” Pérez wrote in his 2012 memoir To Selena, With Love. “Selena appealed to everyone from excitable preteen girls who wanted to dress and dance like her, to abuelas who loved those heart-wrenching ballads like ‘Como La Flor.'”
Nobody expected her life would end so soon.
The Tragic Murder Of Selena
On March 31, 1995, Selena was shot to death by her fan-turned-business partner, Yolanda Saldívar.
The former president of Selena’s fan club and the manager of Selena’s boutique business, Saldívar had been fired by the singer’s family due to discrepancies in the company’s finances.
When Selena went alone to meet Saldívar at a motel to retrieve the remaining business documents, Saldívar shot her. Selena suffered a gun shot wound to the back of her shoulder, which doctors later said had shredded her right shoulder, lung, veins, and a major artery.
Selena famously used her last words to identify her killer to the motel’s staff members. Yolanda Saldívar was later found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole in 2025.
But by the time Selena was taken to the hospital, she was already clinically brain dead. She died just a few weeks before her 24th birthday.
Chris Pérez first heard that his wife had been shot from Selena’s aunt. He’d been asleep when she’d left to meet Saldívar — and he initially thought she was spending time with his dad. By the time Chris Pérez got to the hospital, his wife had already died.
News of the Latina star’s death — after she was shot by one of her trusted confidantes — shook the music industry in the U.S. and across Latin America, where she had built a strong fanbase.
In the aftermath of Selena’s death, Pérez was noticeably absent in the media, choosing to grieve in private.
“As corny as it sounds, things are just not the same after that,” Chris Pérez said of the death of his wife in an interview with a Selena fan. “The colors aren’t as colorful as you thought they were. The food doesn’t taste the same as you thought it did. Things don’t feel the way they did before.”
He added: “Looking back on it now, I lived a lot of my life after her passing with blinders on.”
As for Yolanda Saldívar, the woman who killed his wife, Chris Pérez said he’d always felt uneasy about her. He’d accompanied Selena at least twice before when she’d met with Saldívar on previous occasions. On the day she was killed, Selena had gotten up early to see Saldívar alone, apparently without telling her husband. She had also borrowed her husband’s cell phone.
Chris Pérez turned to music to help with his grief over the loss of his wife. He released new songs with the Chris Pérez Band, which he formed with singer John Garza and former Selena keyboardist Joe Ojeda.
In 2000, their rock album Resurrection won the Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album. The album’s song “Best I Can” was specifically written by Pérez to his late wife, Selena.
Pérez eventually married again in 2001 and had two children. But that marriage ended in divorce in 2008.
A Family Fallout
Since her death, Selena has been immortalized in pop culture, and is still remembered as one of the most influential talents in Latin music today.
In 1997, the biopic Selena was released, starring Jennifer Lopez. The film chronicled the singer’s rise to fame up until her tragic murder. It also portrayed her relationship with Chris Pérez (played by Jon Seda) and her father’s disapproval of their union. The film’s box office success, fueled by the late artist’s devoted fanbase, helped launch Lopez into superstardom.
“What she’s become, especially for… Latin culture and women, and just the positivity that she spoke about and displayed not only onstage but offstage… I believe it’s her fans that have put her in the position that she’s in these days,” Pérez said of his late wife’s star power. “Out of everybody that I’ve known in my life, I don’t know anybody more deserving than her.”
Although Pérez mostly kept to himself after his wife’s death, his 2012 memoir offered fans an intimate look inside his life with Selena — and the overall response was positive. According to Pérez, he even received the blessing of his combative father-in-law.
“I didn’t say anything to anyone while writing it,” Pérez said. “When I was done and talked to Abraham about it, he said, ‘Son, if it’s something you feel you need to do, you have every right to do it.'” But this moment of peace didn’t last forever.
In 2016, Selena’s father sued Chris Pérez, his production company Blue Mariachi, and Endemol Shine Latino, over their plan to turn his To Selena memoir into a TV series.
The suit argued that a TV show would violate an estate properties agreement that Pérez and relatives of Selena had signed shortly after her death.
The agreement stipulated that her father owned entertainment properties of Selena’s brand, which includes her name, voice, signature, and likeness. While the lawsuit was eventually dismissed, that wasn’t the end of the feud.
Pérez has spoken out in recent years against alleged efforts to exclude him from projects related to Selena. Most recently, Chris Pérez claimed that he had been kept in the dark about Selena: The Series, the upcoming Netflix biopic series set for release in December 2020.
Along with the Netflix drama, Pérez also recently got involved in an online dispute with Selena’s sister, Suzette, over rumors that the family had taken down photographs of Pérez at the Selena Museum.
Selena’s father responded, “We have not taken any photos down of Chris in our museum. Why would we do that? He is a part of Selena’s legacy.”
While his relationship with Selena’s family has sadly become rocky, Pérez’s love for the late star seems to remain as strong as ever, and he continues to receive support from Selena’s fans as he speaks out about her legacy.
“If she gave any message to the younger generation, it would be: Stay in school, and anything is possible as long as you work for it,” he said. “If people remembered her in that way, I’d be happy and I’m sure she would be happy, too.”
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