A San Diego-based artist has created a mural in Barrio Logan as a tribute to Latina icon Selena Quintanilla Perez – a gift to both the late singer and the fans she continues to lift up with her legacy and music.
“She was a young, brown girl who came from nothing and went on to become a star who defied borders,” artist Soni Lopez-Chavez told NBC 7, referring to Selena. “She’s an example of what a strong woman who believes in herself could accomplish. She had talent and she actually did something with it.”
“She inspires me, all of the time,” she added.
Last week – over the course of just under two days – Lopez-Chavez painted a purple-hued mural on the side of a building located at 2151 Logan Ave., an area just southeast of the landmark Chicano Park.
The mural depicts Selena in one of her iconic, bejeweled outfits, hair down, hoop earrings and striking red lipstick. Purple flowers surround her.
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Lopez-Chavez said the landlord who owns the building had asked her to paint the mural a while back, so the project had long been on the artist’s creative wish list.
On April 12, it was finally time.
Lopez-Chavez said she painted the mural over just two days.
She had sketched out her design many times and then – as a digital designer by profession – she morphed it into a digital version that she then projected onto the wall.
Her goal was to finish the mural before April 16, which would’ve been Selena’s 50th birthday.
Lopez-Chavez said it sort of felt like she was giving Selena a birthday gift.
“Before I even did the mural, I made sure to sage and to use palo santos which, to me, is a really spiritual way to cleanse the space and to add good energy,” Lopez-Chavez told NBC 7. “And then, once I was done with the mural, I said a little prayer for her. It’s just something really special for me and I hope she’s looking from above and she enjoys it.”
With such a deep connection to both Selena and art, Lopez-Chavez said she wanted her mural to be perfect. She said the hardest part was creating the mural in a way that truly captured the singer’s beautiful spirit.
Getting the color purple in there was important; she needed the iconic Selena outfit; she wanted the singer’s skin color to be just right. Lopez-Chavez said she added the roses as a tribute to Selena’s song, “Como La Flor,” a favorite among fans.
Lopez-Chavez worked on the mural alone. She was in the zone.
While she worked, she said neighborhood kids would sometimes stop by and cheer her on. They would also ask her about Selena’s life.
And Lopez-Chavez’s love and positive energy while creating the mural was felt by many.
Many followers took to Lopez-Chavez’s Instagram feed to follow her creative process and see the finished product. She said some followers have been telling her they’re visiting the mural, tearing up when they’re finally able to get close to it.
She said the feedback is lifting her up, too.
Word of the mural even reached Selena’s family.
The singer’s sister, Suzette Quintanilla, took time to comment on Lopez-Chavez’s post about the mural on Instagram.
“Just want to leave a big hug and thank you for this beautiful mural. I LOVE everything about it!” Suzette Quintanilla’s comment read.
Lopez-Chavez said she never expected Selena’s family to see her work and those words from Suzette Quintanilla meant the world to her.
“I was in Heaven; I couldn’t even believe she even looked at it,” she added.
A Connection to Selena
It's no surprise that Lopez-Chavez is a longtime fan of Selena.
Originally from Guanajato, Mexico, Lopez-Chavez said she came to the U.S. with her parents when she was 8. She became a U.S. citizen when she was 20.
She moved to Barrio Logan 10 years ago and over the past decade – in a community known for its powerful, colorful Latino and Chicano art – she said she’s grown as an artist.
Being a Mexican American woman, Lopez-Chavez said Selena’s story has always resonated with her.
When Selena was killed on March 31, 1995, Lopez-Chavez remembers that as being the first time she saw both of her parents deeply saddened. She didn’t totally understand it, but she wanted to.
“From that moment on, I had this almost yearning to figure out and learn about this person. I grew up listening to her music. Everything about her life has inspired me in my own life,” she explained.
To this day, Lopez-Chavez thinks about Selena and what her life could’ve been.
Through her mural, she’s grateful for a chance to honor her.
“I’m so happy that we continue to honor and celebrate her legacy.”