HSA Banquet Features Father of Late Tejano Star Selena

Nov. 4, 1999

Making a rare public speaking appearance, the father of the late Tejano superstar Selena and founder of Q Productions visited Baylor Oct. 26 as the keynote speaker for the 12th annual Hispanic Heritage Banquet, sponsored by the Hispanic Student Association (HSA).

Abraham Quintanilla Jr. followed this year's theme-"Enfocando el futuro en las manos de nuestra cultura" or "Envisioning the future in the hands of our culture"-speaking to audience members about "your Latin culture, your Hispanic heritage and family values."

Quintanilla said the event was his first speaking appearance before a large group.

Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, and a member of a family four generations deep in the United States, Quintanilla gave the audience a more in depth picture of his life by telling about his childhood.

"When I was a kid ... the Mexican culture was very strong. In fact, in my neighborhood if you spoke English everybody would look at you like 'hey, hey, hey who are you trying to be?'" he said. "And the only Anglo people that we saw back then were the teachers at school and the delivery people that would leave milk and bread at the local corner stores."

Growing up in Corpus Christi, Quintanilla said he witnessed racial segregation, and remembered separate restrooms designated for blacks and whites.

"I felt that back then there was a little discrimination against us because there were no Mexican restrooms," he said. "We Mexicans would go into either one we wanted. We would go into the white restrooms and they would look at us like 'What are you doing in here?' And we would go to the black [restrooms] and get the same reaction."

Growing up during a time when public schools were segregated and separated by language and cultural barriers, Quintanilla now sees students who are proficient in both English and Spanish. "It's such a wonderful thing. You should be proud you can dominate two languages," he said.

Along with pride in heritage, Quintanilla stressed that a person should take pride in his family. He said that family is the background of who an individual is, and therefore, should always be supported.

"We [Hispanics] are one of the few cultures left on this earth that still clings on to family unity. The family is the oldest and most basic unit of our society. It provides a protective framework for rearing our nation's youth," Quintanilla said.

He went on to discuss why family is essential in bringing up children to become responsible adults and what happens when children grow up in broken homes.

"The question is what happens when the family weakens and begins to break down? The family is the core of our society. If it collapses, our society collapses," said Quintanilla, who noted that the breakdown of a family unit was one factor that caused the fall of the Roman Empire.

"Maybe, some of you have seen these conditions in your neighborhood or maybe even among your own families. You may remember a time when family life was better and families stuck together. But things are very different today," he said. "The question is, why is this happening? Well, we live in an age when persons have been taught to think of self first. This attitude is having a devastating effect on family life. Egotism. Self-centeredness.

"The effect of broken homes has brought up a violent generation. Look at what's happening in the schools, all the shootings and killings. It also has produced an epidemic of suicide among young people. Also, it has contributed to worldwide drug abuse, brutality in the home [and] rampant venereal diseases. It has also led to millions of alcoholics and teen pregnancy," Quintanilla said.

But he did offer hope to those wondering if there was any left in the world today.

Quintanilla said that he is a strong man of God and that he believes there is hope if we follow the rules that God has set for us in the Bible. He also gave an example of how to raise a responsible child.

"They say that the first five years of a child's life is when you're going to mold him into what kind of an adult he will become. That touch, that hug, that kiss, that I love you, means so much to them during the first five years of their lives. And if we do that, we can counter what is happening worldwide today," he said.

Quintanilla is a musical entrepreneur who has paved the way for many Tejano musicians, including his daughter, Selena, who rose to the top of the pop charts before she was tragically murdered in Corpus Christi on March 31, 1995.

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