Central Park on Sunday will be filled with the sound of songs once sung by the beloved Queen of Tejano music, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez.
It’s a tribute concert of sorts, but honoring the slain "Dreaming of You" performer isn’t the sole purpose of the free SummerStage show that’s expected to draw hundreds of New Yorkers. Dubbed Selena for Sanctuary, the concert doubles as an immigration rights fundraiser ahead of the 2020 election.
"There is power in congregating with your community. Harnessing the energy of positivity is exactly what we should be using as fuel to get through these trying times," says Doris Muñoz, 25, a music manager who’s been organizing benefit concerts since 2017. Her first show, in Los Angeles, was arranged in an effort to raise funds to file immigration paperwork for her parents.
After making its larger-scale debut in New York City last year, Muñoz gathered a group of eight artists and bands to headline what’s expected to be the biggest Selena for Sanctuary concert yet. The show brings together bilingual artists to sing songs by Selena, who died on March 31, 1995, at age 23.
This weekend’s concert features performances by Selena’s nephew DJ Principe Q, Kali Uchis, Cuco, Helado Negro, IV Jay, Ambar Lucid, Jasper Bones and La Doña, who’s been called "the next Selena."
"When people see me playing Mexican music on stage, they say ‘Oh, my God, you’re the next Selena!’ I say, no, no, don’t even say that," says 26-year-old La Doñaperformer, Cecilia Peña-Govea. "Selena was doing a lot of different Latina genres and made it into the mainstream. She made it acceptable to be engaging with one’s Latina roots, Columbian roots."
The concert, though free, encourages donations to be made in support of Make the Road New York, a Brooklyn-based immigrant advocacy organization. Make the Road runs a series of programs benefiting New Yorkers in need and includes a legal team helping in the areas of employment, immigration law and housing.
"[O]ur community is all we have at this point. In the midst of all this turmoil, we deserve these moments of joy in safe spaces," Muñoz explains referencing the current administration. Muñoz grew up the only U.S. citizen in her family and feared for her parents’ deportation to Mexico following Trump’s 2017 travel ban.
"This night is for the community to come together and realize they are not alone in fighting the good fight," she adds.
The organizer says she was looking to include as many up-and-coming Latina artists as possible and reached out directly to Peña-Govea when forming this year’s Selena for Sanctuary. "I think she is one of the artists in this generation that carries Selena’s spirit," she explains.
Like Selena, Peña-Govea grew up in a family band and has recently gone solo. Muñoz says she’s "one of the most exciting artists coming up for me right now."
"This is just what I want to do," a modest Peña-Govea says. "It’s a beautiful cause, but it’s more important that everyone with this platform is coming out to show that we need to be using our talents to be helping our brothers and sisters who are impacted so heavily" by current policies.
Peña-Govea will be performing Selena’s "God’s Child" on Sunday, among other covers.
The Selena for Sanctuary concert hits SummerStage in Central Park from 8 to 10 p.m. For those who want to arrive early for a seat in the free bleacher area, doors open at 6:30 p.m. Like all SummerStage concerts, those who want VIP access and closer seating can purchase VIP tickets for $99.