Fresno celebrates 20 years of ‘Selena’

Moctesuma Esparza speaks during a reception held at Campus Pointe next door to Maya Cinemas on Oct. 25, 2017. Esparza is the producer of the film ‘Selena.’ (Alejandro Soto/The Collegian)

Students and faculty honored award-winning producer Moctesuma Esparza last Wednesday at Campus Pointe during the 20th anniversary of his film “Selena.”

The event was not only a celebration of Esparza and “Selena,” but a fundraiser for Fresno State students who have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that provides a two-year deportation deferment and the opportunity to apply for a work permit, mostly for youth who came to the United States as children.   

Yvette Angeles, donor relations and events coordinator for the Office of Advancement Services at Fresno State, said Esparza is very passionate about DACA students, “Dreamers” and the Central San Joaquin Valley, so he wanted to do something for the community.

“We had this idea of celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ‘Selena’ film and bringing him to campus and having some interaction with some students, some faculty and some staff, and, of course, our cabinet members at the vice president level,” Angeles said. “And then we thought, let’s make this a fundraiser to support DACA students.”

She added that the event would also be used as an education piece for DACA to let community members know the many benefits of the program, as there can be confusion about what it exactly is.   

The event started early in the morning with a breakfast between Associated Students, Inc. members and a few undocumented students, known commonly as Dreamers. Then a discussion and Q&A session with Esparza was held in North Gym Room 118.

The discussion and Q&A was moderated by women’s studies professor Dr. Larissa Mercado-Lopez. Esparza talked about his life; how he figured out that he wanted to be a producer; the presence of Latinos in Hollywood; and how he came to work on “Selena.”

The day wrapped up with “Selena Night” at The Square at Campus Pointe and a private reception for paid participants of the 20th anniversary event.

“Selena Night” kicked off with Fresno State’s Aztec Dance Club, which was there to bless the event. Following the Aztec dancers was a performance by the Fresno State Mariachi Band.

Watching the performance together were English major Jacqueline Villegas and liberal studies major Erika Wollenman.

“We saw that ‘Selena’ was going to be playing, and I wanted to see all the [activities going on] out here too,” Wollenman said.

Other activities included a DJ, a meet and greet with boxer Jose Ramirez, a Selena cover band, and a Selena look-a-like contest.

The private reception for attendees began at 5:30 p.m. With the purchase of a $60 reservation, participants got access to the private reception that Esparza attended, admission to a screening of “Selena,” and movie treats.

Dressed like Selena in a black, rhinestone-covered bustier, a black, Baker Boy rhinestone-covered hat and black high-waisted pants was Rosalina Nunez of Fresno. She attended with her friend.

“I loved Selena growing up,” she said. “I was in high school, and I had all of her CDs, I knew all of her songs. I loved the way she danced. She was just so beautiful, and it was just [amazing seeing] this Latina coming to stardom.”

Nunez won the Selena look-a-like contest later that night.

Also attending the reception were Esparza, Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro, his wife Mary Castro, various sponsors and local government officials who were there to honor Esparza.

Esparza received certificates of recognition from Mexican consul David Preciado Juarez, and from Sandra Garcia, a representative of congressman Jim Costa.

Esparza also received a proclamation presented by city councilmen Luis Chavez and Paul Caprioglio, proclaiming Oct. 25 as Moctesuma Esparza Day in the city of Fresno.

Castro thanked audience members for supporting Fresno State students, especially the “Dreamers.” He then spoke about Esparza’s contributions to the community and “Selena.”

“It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since [‘Selena’] came out, that does make me feel a little old,” Castro said. “But I think the film still resonates in so many ways, and that’s a testament to the phenomenal work of [Esparza] and his ability to draw moviegoers into the heart of [his] films.”

Castro introduced Fresno State music student graduate Alejandra Tejeda, who performed a cover of “Por Un Amor” for Esparza.

Esparza, who owns Maya Cinemas, thanked everyone in attendance before giving a brief speech in which he talked about fulfilling one of his dreams of bringing quality movie theaters to communities.

“We [Maya Cinemas] are here so that you can enjoy yourselves, so that you can have a couple of hours and be a part of a dream — the dreams that movies create,” he said. “The dreams that transport you, that allow you to think beyond who you are today.”

He said what brought him joy as a child was when he would go with his father to see movies, and he would be “transported to another world.” He said his father would tell him that all those worlds were available, all he needed to do was get an education.

“And with that education, and my commitment, and my work, I am standing here,” Esparza said.

The evening concluded with a special screening of “Selena” at Maya Cinemas.

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