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Iconic Tejano star’s legacy lives on 23 years after her death

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In 1996, Warner Brothers conducted the largest movie open casting call since “Gone With the Wind” for the movie version of Selena’s life, the 1997 film that made Jennifer Lopez a star. Less than two years after Selena’s passing, The New York Times was already comparing her status to that of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

According to a Hollywood Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman, the 2017 ceremony honoring Selena with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame drew the largest crowd ever for such an event.

Through the last two decades, there have been Selena tribute concerts, stage musicals, and innumerable books, documentaries and even scholarship.

The relatable girl next door

“There is great appeal in the fact that she was not only Latina, but discernibly so,” said José Limón, professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame. “Selena pushed the boundaries of gender with her provocative outfits, yet she managed to do so while staying well within the bounds of respectability.”

Beyond her music, she presented an attractive image of a successful Hispanic woman. Her emergence as a national figure, Limón believes, provided a kind of symbolic leadership for Latinos at a time of changing demographics and anti-immigrant sentiment.

“I think she still represents the possibility of being a complete American, of having success, fame, being in the public realm — all while still being ‘Mexican enough’ and not losing touch with her family or her roots,” Limón said. “This is the sort of contradiction that all Latinos live with, and she embodied it and navigated both worlds successfully.”

 Gold records line the walls of the Selena Museum, operated by the Quintanilla family in Corpus Christi. Raul A. Reyes

Quintanilla was born in Lake Jackson, Texas, in 1971. After growing up performing with her family, her popularity soared in the Latin music market as she blended a variety of Latin music genres, like conjunto andcumbia with pop. She married her first and only boyfriend, Chris Perez, in 1992. Then, just as she was about to release her first album in English, she was shot and killed by the president of her fan club in 1995. She was only 23 years old.

Like many Mexican-Americans, she grew up speaking English and had to study Spanish as her Latin music career took off. She had the ability to place a “sob” or “teardrop” in her vocals for maximum emotional impact. She had a keen interest in fashion and had opened two boutiques at the time of her death.

 The Selena memorial in Corpus Christi, Texas, draws visitors from all over the world. Raul A. Reyes

“I would describe Selena as a loving, caring person who was a good role model for people to look up to,” Christina Allen, visiting the museum from Houston, said. Her eldest daughter, named Selena in honor of the singer, nodded shyly.

“I’d say she was probably the greatest Hispanic artist ever to walk this earth,” said another museum visitor, Alexander Roman Romano.

Beside him, Maria Pineda declared that she was “almost too overwhelmed” by their visit. “It was emotional, seeing those costumes. Selena was my idol, even when I was little,” she said. “I grew up listening to her. To this day, when I watch videos of her, I can almost believe she is here.”

From Beyoncé to Kardashians, her enduring influence

Celebrities from Beyoncé to Drake to the Kardashians have cited her as a style influence, and she has been referenced on everything from NBC’s Superstore to RuPaul’s Drag Race.

This year, social media lit up when a brief clip from the Selena movie was shown as part of a montage at the Oscars. A new children’s book about Selena has soared to the top of the best-seller charts, while a $2 reusable grocery bag honoring her crashed the website of the Texas supermarket chain H-E-B, then sold out within hours.

 Selena Quintanilla performs for the crowd during a dance following the Feria de las Flores queen’s contest at Memorial Coliseum Aug. 12, 1989, in Corpus Christi, Texas. ASSOCIATED PRESS

In the coming weeks leading up to Selena’s birthday on April 16, there will be commemorations across the country, especially in Texas. The annual Fiesta de la Flor, a two-day musical celebration of Selena’s legacy, is scheduled to take place on April 13 and 14 in Corpus Christi. The 2017 event drew 55,000 visitors and pumped $15 million into the local economy.

It’s this ongoing memorialization of Selena that prompted Columbia University professor Deborah Paredez to write her 2009 book, “Selenidad: Selena, Latinos, and the Performance of Memory.”

“Everyone seems to have a stake in remembering her, whether it was young girls who were Latina and from other communities who were dressing like her and singing her songs, or whether it was corporate sponsors who were tapping into Latino-based marketing,” she said.

Paredez calls it “Selenidad.”

“She meant a lot to different people and constituencies,” she said. “People en Español launched as a result of the success of the sales from the magazine announcing her passing; gay Latino and trans communities still honor and remember her.”

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Now, Selena is a generational touchstone. “She has now become something that, especially in Mexican-American families, people like to share with their children, nephews or nieces, like teaching them about Tejano music while listening to Selena, or girls learning how to put on makeup while listening to Selena. She has become something that is part of our cultural inheritance, and is passed down,” said Paredez.

Mario Gomez is a volunteer at the Mirador de la Flor Memorial in Corpus Christi. “I’ve been doing this for the last 13 years, and I feel like I’ve met a family from every country in the world,” he said.

Gazing about at the throngs at the Selena Museum, Christina Allen, the mother from Houston, said, “We just keep her memory going. That’s what we do. We just keep her in our hearts.”

Raul A. Reyes is an NBC Latino contributor. Follow him on Twitter at @RaulAReyes, and on Instagram at @raulareyes1

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COVID-19: Millions of Indians travel to celebrate Maha Kumbh Mela despite rising coronavirus rates | World News

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They have gathered in their millions in the temple town of Haridwar, in Uttarakhand.

Hindu pilgrims have come to celebrate Maha Kumbh Mela, a religious festival that happens once every 12 years.

And today is a very auspicious day in the religious calendar to take a dip in India‘s River Ganges.

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Millions will gather this month to celebrate a Hindu festival, despite experts warning against it
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Coronavirus rates have increased in India the last few months, with the country in the midst of a second wave

All this amid a raging pandemic.

The festival has been been flagged as a super spreader as more than 50 million people are expected to attend this month-long event.

The country registered almost 170,000 new cases in the last 24 hours, the highest number of COVID-19 cases anywhere in the world.

With more than 13.5 million cases, India is second only to the United States.

In the same period, 839 people died, taking the total number of COVID-19 related deaths to 170,209.

Millions will gather this month to celebrate a Hindu festival, despite experts warning against it
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Millions will gather this month to celebrate the Hindu festival, despite experts warning against it

Sarasswati Dattani, 56, has travelled over 400 miles (644km) from Rajasthan with her husband.

She tells Sky News: “Our children had tried to stop us because of coronavirus.

“I am not afraid, Mother Ganga is with us all the time.

“People are getting the virus sitting at home. We have to die once, it’s all in God’s hands.”

Raghav, 25, from Jalandhar in Punjab, says “coronavirus could not stop me from my belief in God, our faith is far stronger than anything at the moment.

“I have also come to pray that this pandemic gets over soon.”

The devotees come from every part of the country and a majority are from smaller towns and villages.

The fear among health activists is that rural India will be exposed to the virus.

Speaking to Sky News, Dr Atulya Mishra, who is the medical officer in charge of a section of the banks, said: “People are very irresponsible, they do not follow any of the COVID-19 behaviour protocols.

Millions will gather this month to celebrate a Hindu festival, despite experts warning against it
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Health experts have urged people not to travel but people are not following guidance

“We provide them with face masks but people don’t wear them.

“We put our lives on the line while the public takes the virus very lightly. It is very frustrating for us health workers.”

The administration has enforced COVID-19 protocols – pilgrims must wear face masks and are only allowed to attend with a negative PCR test result.

Millions will gather this month to celebrate a Hindu festival, despite experts warning against it
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People will take a dip in the River Ganges during the month-long festival

But in reality, social distancing is almost impossible to enforce.

India is in the midst of a second wave.

The low number of cases in the winter months had lulled people into believing it’s over.

Opening up society, a low fatality rate and vaccinations have led to Indians letting their guard down.

The festival will also mean people take a dip in the River Ganges
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The festival is seen as a super spreader event

For many weeks the country has been immersed in state elections.

The prime minister, his cabinet and leaders of all political parties are campaigning at rallies with thousands in attendance.

Roadshows expose every nook and corner.

Experts have also said the new variants of the virus are far more infectious but less lethal.

Genome sequencing of all cases in Punjab show around 80% of them are due to the UK variant.

While millions will make their way to the Maha Kumbh over the next few weeks, the rising number of cases are sure of grave concern for the government.

India began its vaccination programme on 16 January but less than 1% of the population have been fully vaccinated.

Though the process had a slow start it has picked up pace over the last few weeks.

India may have one of the lowest fatality rates in the world, but it can ill afford a severe burden on its already inadequate and creaking public health care system.

For decades successive governments have spent just over 1.2% of the GDP on healthcare.

Over 70% of its citizens rely on expensive private health care and one illness can push a family into poverty.

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China deploys jets and bombers into Taiwanese airspace in ‘biggest incursion to date’ | World News

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Twenty-five Chinese military aircraft have entered Taiwanese airspace in the largest reported incursion to date, according to officials.

Taiwan‘s government has complained in recent months after repeated missions by China‘s air force near the island.

The incursions have been concentrated in the southwestern part of Taiwan’s air defence zone.

Pic AP
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Chinese vessels and aircrafts have conducted drills near Taiwan for several years, but in the last 12 months the actions have stepped up. Pic AP

The latest mission on Monday involved 14 J-16 and four J-10 fighter jets – and four H-6K bombers, which can carry nuclear weapons.

Two anti-submarine aircraft and an early warning aircraft also took part, Taiwan’s defence minister said.

It is believed to be the largest incursion by the Chinese air force into Taiwanese airspace, and officials said combat aircraft were dispatched to intercept and warn the intruders away.

Missile systems were also deployed to monitor the Chinese vessels as the aircraft flew in an area close to Thailand’s Pratas Islands, according to the defence ministry.

It came just three days after the US issued new guidelines that will deepen its ties with Taiwan.

The latest guidelines from the US State Department will mean American officials can meet more freely with their Taiwanese counterparts.

America, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but it has watched on as tensions between Beijing and the island nation have stepped up in recent years.

Pic Reuters
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Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu has vowed the island nation will ‘fight to the very last day’ if China attacks

Washington’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last Friday that the US is concerned about China’s aggressive actions against Taiwan – and warned it would be a “serious mistake” for anyone to try to change the status quo in the Western Pacific by force.

Mr Blinken’s statement came after Taiwan scrambled an aircraft to broadcast a warning message after 12 Chinese jets flew over its airspace on 7 April.

The tense start to 2021 comes after a report released by a government-backed think tank found that China made a record 380 incursions into Taiwan’s defence zone last year.

China describes Taiwan as its most sensitive territorial issue and a red line the US should not cross.

Beijing sees the island as a breakaway province that will one day become part of the country again. It has never renounced the possible use of force to bring about eventual unification.

However, Taiwanese people see themselves an independent state and the dispute with their giant neighbour has left relations frayed with the constant threat of violence.

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January 2021: Taiwan military simulates China attack

China has in the past described its missions as being to protect the country’s sovereignty and deal with “collusion” between Taipei and Washington.

Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu has previously said the country will fight “to the very last day” if China attacks.

More widely, China continues to exercise its muscle in the South China Sea.

Over the weekend, military activity near the Philippines spiked as a Chinese aircraft carrier entered the region, and the US military is preparing joint drills with the Philippine military nearby.

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Off-duty Italian police officers find stolen Roman statue in Belgium – a decade after it vanished | World News

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A first-century Roman statue has been recovered by two off-duty Italian police officers almost a decade after it was stolen.

The statue was stolen from the Villa Marini Dettina, an archaeological site on the outskirts of Rome, in November 2011 and has now been found in an antique shop in Belgium.

It was discovered by the off-duty officers from the Italian police’s archaeological unit.

The Togatus statue, featuring a headless Roman wearing a draped toga, is valued at €100,000 (£86,000).

The statue is believed to be worth 100,000 (£860,000) and was stolen from an archaeological site near Rome. Pic: AP
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The statue is believed to be worth 100,000 (£860,000) and was stolen from an archaeological site near Rome. Pic: AP

The two officers were on assignment in Brussels when they took a walk after work in the Sablon neighbourhood, known for its antique shops.

They spotted a statue that they suspected was from Italy and confirmed their suspicions when they cross-referenced it with their stolen antique database.

An Italian businessman, who used a Spanish alias, has been referred to prosecutors for further investigation. He is alleged to have received and exported the statue abroad, police said.

Italian authorities have been attempting to recover stolen antiques for years.

In 2019, a dozen pieces of artwork were returned to Italy by private auction house Christie’s. The items featured a marble fragment from the sarcophagus in Rome’s catacombs of St Callixtus, a piece worth £50,000.

In June 2020, officials found a stolen Banksy mural in Italy that was taken from the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

The image was created in memory of the victims of the 2015 terrorist attack in the French capital. It was cut out and removed from the concert hall in 2019.

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