A tribute to Selena Quintanilla coming to Wheeler Opera House

Kimberly Nicoletti
Special to The Aspen Times
Lead singer of Los Chicos del 512: The Selena Experience, Keila Martinez, changes costumes three times during a show.
Courtesy photo

Let’s face it: Most tribute bands don’t sell out venues, but Los Chicos del 512: The Selena Experience has been the exception.

It seems to be on fire with The Selena Experience, which has been packing venues across the nation — and the world, including its recent performance for the Chicago Bulls and the Marines in Okinawa, Japan.

“It’s a complete Selena experience,” said keyboardist Ricardo Madrid. “Our hashtag is: Get Your Cumbia On. It’s a party every time we play Selena.”

Los Chicos del 512’s first celebration began on the 20th anniversary of Selena Quintanilla’s death, as a group of musicians from Yuma County, Arizona, gathered to recreate her last concert.

“It was a simple idea,” Madrid said. “We’re Selena fans — we love Selena, and we listen to Tex-Mex and Spanish and Latin music. Younger kids never got to see Selena live, but most of them are familiar with Selena’s music (from) weddings or quinceaneras. We wanted to create one of her concerts and what it would have been like if she were still alive.”

In the seven years since that first concert, Los Chicos del 512 has modified its show, focusing on Selena’s most popular cumbias, mariachis, crossover songs, and disco medleys. The lead singer, Keila Martinez, imitates Selena’s dance moves and changes costumes three times throughout each performance.

Lead singer of Los Chicos del 512: The Selena Experience Keila Martinez.
Courtesy photo

Band members share extensive musical experience, and most of them also happen to work for the school district — from teaching to counseling to Madrid being a principal. Some, like Martinez, are first-generation college graduates, and all want to empower kids to reach their full potential. When they’re not encouraging kids academically, they’re out there revving up crowds to sing, dance, and relive the Selena experience.

“People can relate to the stories and music and the feelings she created. Her music is very lively. People relate to Tex-Mex music. They get all kinds of happy memories, and some even start crying when we play some of those slow songs,” Madrid said. “Selena had a great personality — she was always smiling and down to earth. She belongs to the people. She was the queen of Tex-Mex — at that time, there were very few women (performers), so she stood out. Selena broke every record.”

The band doesn’t take much credit for its fans or for selling out venues. Rather, they’re grateful for the original queen of Tejano music.

“We thank Selena for letting us borrow her songs because it’s not our fans,” Madrid said. “Everything we do, we do with respect toward her and her family.”

Los Chicos del 512: The Selena Experience
Courtesy photo
If you go…

What: Los Chicos del 512: The Selena Experience

When: 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Wheeler Opera House

Tickets: $15-$25

More info:

En Espanol: ¡The Selena Experience es lo más cerca que puede llegar a un concierto en vivo de Selena! Durante siete años, los miembros de Los Chicos del 512 han vivido y tocado la notable música de la Reina de la Música Tejana Selena Quintanilla. Estos músicos se han unido y orquestado un espectáculo extraordinario que le llevará a 1995 dentro de unos cuantos segundos de su primera canción. Simplemente la mejor banda en tributo a Selena que hay – ¡prepárese para cantar, bailar y revivir a Selena!