All About Abraham Quintanilla, Selena’s Father and Music Manager


If Selena Quintanilla’s legacy is the vehicle propelling Netflix’s Selena: The Series forward, then her father and music manager Abraham (played by Ricardo Chavira) sits decidedly in the driver’s seat. Over the course of the season’s nine episodes, Abraham is the force winding his three children—Suzette, A.B., and Selena—through the Tejano music industry.

The central role Abraham, now 81, has played in his daughter’s life and legacy makes him a divisive figure in some circles. Depending on who you ask, Abraham is at once an exacting musical maestro and passionate father who has a bit of a controlling streak. Chavira spoke to this dichotomy in an interview with Entertainment Tonight:

What I think sometimes people miss about him is, it was his dream to be a musician and then he passed it to his children because he wasn’t accomplishing his dream for whatever reason. He saw something in them. He drove the bus, he carried the bags, he was the roadie, he was managing money, managing schedules. That’s a complete act of selflessness to put his children in front of him. I’m sure there was selfishness to it too. But me looking at that as a parent, that’s the ultimate act of parenting, to be completely selfless and put your child before you.

These days, Abraham continues to oversee all things Selena—remaining involved in The Selena Foundation, helping to run his Latin music record company Q-Productions, and serving as executive producer on the Selena series. Ahead, a look at Abraham’s life and career, including the book he’s writing about his late daughter.

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Abraham inspired his children to become musicians.

As Chavira indicated, Abraham Quintanilla encouraged his children to embrace music in a way that he couldn’t. Prior to meeting his wife Marcella and starting a family, Abraham formed a band called Los Dinos. The group released several albums, including Los Dinos, Con Esta Copa, and The Dinos. But after his military deployment and marriage, Abraham got a job at Dow Chemical to support his family.

“I had gone from living the nightlife to living in a town where everybody was in bed by nine o’clock. I felt like a caged lion. All I wanted was to get back into music, but I had a family to support,” he told Texas Monthly. “It was a very stressful time in my life. I went to my job every day, and I was there physically, but my mind was not there. Even though the dream I’d had of making it had ended, it never left me. I tried to settle into life in Lake Jackson, but I thought about music all day long.”

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Abraham told the outlet that he would spend every night after work playing the guitar, which is how he discovered Selena’s vocal talent. “One day when she was about six years old, she started singing along with me,” he recalled. As is depicted in Selena: The Series, Selena y Los Dinos would record six albums, beginning with 1984’s Mis Primeras Grabaciones. Selena’s namesake solo record debuted in 1989, spawning several albums in the ’90s, a run that ended with 1995’s Dreaming of You. That record was released after her death and topped the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.

His restaurant, Papagayo’s, caused financial struggles for the family.

After Abraham found himself growing disillusioned with his job at Dow, a friend encouraged him to open a Mexican restaurant in Lake Jackson, Texas. “I built a small stage and a dance floor in the middle with tables around it. I would get up there and play with my kids, and people would come eat dinner and dance,” he told Texas Monthly.

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Then a recession hit in 1983, and keeping the business open was no longer feasible. “I couldn’t get a job anywhere, so I told Marcella that I was going back into the music business,” Abraham recalled to the outlet. “Music was the only thing I knew how to do. The band was the best thing we had going for us. We all agreed to try and make a go of it.”

Abraham fired Chris Pérez after discovering his romance with Selena.

As Selena y Los Dinos rose to prominence in the Tejano music world, the group welcomed guitarist Chris Pérez into the fold. He and Selena dated in secret, as she feared Abraham would fire Pérez if he found out about their relationship. “I didn’t realize what was going on until we were coming home one time from McAllen and I saw them hugging,” Abraham explained to Texas Monthly. “I stopped the bus in Harlingen at two or three o’clock in the morning and exploded. I fired Chris on the spot. I dropped him off in a Whataburger parking lot and said, ‘You find your way home.'”

That’s the final scene in season 1 of Selena: The Series, and one rooted in Abraham’s own fears about the inter-band romance. “I saw him as a threat,” he told the outlet. “What if they got married and he pulled her out of the band? All the work we did all those years would go down the tubes.” Alas, the pair did elope in 1992, prompting Abraham to embrace their marriage and welcome Pérez back into the band. “After that, I accepted him as part of the family. What else could I do?” Abraham recalled. “By then, I owned three houses on Bloomington Street. A.B. had the house on the left, Marcella and I lived in the middle house, and I let Selena and Chris live in the house on the right for free. Everybody had their own lives, but we were still a family.”

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He’s spoken about the impact of Selena’s death on his life.

Selena was tragically murdered by Yolanda Saldívar, the founder of her fan club, in March 1995. (Saldívar is serving a life sentence in Texas with a possibility for parole in 2025.) “I wasn’t running Selena’s business. I was so busy with the band that I didn’t realize what a problem Yolanda had become until it was too late,” Abraham told Texas Monthly of Saldívar’s involvement in Selena’s many clothing boutiques.

More than 20 years after her death, Abraham spoke about the depth of his grief for his daughter. “We’re programmed emotionally and spiritually to accept that the older folks go first, but when your child goes first, it’s a different kind of pain,” he told Entertainment Tonight. “In my mind, she’s still alive, because you get involved with all her things and doing things for her every day that sometimes I forget that she’s not here with us anymore. So in a sort of way, it’s hard to explain, in my mind, she’s alive.”

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Marcella and Abraham in 2005.

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He was a producer on both the 1997 Selena biopic and the 2020 Netflix series.

In the months after Selena’s tragic murder, Abraham reportedly sought out an attorney to create an “estate properties agreement” that would place him in charge of Selena’s “name, voice, signature, photograph, and likeness” in perpetuity. The agreement effectively limited any involvement Pérez, Selena’s widower, could have in her posthumous ventures, as reported by Billboard.

That granted Abraham the ability to serve as an executive producer on 1997’s Selena biopic, starring Jennifer Lopez. According to Entertainment Tonight, he retained “creative control over every aspect, from script to casting” of the movie. “I wanted the world to know about my kids, and my daughter,” he told the outlet.

When asked why he initially asked that the scene where Selena and Pérez elope be left out of the movie, Abraham said, “Selena has a lot of young girls as fans and I don’t want them to think that that’s the right thing to do.” But he admitted to being too hard on Chris at the beginning of his relationship with Selena. “I feel bad that I was over-strict, too strict, that I put her in that situation where [she felt she had to elope],” Abraham told ET.

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Abraham also serves as an executive producer on Selena: The Series, which has inspired a lawsuit from a producer on the 1997 Selena film. Moctesuma Esparza, who worked with the Quintanillas on the project 23 years ago, filed a $1 million lawsuit against Abraham, Suzette (another producer), and Netflix in November. In it, he claims ownership of Selena’s life rights for the screen, per E! News.

Abraham has some experience with litigation.

This isn’t Abraham’s first experience with lawsuits when it comes to telling Selena’s story. In 2016, the family filed a lawsuit ceasing production on a TV adaptation of Pérez’s To Selena, with Love book. According to legal documents, via Billboard, Pérez had “expressly agreed that he would not exploit any of the Entertainment Properties in any manner or medium, including, without limitation, by way of a book, television series, movie, or any other motion picture medium.”

In a later interview with The Houston Chronicle, Pérez said the lawsuit made it challenging to attend Selena’s 2017 Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony. “Technically, I was invited via email. But I didn’t feel very welcome, and her family didn’t make it easy,” he said. However, Pérez did attend, telling the outlet, “I don’t want people talking about her family. I might feel a certain way about it, but what would Selena want? I’m not the one wanting to fight.”

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Chris Pérez and the Quintanilla family at Selena’s 2017 Hollywood Walk of Fame star ceremony.

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He’s writing a new book about Selena’s life.

As the new Netflix series is released, Abraham is setting his sights on a new Selena-focused project. According to a February 27 Facebook post, he’s working on a book about his daughter with the Selena film co-producer Nancy De Los Santos. Abraham wrote, “Today I finally finished the last chapter of my book that I have been writing for the last few months.” He went on to say, “Since my daughter Selena died I been wanting to write a book. The public might not be aware that there are about 21 unauthorized books written about Selena and none of the writers ever interviewed Selena.”

Abraham called out the 1997 book, Selena’s Secret: The Revealing Story Behind Her Tragic Death, written by Telemundo journalist María Celeste Arrarás, as a title he had particular grievances with. “My family and I and Chris Pérez know exactly what happened, as l mentioned non[e] of the writers or even Maria Celeste ever interviewed Selena,” he concluded, adding that the book would be released “later this year.”

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