Selena, other Latin stars honored with new commemorative stamps

Sixteen years this month after Selena’s death, her legacy lives on as one of five Latin music legends the U.S. Postal Service is featuring in commemorative stamps unveiled today.

“We’re very excited Selena is being bestowed with this honor,” said her sister, Suzette Quintanilla-Arriaga. “It shows the mark she left in this world.”

The postal service selected other Latin performers who also had a lasting impact on American music, including Carlos Gardel, Carmen Miranda, Tito Puente and Celia Cruz.

The Latin Music Legends Forever collector stamps go on sale nationwide, and 60 million have been printed to supply anticipated demand, said Sam Bolen, spokesman for the Rio Grande district. Commemorative stamp print runs normally are about 40 million, he said.

San Diego, Calif., artist Rafael Lopez, 49, who was charged with creating semi-realistic portraits that showed each performer’s personality with brilliant colors, was raised in Mexico City and was influenced by Mexican surrealism, according to his biography.

His first project for the postal service was the 2005 Merengue stamp design, music and dance from the Dominican Republic. In 2007, his art was featured on a stamp that highlighted the fight against segregation of Mexican students in Orange County, Calif. His art also has been in children’s books, and he was commissioned by Oprah Winfrey for three paintings at her girls school in Africa.

It was 21 months from the first phone call regarding the artwork for the Latin Music Legends stamps to delivering the final painting, Lopez said.

After seeing video of Selena performing, her studio photos didn’t show her spirit, he said.

“She had something incredibly special, a stage presence unlike others,” he said. “Her sister, Suzette, saved me by sharing her favorite photo of Selena, taken during a live concert in Houston.”

He worked to create a relationship between Selena’s hair and the background swirls to pay tribute to her sensual costumes and dance moves, Lopez wrote in his blog.

Preparing for the five portraits was a meticulous process, he said. He began with pencil drawings, then acrylic paints on artist board for the committee to check color contrast and to see details. His process combines elements from varied images, he said, “Sometimes hair from one photo, a dress from another.”

“My goal was that when you see the stamp, you hear the music,” said art director Ethel Kessler, of Bethesda, Md.

The original paintings on treated and sanded wood measure about 12-by-18-inches each and belong to the postal service. They eventually will be displayed in the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.

Lopez said Selena’s sister was proud of the final product.

“I felt if the family was happy, I would be fine with Selena’s fans,” he said. “She was beautiful to paint.”

Latin Music Legends Forever

Who: U.S. Postal Service

What: Commemorative stamps

When: Released today nationwide

Where: All post offices

Value: “Forever,” means the stamps always will be the current first-class mail rate for a standard one-ounce letter, not that they always will be available

Order stamps: or call 1-800-STAMP-24

Order the First-Day-of-Issue Postmark (Austin, Texas — March 16, 2011):

You have 60 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail. Affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes (to yourself or others), and place them in larger envelopes addressed to:

Latin Music Legends Forever stamps, 8225 Cross Park Drive, Austin, Texas 78710-9992

The Postal Service will return the envelopes at no charge for the postmark. All orders must be postmarked by May 16.

Order First-Day Covers

The Postal Service offers first-day covers for new stamps and Postal Service stationery items postmarked with the official first-day-of-issue cancellation. Each item has an individual catalog number and is offered in the quarterly USA Philatelic catalog. Request a free catalog at 1-800-STAMP-24 or write to:

Information Fulfillment, Dept. 6270, U.S. Postal Service, P.O. Box 219014, Kansas City, Mo. 64121-9014

Philatelic Products

Five philatelic products available for this stamp issue:

467163, First-Day Cover, set of five, $4.10

467168, Digital Color Postmark, set of five, $7.50

467174, Latin Music Legends Commemorative Print Set, $15.95

467191, Ceremony Program, $6.95

467199, Keepsake 5 Digital Color Postmarks with pane, $16.95

Learn more about the Postal Service’s Stamp Program, visit

Source: United States Postal Service

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