New Witte Museum exhibition features rarely seen photo of Selena

Al Rendon’s ‘Mi Cultura’ 50-year retrospective opens Saturday

SAN ANTONIO – In preparing for his 50-year retrospective “Mi Cultura” opening Saturday at the Witte Museum, photographer Al Rendon made a surprising discovery among hundreds of film rolls.

“The roll of film had three shots,” Rendon said of the late legendary Tejano queen Selena back when she was the opening act for comedian Paul Rodriguez in 1990.

One in particular “was really great,” he said.

The semi-sideview of Selena on stage seems to capture the energy and passion she would become known for as the “Queen of Tejano Music.”

Rendon said another photo a few years later shows “She’s become much more confident in her persona.”

The photographer said he was lucky to document what sadly was the short-lived career of a charismatic, yet humble and serious artist.

“It was a pleasure working with her,” Rendon said.

Selena’s photographs at the Witte are surrounded by other images of rock stars and some of the biggest names in Tejano and conjunto music.

Rendon said he’s heard a lot of good music over the last 50 years. So much so, he said, “I have hearing aids now. I didn’t have ear protection too much back in those early days.”

Yet, there is a lot more to Rendon’s retrospective on display, like the one of his beloved Tia Lupe standing next to her bed covered with a blanket showing La Virgen de Guadalupe.

“She’s very important to me because she was a second mother to me,” Rendon said.

So important, Rendon put her on the cover of his book of photographs from the retrospective.

The “Mi Cultura” exhibition is also a reflection of his parents.

Rendon said his mother was the unofficial family photographer.

“I would always go with her to drop off the film and pick up the pictures,” Rendon said. “I always had a curiosity about it.”

To enhance his photographs even more, their intricately carved wood frames were made by his father.

Not only was he an artist, Rendon said, “He was a very hard worker, very persistent. And I picked up that that same trait.”

It could be said the span of photographs in his retrospective are a testament to their influence.

“To me, it’s important to document what’s going on around you,” Rendon said.

Many of Rendon’s photographs have been acquired for collections, like an iconic photo of Selena in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian.

Even so, Rendon said his retrospective is a yet another milestone in his long career.

“I couldn’t think of a better place to have my exhibit than at the Witte Museum. Every picture has a story,” he said.

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.