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For Selena Fans, a Piñata That Can (and Should) Take a Beating

There are a few essentials for any child’s birthday party: a theme, a cake, some balloons, a piñata created in the image of a convicted killer.

At least that was the checklist for Alana Elizondo of Eagle Pass, Texas, when her daughter Raelynn requested a Selena Quintanilla theme for her eighth-birthday party. Ms. Elizondo and Raelynn had bonded over their shared love of the singer, a Tejano music superstar who died at age 23 in 1995. Rather than whacking at a piñata in the likeness of their idol, Ms. Elizondo thought, why not take a swing at her killer, Yolanda Saldívar?

With the help of friend, she was able to find someone who made Yolanda piñatas just across the border, in the neighboring Mexican state of Coahuila. In a recent interview, Ms. Elizondo recalled the day they hung it up at family pizzeria, with many of the patrons yelling out, “Hit her!”

At one time, Ms. Saldívar, who was found guilty of first-degree murder after fatally shooting the singer in a Texas motel room, had a reasonable claim to the title of most despised woman on earth. The founder and former president of the Selena fan club, Ms. Saldívar was broadly reviled for cutting down the beloved singer in her prime. (Ms. Quintanilla had won her first Grammy Award, for best Mexican American album, just one year earlier.)

“In our Mexican culture, our community, we dislike Yolanda so much,” Ms. Elizondo, 35, said. “She took away someone that had huge dreams and goals for herself. She took away a beautiful life.”

Given that in the almost 30 years since Selena’s death, Ms. Saldívar has evolved into something akin to a folk villain in the eyes of many Latinos, it might not come as a surprise that there’s been a healthy market for piñatas made in her likeness for years.

But with Ms. Saldívar up for parole next year and “Selena and Yolanda: The Secrets Between Them,” a two-part Oxygen True Crime documentary series, set to debut on Saturday, orders for Yolanda piñatas might just start to come in at a brisker pace.

For her first celebrity-inspired piñatas, Cristal Zuniga, the owner of Wild Corazón Designs, an online boutique in Houston, founder her muses in Bad Bunny, the “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic and Barbie. But after seeing videos on social media showing little girls batting at Yolanda Saldívar piñatas, she knew who her next “celebrity” would be.

“Nobody wants to hit a Selena piñata,” Ms. Zuniga said. “Everybody’s like, ‘No, I don’t want to do that, my daughter doesn’t want to do that.’ So that’s when they started switching it over to Yolanda.”

Ms. Zuniga was commissioned to make her first Yolanda piñata a few years ago, by a client who had scouted her online shop.

She opted to base her design on a photo of Ms. Saldívar taken during a 1995 court appearance. She started with a quick sketch before building the base of the piñata from recycled cardboard boxes. The entire process took about 12 hours, she said, with the tissue-paper hair taking about a third of that time.

Ms. Zuniga said that she had received orders for her handcrafted Yolanda Saldívar piñatas, which she sells online for $75.99, from well beyond Texas, with some being shipped to Florida, North Carolina and Colorado. She said she anticipated that there would be even greater demand after this weekend.

“With the documentary that’s coming out,” Ms. Zuniga said, “she’s becoming very very popular.”

Georgina Rios of the Los Angeles neighborhood of Wilmington has also been selling Yolanda piñatas on Instagram.

“I had been wanting to make a piñata of Yolanda for a while,” Ms. Rios, 38, said in Spanish, “and luckily a client had reached out to me to make one for their daughter’s 21st birthday. It was a Selena theme, and who better to break than Yolanda?”

It took Ms. Rios around four hours to make the piñata using cardboard, tissue paper and other materials bought from Mexico as well as Los Angeles’s piñata district. Ms. Rios is currently selling her Yolanda piñata for $55, but she said that her prices could vary, sometimes going as high as $150 depending on size and customizations.

Despite the durable interest in Yolanda piñatas and curiosity about the new Oxygen series, some Selena fans are apprehensive about possibly glorifying Ms. Saldívar and undermining Selena’s legacy.

When asked if she and her daughter planned to watch the new documentary series, Ms. Elizondo said she didn’t think so. She would much rather preserve Selena’s memory through her music.

“I think Selena’s still so big today because we continue her legacy and hear her music, and we introduce Selena to our children and the children of the future,” she said.

Still, there’s joy to be wrung — or perhaps beaten — out of Ms. Saldívar’s infamy. In a TikTok video Ms. Elizondo posted of Raelynn’s Selena-themed birthday party, the birthday girl appears to be having a ball taking repeated swings at her Yolanda piñata.

“It felt amazing, like I was getting revenge on her,” Raelynn, who is now 11 years old, said in a recent interview. “I love Selena and was having so much fun at the party that in the moment I was just going at her.”

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