CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Carlos Valdez was involved in one of the most captivating trials of the 1990's --prosecuting against Yolanda Saldivar for the death of Tejano superstar Selena.
Valdez serves as an inspiration to the Coastal Bend and is the embodiment of a leader in today's Hispanic Heritage Month feature.
Valdez is now a judge for Texas's 148th district judge, but that’s just one of his many achievements.
“I remember as far back as fourth grade that I wanted to be a lawyer,” Valdez said.
He grew up in an area known as the Molina neighborhood in Corpus Christi.
“Molina was probably the poorest part of Corpus Christi,” Valdez said. “We didn’t have indoor plumbing until I was in the sixth grade.”
He said people didn’t expect much from a kid from the barrio.
“The only thing you thought about is if you were successful, you would graduate from high school,” Valdez said. “Those were the successful people. College was out of the question.”
Seeing the disparity around him, he knew he wanted to give back to the community he loved.
“I saw people suffering because they didn’t know what the law was,” Valdez said. They didn’t know that help was available.”
So, he went from from Del Mar College, to Corpus Christi A&I and the University of Oklahoma’s law school.
“I’m the first one in my family to go to college,” Valdez said. “I’m a second-generation American. My mother was born here. My father was born in Mexico.”
Licensed in 1980, Valdez came back home in a move that is a full circle from his youth.
He brought justice for one of his own, Selena Quintanilla, who is also from the same neighborhood
“When people found out that I tried the Selena case, that’s all they want to talk about,” Valdez said. "They think that’s the only case I ever tried."
Back in 1995 Valdez was a prosecutor, successful in representing the state against Yolanda Saldivar. Valdez went on to prosecute several other high-profile cases throughout his career.
He rose through the ranks and became 148th district judge in 2018.
“The thing that is most rewarding is being able to resolve some of the serious problems in the community,” Valdez said,
He had this message for a new generation for Hispanics from the barrio.
“Just because you receive one no, doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” Valdez said. “Don’t ever stop trying.”