The colorful scene melded two time-honored Texas traditions: political protest and the quinceañera.
With skirts flouncing, 15 young women ascended the steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin on Wednesday morning to a traditional Mexican birthday song played in a mariachi style.
But there was no birthday to celebrate. Instead, the girls had gathered to protest a controversial immigration enforcement law that goes into effect September 1.
“We are here to take a stand against Senate Bill 4, the most discriminatory and hateful law in recent history,” declared Magdalena Juarez, 17, wearing a bright red gown. “When Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law on May 7, he disrespected my community. He put a lot of Texas in danger. SB4 is not only an attack on immigrant communities; it threatens the lives of all people of color.”
As NPR’s Wade Goodwyn reported in June, SB4 “allows local Texas law enforcement officers to request proof of legal residency during any routine detention – for example, a traffic stop. Critics dubbed this the show-me-your-papers law. Further, sheriffs and police chiefs could be jailed if they forbid their officers from participating in any immigration enforcement activities.”
Jolt Texas, a new political action group that aims to organize Latinos in the state, co-organized the protest.
“Texas has become ground zero for the fight for the rights of immigrants and Latinos,” Jolt founder Cristina Tzintzun told NPR.
She said the quinceañera protest is part of a larger movement.
“This last election we saw Mexicans and Latinos demonized and criminalized and really scapegoated,” said Tzintzun. “And so we want legislators to know and Trump to know that we won’t sit idly by while legislation of hate is passed. That our communities are going to organize and mobilize.”
Thus: Quinceañera At The Capitol.
“In Latino culture, quinceañeras are an important tradition to bring families together, to unite communities, to unite culture,” said Juarez, the young speaker. “We will not meet this law on its hateful level. … We will resist through celebrating our families and our culture.”
But it wouldn’t be a quinceañera without a choreographed dance.
Arms pumping and looking fierce, the girls danced to a mashup of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)” and “Somos Mas Americanos” by Los Tigres del Norte.
And with their symbolic rite of passage complete, the girls filed into the capitol to talk to legislators.