Fifteen teenage activists took to the Capitol Wednesday for a quinceañera-themed protest of Senate Bill 4, the so-called sanctuary cities ban.
Donning brightly colored dresses, tiaras and bilingual sashes with messages like “equality” and “sin racismo,” the young Latinas performed choreographed dances to songs like “Las Mañanitas” by Vicente Fernández on the South Steps of the Capitol while supporters, media and lawmakers watched and applauded. In between songs, the teenage demonstrators took turns speaking against SB 4, which they labeled discriminatory and dangerous.
Jennifer Ramirez, 16, evoked the Statue of Liberty as she hoisted a bouquet into the air while uttering the words immortalized at Lady Liberty’s feet: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
The one-of-a-kind protest was organized by Jolt, a new nonprofit aimed at leveraging the growing Latino population in Texas to turn the state blue. The group was founded in November after the presidential election.
Tania Mejia, the communications director for Jolt, told the Observer that the dresses were owned by each of the individual dancers from their own quinces.
“There are almost 11 million of us here in Texas,” Mejia said. “One in three voters in Texas is Latino, so when we come together as one people we will be able to defeat not only SB 4 but all attacks on our community.”
Reminiscent of the 3 a.m. mariachi protest that serenaded the governor’s mansion in May, the “Quinceañera at the Capitol” used a cornerstone of Latino culture to drive home its point. Both demonstrations sent the same message: The communities that have always been a part of the fabric of Texas are no longer welcome in the state by Republican lawmakers.
Opponents of SB 4, one of the most divisive laws to pass the Legislature in years, have promised a “summer of resistance” to show their disdain. The law is set to take effect September 1, and its constitutionality is currently being challenged in federal court.