Culture

Some Texas Teens Are About To Get Very Political At Their Quinces and Here’s Why

There is nothing more quintessential and omnipresent in Latino culture quite like quinceañeras. These traditional celebrations are typically marked by a mass followed by food and drink, music, and choreographed dances – and soon, in Texas, voter registration.

No matter where you live, what your family is like, or who your friends are, quinceañeras are opportunities for everyone to come to together and celebrate. So, one organization is using the celebration as a way to get Latinos registered to vote.

Texas non-profit Jolt Initiative is looking to take advantage of quinces to increase civic participation of Latinos across Texas.

They’ve made it their mission to reach as many Latinos as possible and get them registered to vote. Obviously, this means that would take a look at quinceañeras because of how important they are to the community.

Jolt estimates that nearly 50,000 quinceañeras take place across Texas each year.

We all know how many people show up to quinceañeras, so this campaign has the potential to reach tens of thousands of Latinos. In addition to getting Latinos registered to vote, Jolt will also inform them about potential candidates and policies that are affecting the community.

“For us, this is about community, not just politics,” Cristina Tzintzún Ramírez , founder and executive director of Jolt, told NBC News. “We want to defend and honor the community and what better way than to lift up the power of our vote in the community, particularly with half of all those turning 18 in our state (being) Latino?”

People are all about this new initiative to register voters.

Credit: @VillescazAngela / Twitter

The campaign by Jolt is called Poder Quince and they’re looking to partner with hundreds of young Latina women so that their quinceañeras can be fun and impactful.

Historically, the Latino community has been underrepresented and even victim of voter suppression campaigns. We witnessed this last year in Kansas when officials moved the only polling station outside of the city of Dodge. The move made it almost impossible for the largely-Latino city to cast their votes.

However, since the quince is supposed to be all about the birthday girl, what does a civic-minded quinceañera look like exactly?

“Poder Quince participants will receive a free photo booth at their event, free Snapchat filters geotagged to their venue and – for one lucky winner – a celebrity guest appearance,” and of course, voter registration cards, reads a statement about the initiative.

The group is fighting for the dignity and respect the Latino community deserves.

In a press release, Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, Jolt’s founder and executive director, said: “When we use the power of Latino culture, we can shape the narrative, reach millions of Latinos and build long-term voting power to win our community the dignity and respect we deserve.”

The Jolt Initiative goes on to say, “In Texas, where Latinos make up 40% of the state’s population and by 2030 will be the majority, quinceañeras are not an underground cultural tradition, they are part of the mainstream that touches the lives of millions of Texans.”

The slogan for the initiative: Brown, beautiful, and unstoppable.

Jolt Initiative has ambitious goals to register 5,000 new voters. The group is betting that it will have better luck by linking voting to the quinceañera tradition, one part cultural institution, one part rite of passage, and one big fiesta.

It’s one place where those trying to enlist new voters can find all the generations, from children to grandparents. The parties are a particularly good spot to find young voters, who have traditionally lagged their elders in terms of turnout.

According to the group, they plan to attend 15 quinceañeras per week across Texas (including the cities of Austin, Dallas, and Houston) and have set a target to register 5,000 new voters in the first eight months of their campaign.

All of this has people wondering when the group will come to their state.

Credit: @Carmen50 / Twitter

Quinceañeras are a beautiful tradition and it’s so exciting for them to be used as a platform to help the community. Most young Latinas have a quince party and even more Latinos have attended a friend’s quinces. Seems like a good place to start registering young Latino voters.

READ: 20 Quinceañera Themes To Copy And Paste

Bolivia’s Ousted President Won’t Run Again As Indigenous People March In Guatemala In Solidarity With Him

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Bolivia’s Ousted President Won’t Run Again As Indigenous People March In Guatemala In Solidarity With Him

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South America’s poorest country, Bolivia, is in the midst of a political crisis, and Guatemala’s indigenous people are marching in solidarity with ousted Bolivian President Evo Morales. After the Guatemalan government joined the United States in recognizing extreme right self-appointed Jeanine Anez as the interim president of Bolivia, Guatemala’s indigenous people expressed their outrage in an organized protest. Hundreds of indigenous people marched in Guatemala’s capital Thursday to protest the change of government, which they view as a coup d’etat of Bolivia’s first indigenous president. With a “Brother Evo, Guatemala is with you” banner in hand, the protesters marched toward a heavily guarded US embassy. The next day, Morales announced that he won’t be “taking part in new elections.”

Before Morales rose to the presidency, he was a campesino activist, representing indigenous traditions and customs under attack by the US government. “We are repudiating the discriminatory and racist coup d’etat that took place in Bolivia,” said Mauro Vay, march organizer and head of Guatemala’s Rural Development Committee. 

Protesters proudly waved the wiphala flags, an indigenous symbol of solidarity.

CREDIT: @UKREDREVOLUTION / TWITTER

This man held an image that told the story of a thousand words. As a child, Evo Morales’ family were subsistence farmers, which allowed him to enjoy a basic education. He later moved to grow coca, the raw plant used to make cocaine. During the U.S.’ “War on Drugs,” coca farmers were under attack. Morales rose to defend the campesinos from what he called an imperialist violation of indigenous culture. His protests may have led to several arrests, but his notoriety grew to elect him to Congress as the leader of the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party. 

In Paraguay, Bolivian ex-patriates went up against the police to rehang the wiphala flag at the Bolivian embassy.

CREDIT: @WILL_J_COSTA / TWITTER

Several indigenous residents of Paraguay arrived at the Bolivian embassy to hang the Wiphala flag, which was reportedly taken down. They faced police resistance but eventually succeeded. The next day, the flag was removed. 

In 2005, Morales ran against former President Carlos Mesa and won, becoming the first indigenous president of Bolivia. 

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Then, it gets murky. By the time his first term was over, MAS rewrote their constitution to lift the one-term limit on presidents. Morales ran for a second term and won. Even though he claimed he wouldn’t run for a third term, Morales claimed the first term didn’t count because it was completed under the old constitution.  So he ran again and won for the third time. In October 2019, Morales ran for his fourth term, and won by a small margin, prompting a recount.

Just 24 hours into the recount, Morales ordered the recount to an end and declared himself president over his opponent, former president Mesa. the Organization of American States (OAS) conducted an audit that flagged the election as possibly fraudulent.

The OAS is not in the service of the people of Latin America, less so the social movements. The OAS is at the service of the North American empire,” Morales later said. Still, protests erupted across the country.

In a quickly developing government coup, military chiefs removed Morales.

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On Nov. 10, General Williams Kaliman, the commander of Bolivia’s armed forces, decided, along with other military chiefs, that Morales should step down. Morales tweeted, “I denounce to the world and the Bolivian people that a police officer publicly announced that he is instructed to execute an illegal arrest warrant against me; likewise, violent groups assaulted my home. A coup destroys the rule of law.” He added, “After looting and trying to set fire to my house in Villa Victoria, vandalism groups of the Mesa and Camacho coup docked my home in the Magisterio neighborhood of Cochabamba. I am very grateful to my neighbors, who stopped those raids. A coup destroys peace.”

Mexico offered him asylum and sent a plane to escort Morales to Mexico City.

CREDIT: @EVOESPUEBLO / TWITTER

“This was my first night after leaving the presidency, forced by the coup of Mesa and Camacho with the help of the Police. There I remembered my times as a leader. Very grateful to my brothers from the federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba for providing security and care,” Morales tweeted. Right-wing Christian opponent, Luis Fernando Camacho, also called “Bolivia’s Bolsonaro,” led violent protests against Morales and his Indigenous supporters, burning Bolivia’s Indigenous Wiphala flag. 

Mexico, Cuba, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Argentina have maintained that his removal from office was a coup. The United States, led by a right-wing president, has recognized Bolivia’s interim right-wing president as valid.

Morales announced Friday that he won’t run for president in the reelection “for the sake of democracy.”

CREDIT: @VERSOBOOKS / TWITTER

Morales resigned Sunday after protests left four people dead. “For the sake of democracy, if they don’t want me to take part, I have no problem not taking part in new elections,” Morales told Reuters while remaining in asylum. “I just wonder why there is so much fear of Evo,” he offered.

READ: A US-Backed Opposition Leader Has Declared Herself President Of Bolivia Amid Outrage At Her Comments About Indigenous Bolivians

El Paso’s Walmart Is Reopening, This Time With Off-Duty Police Officers Standing By

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El Paso’s Walmart Is Reopening, This Time With Off-Duty Police Officers Standing By

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Amid a class action lawsuit over safety, Walmart has hired off-duty officers to man its El Paso store during today’s quiet reopening, over three months since the deadly, racist mass shooting. On August 3, 2019, a white supremacist drove ten hours from Dallas, Texas, to the Cielo Vista shopping center, armed to kill as many Mexicans and Mexican-Americans as possible. That day, more than 3,000 people were in the El Paso Walmart, and 22 died within the few minutes the shooter opened fire. 

A security guard was scheduled to be there that fateful day but didn’t show. Walmart is currently the defendant in a class-action lawsuit, which is not seeking monetary damages but rather answers as to why Walmart didn’t adequately protect its customers.

The El Paso Walmart reopened its doors but not without an #ElPasoStrong banner greeting customers.

Before its scheduled opening at 9 a.m., employees gathered for the first time since the shooting for an employee meeting. Many wore “El Paso Strong” pins on their nametags. This time, armed off-duty police officers will be standing by, comforting many and alarming others. “There was a time that Walmart hired off-duty officers and for some time prior (to) August 3rd that ceased,” El Paso police spokesman Enrique Carrillo, told The Daily Mail in an email. 

The officers will be paid $50 per hour, roughly double their hourly wage.

Credit: @anjelia3464 / Twitter

Walmart has significantly invested in its security measures at all Walmart stores. “We typically do not share our security measures publicly because it could make them less effective,” Walmart spokeswoman Delia Garcia told the outlet, “But they may include hiring additional security, adding cameras in-store and using ‘lot cops’ in the parking lot. We will continue our long-standing practice of regularly evaluating our staffing, training, procedures, and technology which are designed to provide a safe working and shopping experience.”

If the government won’t implement gun reform, does the burden of protecting shoppers now lie in corporations?

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The National Rifle Association (NRA) is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States, and the single largest roadblock to gun reform in America. The NRA donates to politicians who then ensure its interests are protected. The class action against Walmart presents a morose shift in the political landscape. It presumes that mentally ill people armed with assault-style weapons are something businesses should expect to protect their customers from. 

While it’s legally sound for Walmart to hire the off-duty officers to protect itself from liability, where is the burden on the police department? If the United States won’t pass gun reform measures, should it raise taxes instead to militarize the police and station them at every church, synagogue, movie theater and chain store? Will corporations band together to lobby the government, founded in capitalism, to take this undue burden off its back?

One shopper reflects the sentiment of many heading to Walmart today: “We aren’t letting this beat us.”

Credit: @KeenanFOX_CBS / Twitter

Journalist Keenan Willard met Emma Ferguson in the parking lot of the Walmart. She stopped to smile for a photo and tell him what her shopping experience means to her. “It’s about standing up to our fear. We aren’t letting this beat us.” Willard quoted her in a tweet.

The City of El Paso began removing the makeshift memorial behind Walmart earlier this week to prepare for its reopening.

Credit: @tornandra / Twitter

Journalist and El Paso resident Andra Litton tweeted a photo of the makeshift memorial behind Walmart the evening before the City of El Paso started removing the items, along with the fencing, “making it visible from I-10 for the first time since the Aug 3 shooting,” she tweeted. “It still hurts. #ElPasoStrong”

The items have been moved to Ponder Park, across the street from Walmart.

Credit: @nachoguilar / Twitter

Next to the memorial are “Temporary Memorial Site” signs in both Spanish and English. They read, “The City of El Paso invites the public to honor the victims of the August 3, 2019 tragedy at the Temporary Memorial at Ponder Park. The public may leave memorial items at the site. The public is encouraged to tie an orange ribbon in remembrance of those lost on August 3, 2019.” Along the fence, traditional Mexican sombreros hang next to a green star that says, “God cares!” “Pray for El Paso” and “#FronteraStrong,” along with Día de Muertos images of Frida Kahlo pepper the memorial.

A permanent memorial is under construction in the Walmart parking lot.

Credit: @265rza / Twitter

The ‘Grand Candela’ will be 30 feet tall, and projected to be unveiled by the end of the year. A month after the El Paso shooting, Walmart announced its plan to phase out certain types of ammunition from its stores, reducing its market share of ammunition from 20 percent to less than 10 percent. 

Still, some feel Walmart’s reopening, with the memorial or not, is a “slap in the face” to the victims. “It’s disrespectful to the people who died in the shooting,” college student Brandon Flores, 19, told CNN. “Anyone would be able to walk over the place where their bodies were laying and it would be just like nothing happened.”

READ: El Paso Artists Joined Together To Commemorate El Paso Gun Violence Victims With A Mural That Highlights Community Strength