The only thing Monique Salinas wanted for her quinceañera was for her brother Mikey to be present. Unfortunately, Mikey had passed away 10 years before in a car crash. Still, Monique’s mother Melissa Hernandez, was able to surprise her daughter with a part of Mikey – his heart. After he passed, Aubrey Reeves received Mikey’s heart and kidneys as a transplant. The 18-year-old drove from Wichita Falls to Benavides, Texas to meet Mikey’s family for the first time. Thanks to Melissa, her children’s hearts were able to reunite once again.
In the small Mexican-American town of San Benito in Texas, many girls dream of the day that they will make their debut as women to their family and community. But the tabs for orders of gowns, crowns, food, decorations, and DJs often run so high that for awhile such events for the girls in town were out of reach.
Then, Gilbert Galvan, the principal of San Benito Veterans Memorial Academy, came up with an idea that meant that not a single girl would be forced to miss out on the opportunity to take part in the tradition.
Since 2015, San Benito has hosted an annual quinceañera event for young girls and their families.
CREDIT: Avenida Productions
Nearly five years ago, Gilbert Galvan Sr. found himself being invited to quinceañeras by the students at his school. Then one day, some of the answers from the young women at his school caught his attention. After a few of his female students opened up to him about the fact that they did not have enough money to afford a quinceañera, Galvan Sr. was inspired to do put on a party for them on his own.
In just a matter of months, the educator sought out donations from his community to put on one massive quinceañera. Donations and gifts came in all forms– from cakes and dresses to crowns and the volunteered time of makeup artists and mariachi singers. That was the first year.
In the years that have followed, Galvan Sr. has continued to put on the event where as many as 40 girls have attended at a time. Today, donations for the girls come in from across the country.
The community quinceañera has gained so much attention that it’s now becoming captured in a documentary.
CREDIT: Avenida Productions
As reported by FIERCE by mitúlast year, Galvan’s son, Gilbert Galvan Jr. —who has worked in the entertainment industry for ten years— was inspired by his father’s efforts and pitched the event as a documentary concept to Fanny Véliz, the award-winning filmmaker and CEO behind Avenida Productions. Now, having been directed by Véliz and given the name “Our Quinceañera” appears to be closer to its release. According to the documentary’s site, the film is in submission for festivals!
During an interview with FIERCE last year, Galvan Jr. said he hoped the documentary will inspire viewers to “embrace their heritage and celebrate the power of community… We want to document this historic event while empowering and inspiring Latina girls across the country to pursue and achieve their dreams.”
There seems to be no end to the horrifying stories we’ve been hearing that illustrate the fallout of the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy one which has been the hallmark of his presidency since he took office. Among the headlines that describe the effects of the immigration policy are those highlighting the sub-human conditions at the migrant-holding facilities at the border, or the those telling the terrifying stories of students being taken into ICE custody right before their high school graduation.
And the sad news doesn’t stop there.
Recently, a Latina’s Twitter post went viral when she shared the story of her niece being forced to dance el valz at her Quinceañera with her brother after her father was “taken” by immigration.
so my uncle which is her dad ,was taken by immigration a week before her 15 and sadly he wasn’t able to be there.Her brother had to take his place in the father / daughter dance. It just broke my heart🥺💔 pic.twitter.com/c6u3jSCHoW
Twitter user @prisesaks took to Twitter on Monday to share a video of her young cousin dancing what is traditionally the father-daughter dance while holding her brother and crying. “So my uncle which is her dad was taken by immigration a week before her 15 and sadly he wasn’t able to be there,” @prisesaks said. “Her brother had to take his place in the father/daughter dance. It just broke my heart”.
The heart-tugging video shows the 15-year-old girl holding her brother while slow dancing with him. Her hand covers her mouth as she tries to hold back sobs. Her brother also looks visibly emotional.
The video and Tweet quickly went viral, racking up almost 3.5 million views, over 60,000 retweets, and almost 1,500 comments.
no one is illegal on stolen land. no one is illegal on stolen land. no one is illegal on stolen land. no one is illegal on stolen land. no one is illegal on stolen land. no one is illegal on stolen land. no one is illegal on stolen land. no one is illegal on stolen land.
The traditional father/daughter dance at a Quinceañera is one of the most important parts of the birthday celebration and also a moment that many young Latinas look back on as a defining moment of transition from youth to adulthood. The fact that this Latina’s father could not be there to celebrate it with her is understandably upsetting for many people.
Twitter users responded to the video with a spectrum of emotions ranging from pity to outrage.
It’s understandable that such an emotionally-charged video can bring up a lot of feelings in people. Quinceañeras are supposed to be a day of celebration–a time in a Latina’s life when she gets to be “Queen for a Day” and she officially begins the transition from a child to a young woman. Unfortunately, this young woman’s entry into adulthood was much sadder than she had anticipated.
This Twitter user brought up a valid point about the difference between flashy headlines and the fact that people’s lives are actually being affected:
With all of the political tactics and clickbait articles that go around online, it’s easy to forget that there are humans beings involved in the immigration debate.
This Latina was heartbroken over the separation of a family:
After hearing stories of the appalling behavior of border control agents mocking migrant deaths and making fun of their pain, it’s easy to feel jaded towards immigration officials.
This Latina gave props to where props were due for the younger brother for stepping up for his sister:
The burden of family separation should not have to be placed on the shoulders of young ones.
Even the birthday girl’s older sister took to Twitter to express her appreciation that their story was being told:
Although their family’s situation is a tragedy, it’s a blessing that they have a platform to educate the world on the everyday realities of family separation.
This man educated the public on how important the father/daughter dance is to many young Latinas:
We can’t imagine how the young girl was feeling at the moment.
The video is just more evidence of how Trump’s policy of family separation has a real, lasting impact on Latino families. While statistics and news article tell a part of the story, the numbers and abstract policy discussion don’t illustrate the full picture like these small, intimate glimpses into the lives of Latinx families whose lives are forever changed by the Trump administration. Moments like these are formative in young adults’ lives, and this girl will forever have to look back on what was supposed to be a special day with bittersweet feelings.
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