As a young girl, I dreamed of the day of my quinceañera. I wondered what my princess dress would look like, what my makeup would look like, and which guests we would invite to this special celebration. Most importantly, I looked forward to enjoying my special day alongside my family and having the special father-daughter dance. Many Latinx girls have similar dreams about this special day. A quinceañera is a rite of passage in our culture, and symbolizes a girl’s entrance into the period of womanhood. The dreams about this day were a regular part of my life growing up.
One Richmond, California teen, Alexa Lopez, had this dream turned into a nightmare. On the day of her quinceañera, Lopez’s father was being held in a detention facility in Richmond. After immigrating from Guatemala, Raul Lopez, Alexa’s father, entered the U.S. in 1989. According to a recent article on the matter published by U.S. News and World Report, Lopez “had been reporting to immigration officials regularly before he was taken into custody in March 2017.” What was supposed to be a regular check-in with immigration officials went on to fully change the lives and dynamics of the Lopez family.
Alexa Lopez, the quinceañera, decided to take it upon herself and stage a protest outside the detention facility, choosing to show up in her full quinceañera dress and dance with her cousin. Her action was to show the impact of the absence of her father during such a time of transition and to emphasize the importance to her family. The day that most girls dream of, for Alexa, has been marked by the absence of her father. Alexa’s actions brought massive attention to the issue, and she was joined by religious organizations and other non-profits supporting immigrant rights in the community.
I’ve always admired the resilience of the people of my hometown of Richmond. However, Alexa’s actions and bravery during such a heartbreaking and challenging time for her family have inspired our entire community. With the incredible atrocities being faced by the immigrant community in the United States, we can all learn from Alexa’s tenacity and meet this with our own action-based responses. Whether it’s calling a local representative or participating in other forms of civil disobedience taking place around us, we cannot keep quiet about the injustices taking place. Let Alexa’s actions serve as a reminder that we all have the power to raise awareness and do our part to correct the cruel injustices being inflicted on our communities.
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