The Wondering Latina: A Night of Hope in the Desert

“When Mexico send its people they’re not sending their best. They’re bringing  drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapist.” – Donald Trump June 2015

This is the moment that changed everything for me and my community.

I was traveling across the country at the time and I distinctly remember how strong the shift in energy happened. It seemed that overnight this presidential candidate had blown a whistle making it ok to unleash Mexican hate, brown hate.

All of sudden, I found myself limiting my Spanish speaking in public, afraid to be myself, afraid to be Latina.

As I have previously written, these were fears that I had not experienced since I was a child. To be going through this again as an adult was mind-boggling and jarring.  There is no way this man can become president. There is no way this kind of hate speech can be allowed from a presidential candidate, can it?

As it turned out, yes, it was allowed and yes, he became president.

My life in Trump’s America is vastly different. Not only am I afraid to speak Spanish in public but my lifestyle is different, too.

I try not to travel as much, I am afraid of being “randomly selected” for questioning if I leave the country; as has happened to so many people. I travel with my passport at all times – even though I was born here – because I don’t want to “accidentally” be taken into custody while they “verify” my birth.

These things have happened to U.S. citizens. If you’re one of those people that lives in a bubble and thinks those things are NOT possible, well then in the words of George Strait, “I’ve got some oceanside property in Arizona” for ya.

These things do happen, they have happened to people I know, they have happened – in varying degrees – to me.

Since Trump has taken office, I have been pulled over countless times driving across Texas for work; no violations, no citations given, no speeding, no expired stickers, no broken lights, etc… always told “just wanting to check things out.”

I know what that means, I hand them my driver’s license AND my passport at the same time because I don’t have time for a modern day version of the “Spanish Inquisition.”

Like many of  you,  I have watched Trump berate and drag not only Latinos and the undocumented community through the mud, but also Muslims, Indigenous Peoples’, African Americans, Women, LGBTQ, people with Disabilities and the majority of Americans that disagree with him.

Needless to say, it has been EXHAUSTING. But over the last few weeks, something has been different, instead of sticking to his usual racist rants about the “southern border” he picked and targeted my hometown, by specifically naming El Paso in his speeches and spreading false accusations about our community.

During the State of the Union address last week, Trump decided to turn it up and tell the nation that at one point El Paso was the most dangerous city in the country. LIES. I’m sure many of you were like me, LIVID. To begin with, as Mexican (Mex-Americans) our blood already runs filled with orgullo, add the fact that we’re Texans, that’s a strong dose of extra pomposity to our character AND I am part of those folks filled with border pride; so listening to someone trash my city, my home…it is the same severity as slapping a loved one.

To add insult to injury, Trump decided to head to our Sun City and launch his first 2019 rally here. HELL NO.

The man that kicked off his campaign on day one by stating to the world that me and my Mexican, Mexican-American community, my culture, heritage, family and friends, were all “rapist and criminals.”

  • The man who has called for the Muslim ban
  • The man who called African nations sh**holes
  • The man who passed the unprecedented zero-tolerance immigration policy, tearing families apart
  • The man who has never acknowledged that Black Lives Matter
  • The man who has publicly called KKK members “very fine people”
  • The man who continuously uses historic Native American names in ridicule and ‘fun.’
  • The man who has verbally condoned sexual assault on women “grab them by the p***y”
  • The man who mocked a person with a disability on national TV
  • The man who has called for a ban of Transgender Americans in the military

That same man was now coming to our house and the eyes of the nation would be upon us, how would we respond?

I have participated in enough protest and marches here, that I expected a decent turnout, but nothing prepared for Monday night.

It was a school night, a Monday, it was really cold and windy so I prepared myself for a low turnout, thinking people had to get to work the next day, they have to get the kids ready, etc…but that didn’t happen.

I arrived to the March For Truth rally at Bowie around 3 p.m. and the parking lot was already filled, I was beyond happy. However, as the hours passed the crowd kept growing and growing, by the time we were ready to march around 6 p.m. you couldn’t see where the crowd ended.

I was at the front of the march taking video and photos, then with perfect precision the organizers instructed us all to line up and we began to march and chant in sync.

With the sun setting I decided to put away my phone and march with the group. After a few minutes, the sound of voices booming echoed through the air, so much so, that I had to stop and turn around. What was behind me was not a wave, it was a Tsunami of hope.

I ran to the side of the march and took footage of the never-ending flood of people marching. Minutes passed and I was nowhere near finished filming the line.

To give you perspective, I was at the front nearing Delta Center, the line of people ran the length of the Chamizal on the border highway and stretched all the way past Bowie High School.

Every person that has been attacked, been insulted, been persecuted, by the current president…we were all there to say, no sir you will not belittle us, your hate will not win. My eyes filled with tears at, literally, the outpouring of pride.

El Paso showed up bigger than I could ever have imagined.

We arrived at the “Celebration of El Paso” party taking place right next door to the Trump rally, we could see the big screens and hear their music from where we were located. With Mariachi music blasting, we all poured in and began singing and dancing, people waving Sage smudge sticks blessing the space and peace took over the energy.

Yes, there were agitators there to provoke us but the weirdest thing happened, I can’t explain why or how; as angry as I have been and with agitators yelling in our faces, I didn’t care, somehow those red hats didn’t matter.

Maybe it was the sage, but the pride that I had in my city filled my heart…and for that moment, love did trump hate.

Word came in that Trump had arrived and was taking the stage, the Mariachi group then announced “we dedicate this to Mr. Trump” and a familiar beloved song filled the air, Viva México.

We all laughed and sang our hearts out. For me, it was all I could do to hold back my tears. El Paso is my home, this is where I was born and raised, it is my foundation, it is where my heart lives, my mother, my family, it is an extension of me…so I sang with all I had, to let that man know, I can’t have anyone talking about my city.

Trump may speak loudly, but El Paso had the last word.

I love you El Paso. Thank you to all the amazing groups and activists that organized. Thank you to the families, the people, each and every person who showed up to say “NO” to racism!

The civil rights era started with a defining moment that became a movement, for equality.

This was our defining moment.

Children will one day read about this and ask about this, we can tell them we stood up and fought for our community, we marched for truth, we defended El Paso.


To read Yolitzma’s previous columns, click here.