Doris Muñoz, addressing the crowd before Selena for Sanctuary at Lincoln Center Out of Doors kicked off.
Image: Kevin Yararola

DAMROSCH PARK, NEW YORK — Dancing tias and teens commandeer the aisles before the performers even enter stage left. Beer, sweat, and laughter permeate the air like the holy trinity of every good fiesta. The message, for once, is not to assimilate, but to celebrate and relish in the Latinx community’s roots. The Selena for Sanctuary concert series has tapped into a fundamental need across my community: celebration and resources.

“I’m completely floored,” Doris Muñoz tells Jezebel as she tries to process the night. Her largest solidarity event yet consisted of a free two-hour concert of Selena Quintanilla covers by artists such as Mon Laferte, Gaby Moreno, Nina Diaz and Selena’s widower Chris Perez, punctuated by messages of unity, organized action, and the importance of voting. With a perplexed look, she revels in the palpable joy that fills Damrosch Park in Lincoln Center.

Muñoz, a 24-year-old Chicana, is the only person in her immediate family who is a natural-born United States citizen. Born and raised in San Bernardino, California she’s always had the tenacity to make a way where there seems to be none.

Solidarity for Sanctuary was initially created out of sheer necessity, as a deeply personal project to raise funds for a very real need. Munoz’s parents migrated to the United States in 1989. Since then, after countless immigration appointments were pushed back, they’ve been living in the shadows. When Muñoz turned 21, she was officially, legally permitted to petition for her parents’ permanent residence. Yet, they were never able to afford the legal fees, which can range from the high hundreds to thousands of dollars. Cost is a cyclical and common issue for working-class immigrants who are striving to simply survive while attempting to get their citizenship papers in order.

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Fueled by the fear that lingered after seeing her brother deported in 2015, Muñoz hosted her first ever Solidarity for Sanctuary event on March 26, 2017, in Highland Park, Los Angeles. About 300 people showed up, putting the Hi-Hat at capacity. Thrilled by its success, Muñoz expanded her vision to include funding for DACA recipients’ renewals, financial support for the legal fees of other immigrant families, awareness around immigrant rights, the importance of voting, and more.

Six months after the first of what is now a series that includes Selena-themed events, she found herself in a restaurant in Brooklyn, New York planning her eighth edition with Cuco, one of the producers and singers whom Muñoz manages under mijamgmt. Six months after that dinner, on a sweaty Thursday evening in July, over 4,000 people came to what has been her most successful event yet.

So far, the concert series has raised over $10,000 for legal services. Now, Muñoz is thinking long-term. She plans on building her own non-profit, and continuing to “create a safe space for people [so they] know their narrative means something.”

She’ll have help in that endeavor. At the apex of the July 26th concert, unaware of what day it was, the head of Live Nation Latin touring called. He wants to take these local events to the next level in Los Angeles, and possibly, Muñoz dreams out loud, even to the Hollywood Bowl.

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Image: Kevin Yatarola

Since the event was free, no money was raised during the Lincoln Center edition of Selena for Sanctuary. Nonetheless, the concert was a success and a reminder that joy in itself can be an act of resistance. Attendees sang loudly, waved various flags in the air with pride, and gathered around non-profits’ information booths after the last bow.

As people exited the park, a group of women chanted “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us!” Muñoz had made room for people to be unapologetically and freely themselves, screaming lyrics that continue to bridge generational divides, and chanting their truth during a time when the government is trying to keep them silent, and (quite literally) caged.

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“We don’t get moments like this often,” Muñoz says. “These are moments of self-love and pride in our culture. I hope [those who attended] carry that same energy to find ways to get involved on even the most minimal level,” she adds. “Look into the organizations that participated in the event and see if there is a way to donate, whether it is of their time or finances. Anything helps. Activism comes in all shapes and sizes.”