Ceci Cardelle got a hero’s welcome when she walked into the halls of Salisbury High School in North Carolina on Monday morning.
The senior, whose weekends are normally spent completing college applications, took time last weekend to brilliantly troll Eric Trump and North Carolina Republicans, then set the internet on fire with a viral tweet that made her and her sister the new darlings of the immigrant rights movement.
On Friday evening, Ceci, 17, and her older sister Annie, 23, decided to go to a local North Carolina Republican campaign rally featuring Eric Trump. The sisters, Cuban-Americans who are exasperated by his father Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric, decided to quietly protest the event by wearing a homemade t-shirt emblazoned with the message “Latina Contra Trump.” Annie wore the shirt, and Ceci went as the family photographer.
Anybody with a rudimentary understanding of Spanish—or language in general—knows Latina Contra Trump means Latina Against Trump. But the message was lost on a roomful of etymologically challenged Republicans, including Eric Trump himself, who apparently slept through his high school Spanish classes and confused the message as one of support. So Republican campaign minders called Annie and Ceci up to the front of the room to take a picture with Eric and his wife Laura.
Despite coming out blurry, the photo perfectly captures how pathetically out of touch the Trump campaign is with Latinx voters. Ceci tweeted the pic to her 120 followers, and then the internet did its magic.
By the time she returned to school Monday morning, Ceci was a rockstar. Her photo had been retweeted 79,000 times and her story had been written up in a more than a dozen media outlets.
“LOL! It’s really surreal honestly! People have been really supportive of me at school today, teachers and students of all political backgrounds have talked to me about it and congratulated me!” Ceci texted me from school.
So what’s it like to become internet famous overnight?
“It’s pretty awesome for the most part, but with all the good comes a little bit of bad. My sister was pretty heavily attacked on Twitter by Trump supporters after I posted the tweet. While I’m thankful for the increased popularity, I wish it didn’t have to come at such a cost,” she says.
Indeed, the Trump twittersphere’s reaction to the photo has only reinforced their camp’s ignorance, anger and confusion about all things Latin America.
Trump supporters have called Annie and Ceci “illegals” whose stunt is “another reason to build the wall.” One Twitter user told Annie to “go back to Spain.”
The young sisters are taking it all in stride, however.
“I’ve always been pretty outspoken about my political views, but I’ve never had a platform like this before,” Annie told me in a phone interview.
While it was just meant to be a funny protest, Annie hopes the incident underscores the much more serious problems of Trump’s divisiveness and anti-immigrant platform. She says she didn’t make the t-shirt for the sake of becoming famous, but is trying to use her moment in the spotlight to everyone to get out and vote and make their voices heard.
Ceci, too, says she feels a newfound responsibility that has come with her sudden internet fame.
“With every interview I do, I try to talk less and less about myself and more about the issues at hand. Even though I’m not extremely famous, I feel I have to put my slightly larger political platform to good use,” she says.
The moment has also presented an opportunity for marketing. Annie, who recently graduated from Florida International University with a degree in Art History and is currently interviewing for PR and marketing jobs in Raleigh, has come up with a t-shirt design for others who want to get on board the Latinas Contra Trump train.
The only regret she has is not putting more time into designing her original t-shirt. Looking at it now, Annie can only shake her head that her most famous artistic creation to date is a hastily scrawled t-shirt written with a dying Sharpie pen.
“If I had known this image would become so famous, I would have done a better job on the bubble letters,” she says with a laugh. “As an art studio minor, it’s really embarrassing that this is what I am known for.”