Usually when Daniel Llanes is in front of the dais at City Hall, he’s berating the City Council on one issue or another.
But during last week’s council meeting, Llanes took center stage at council chambers and sang, danced and even recited poetry.
The longtime Austin activist gave the musical performance at the meeting and was honored with a proclamation declaring August 6, 2015, “Daniel Llanes Day.”
It was an unusual situation for him. Normally when Llanes goes to City Hall, he’s fighting for the equal representation of underserved communities, especially people of color, or asking the council to reconsider their position on an issue in East Austin, where he lives.
“It’s very, very different,” Llanes said after performing his routine.
On Thursday, Llanes showed a different side of himself, dedicating his performance to elected officials and those who actively participate in local government. Llanes, a performance artist by trade, often puts on shows around Austin and in September will enter into his 16th year of cultural performances for the city.
Llanes started by reciting a poem that urged listeners to “keep the trees.” He followed that with a song that imagined and extolled the virtues of a world where nature is clean and can thrive.
In his grand finale, Llanes called on listeners to “Stand on up for freedom and democracy” and fight “corporate domination” as he clapped and danced a song of his own writing, urging a smiling Council Member Leslie Pool and Mayor Steve Adler to join him.
They did not, but in his defense, Adler said he hardly ever dances, even when his wife asks him.
Even after receiving the honor, Llanes was in disbelief. He first learned he would be given a proclamation last week when the city contacted him to ask if he could perform at Thursday’s meeting.
“Are they kidding? Are you sure?,” Llanes said. “Really, that was my thought.”
Susana Almanza, Llanes’ friend and fellow activist for more than 20 years, was also caught off guard.
“I was so surprised, but I was very honored that Daniel was being recognized,” Almanza said. “He’s very politically active but he’s also very human.”
Llanes’ daughter, Carmen, attended the proclamation ceremony, as well as other City Hall frequenters like neighborhood representatives David King and Mary Ingle, and the Sierra Club’s Roy Waley.
“It was certainly different,” said Adler, who, as mayor, is usually the one letting Llanes know when his allotted time is up to make his point to the council. “But he’s not only a committed citizen-advocate, he’s also a very multi-faceted performer and he is part of what makes Austin special.”
With the scrapping of the appeal on an East Austin hotel and the Springdale Farms debate postponed, both items that Llanes would have been before the council to address Thursday were off the table.
For once, Llanes had a pleasant day at City Hall.
Get more coverage of the Austin area’s Hispanic community every week in our free Spanish-language edition, ¡Ahora Sí!, and online at statesman.com/ahorasi.