Quinceañera on a Budget

Gracie Maldonado created a quinceañera for her then 15 year old daughter, Gabby, with a year’s worth of savings. Despite some negative complaints of neighbors, says Maldonado, she was able to create a quinceañera with little expense and a strong support system.

Gabby Maldonado, 18, says, “I actually never knew how much money my mom spent, but one day I heard her talking to one of her cousins. She said, ‘You can make the cake. I’ll make the decorations with Cousin Crystal.’ She was talking to her friend Michelle.”

“Apparently, I wasn’t supposed to know. Whatever I heard didn’t disappoint the rest of my night. Once I stepped into the dance hall it was so much fun. Everything was like magic,” adds Gabby.

Gabby says, “Even if my mom spent less money back then, than other girls, I know she did it because she wanted me to have a quinceañera. She wanted me to experience this chapter in my life. She never had one and she didn’t want me to be shy anymore. I didn’t want to either.”

Ayuda from the familia

You too can save money on a creative quinceañera by approaching this festivity with detailed attention to what your cousin, sister, daughter or friend would like to contribute — a family celebration! Get as many people involved that way you could cut down on material costs. Gracie says, “I do not have sisters, but I do have friends and cousins. They helped me set up the location. Quinceañeras are expensive, but when we work together, we get it done!”

Anayeli Martinez, 16, agrees. She says, “Just don’t [ask] for too much expensive stuff [and] you can do it at your house or a family’s house.”

If your quince is one that would take place in a relative’s home, splitting who does the food can help with limiting the amount of food one may eat. Making plates with Hispanic staples, such as frijoles, rice and chicken guarantees that every person deciding to eat has their fair share of protein and starch and iron. This method guarantees others from comparing their plates and wanting more of what they can no longer fit.

Maldonado says, “[My friends] Josh and Liz sponsored some of the food.”

Gabby says, “I loved it all.”

Personal Hairstylists

Avoid the expensive hair dos and makeup styles by asking your certified Tia or amiga to do your hair. The hairstyle may be better than what a certified saloon can do. Amie Ann, 18, says, “My mother happens to be a hairdresser. She did both my sisters’ and my hair for our quinceañeras. Plus, it was easier to express what we wanted because our mother knows us so well.” However, if you or your family do not have that someone to make fabulous hair, do not be afraid to go with the natural style your hair is accustomed to. Hair shine makes dull locks look glossy and kept up. Curling your hair while spritzing hair spray can help keep that hairstyle in place. Besides, because it is your day, you are more than welcome to take as many rest breaks as you want. This is the moment to spray more hairspray if need be.

DIY Centerpieces

Ready made centerpieces can often come at a high cost. Instead, Anayeli suggests looking at online stores like Etsy which have original styles that caught her and her friends interest. “I even look at Facebook. Sometimes girls have these photos of themselves and behind them are their rooms. Their rooms often inspire me,” shares Anayeli.

Another example to cut back on buying state of the art material is to make diy centerpieces. Maldonado states that all the centerpieces at her daughter’s and her friend’s daughter’s quinceañera were handmade. “Our daughter’s table center pieces were very inexpensive, but our family time became decorating time,” she says.

She says, “My family helped out a lot. We did all the center pieces. My aunt sowed all the overlays for the tables. I couldn’t have done it without them. My cousin Michelle and Aunt Mary did most of my leg work.”

Like Maldonado, you too can suggest your tastes to family members in hopes of someone knowing how to sew, cut or even draw in order to save money!

Sponsors

Having sponsors to support such a big occassion is often a ready made deal. Family is almost indebted to participate.“We paid for most of it, but we also had sponsors. My aunts and uncles sponsored and chipped in for the hall, cake, and limo. Everyone helped out in some way. My grandpa paid for Gabby’s dress. We had an inexpensive hall.”

Though not all family members are required to participate, like paying the limo ride for one night, they can instead ask their very own quinceañera to have her and her friends get together a month in advance to make T-shirts commemorating this event. Selling the T-shirts for five dollars will help the quinceanera fill her college donations.

Usually calling on Fridays to any hall leads to cheaper rent deals. So what are you waiting for? You have one year to prepare and starting now is defenitely easier. Think of the thousands of $1 balloon packages you and your friends will blow up (all the while burtsting into giggles) and the amount of tamales, tacos con queso being prepared by our abuelitas, mamás and hermanas as the day gets nearer!

Have fun, chicas!

An Alternate Quinceañera

Here I am standing in front of an inactive volcano with my dad, mom and brother. I celebrated my quince by spending a week in Ecuador. During my visit I went white water rafting, horseback riding, dancing, shopping, swimming, and so much more! I also go to spend time with my uncles, aunts and all my cousins. It was an amazing experience and I learned so much about my family and my heritage.

As early as ten years old, visions of pink, puffy, and sparkly dresses fill the minds of young Latinas all over the world. They dream about the sacred father daughter dance, their dreamy chamberlain, and of course the beautiful cake. They dream about having a quinceañera.

If this does not capture your heart, you are not the only one. These days many girls are opting for an alternate celebration. Some chose to keep it low key by going bowling, seeing a movie or just having a small dinner.  A popular option is also going with friends to a theme park.

Another option is to travel. A large number of girls celebrate their fifteenth birthday in other countries, typically in the country of their heritage. This option may seem expensive, but compared to a typical quinceañera that could cost $5,000- $20,000 you could actually save some money by choosing to travel.

Something to consider is that a quinceañera party is only one night, while traveling could be from 4 days to 2 weeks. Choosing to travel also provides you with the chance to meet extended family or family that could not have been able to celebrate your quince if you had a party. A quinceañera is the perfect time to learn more about your heritage, so what better way than in the heart and center of it all. Traveling also gives you the chance to expand your vocabulary and practice your Spanish. Some other benefits of traveling are that it increases your knowledge, widens your perspective, creates unforgettable memories, increase your resourcefulness, and gives you relaxation– instead of the crazy stress that may occur when planning a quinceanera.

A con to this is that you will not be able to celebrate with your friends. A solution to this could be having a small get together before or after the trip, but if this is a serious issue then traveling might not be the right option.

Regardless of how you chose to celebrate your quinceañera it will be a special day no matter what. Shoes, makeup, dresses, cake, tickets, and planes don’t make a quinceañera, the people you celebrate with do! I should know, I celebrated my quinceanera with my family in Ecuador!

My Super Sweet Quince

Ariana talks about what made her quince special…

“This really means a lot to me because all of my family. We all pretty much come together. I decided late that I wanted to have a quinceañera, so my family helped a lot in getting things planned, in getting the church, the dress and everything together. So it really means a lot because it brought my family closer together more than we were. It also reconnected me to a lot of the friends that I hadn’t talked to in a while.

This quinceañera is different because obviously its my family. There has been a lot that we’ve gone through in the past few years, so this all pretty much brings us together. And it just united us all together. For others it is just a big party, but for us it means a lot, it is really special to us.

May 2011

Quiero Mis Quinces

While few girls are lucky enough to even have a quinceañera, even fewer are lucky enough to have their quince featured on a hit television show. Jazmine Gomez from Panorama City, CA was one of the chosen few to have her quince featured on Quiero Mis Quinces, a Tr3s: MTV Musica y Mas series that takes an inside look at over-the-top quinceañeras. This electro street dancing, graffiti-loving chica is unlike any other Quiero Mis Quinces has seen.

Jazmine, a junior in high school who loves to dance and play softball, was shocked when she found out that her sister had submitted her quinceañera to be featured on Quiero Mis Quinces. “I didn’t even know my sister contacted them,” Gomez said. “But when I found out I was excited. I wanted to show people that having a quinceañera in their backyard was not that different and that all you need is your family and love to have a great quince.”

Her Arabian themed quince, equipped with original decorations, a belly dance performed by Jazmine herself and surprise artist, Jen Carlos Canela, was everything Jazmine had dreamed for. But her dream-come-true quince didn’t seem like it was in arm’s reach. When her mother suffered from a blood clot a year after her older sister, Mila, had her quince, Jazmine didn’t expect to have one herself. But quinceañeras are an important tradition for her Salvadorian mother’s side of the family.

“My mom was very supportive and told me that you only turn 15 once. She said that, no matter what, she would help me have my quince,” Gomez said.

Jazmine, grateful to her family for their support, was thrown another curveball when she found out she would have to have her quince in her own backyard.

“In the beginning I was embarrassed to have it in my backyard because no one has it in the backyard. I wanted an elegant quinceañera but I realized we couldn’t afford one and that there were no halls that could be transformed into my Arabian theme,” Gomez said.

Jazmine eventually accepted having a backyard quince and even began to embrace the idea. Luckily, her uncle stepped in to help her transform her backyard into an exotic Arabian themed party.

“I ended up really liking it in the backyard because it was something unique. I was really grateful for just having a quinceañera and it turned out to be really nice. My uncle saved my quince by coming in with his company and offering to do all the decorations. I even got to have a surprise artist,” she said.

Quiero Mis Quinces, which is a similar to My Super Sweet Sixteen but with a Latina twist, sends cameras behind the scenes as teens prep for their coming-to-age celebrations. For Jazmine, having these cameras on her all the time was just part of the fun of planning her quince.

“It was a lot of fun and I felt like a movie star,” she said. “At first, it made me a little self conscious having cameras following me but I really don’t care what people say about me so I got used to it.”

From the second Jazmine made her grand appearance at her fiesta, she was shining and loving every moment of it. She got the party started by performing her solo belly dance for the crowd.

“As the spotlight hit my face, I was so nervous but this was my time to shine,” she said. “As I was belly dancing with the drummer, I felt like I was making the music with my own body.”

Traditionally a quinceañera marks a girl’s transition into becoming a young woman and taking the initiative to declare her faith and responsibility to it.

“It means that you are becoming a young adult and you will make smart choices. Your quince signifies purity and that you are now responsible for your own choices. It also means that you have support from your family and that you’re becoming a young adult,” Gomez said.

And for Jazmine, who has never been allowed to have a boyfriend before, it also means that she can now start dating.

She joked, “Hello America I’m officially ready to have a boyfriend,” and winked to the camera.

Jazmine brought together the old and the new to her quince, adding a new spice to the traditions of her Salvadorian and Columbian heritage.

“In our [Salvadorian] tradition we actually don’t get a white dress. The dresses are always very colorful. We also don’t do any of the shoe changing or the doll traditions like other cultures do,” she said.

Everyone knows, though, that behind every fabulous celebration, there are months of planning, stressful encounters with parents and, of course, lots of drama. Jazmine’s advice for girls who are about to have a quince is to enjoy themselves and be grateful for every moment.

“My advice is to just be grateful, not a lot of girls get to have a quince. When you don’t like something it’s ok to speak out about it but don’t be rude”, she said. “One thing that I regret is that I didn’t really take a lot of pictures with my family. I would have just enjoyed myself a little bit more if I could have done anything differently.”

Ask Jazmine about her favorite part of her big day and she won’t answer that it was having her surprise artist show up, or having the spotlight on her all night but rather that she had her family all together for once.

“I got to have all my great grandparents [from Salvador and Columbia] there and I really thank God for that,” she said. “I got to dance with my great grandpa who was 96 years old. That was really special for me.”

According to Jazmine, having a quince is only one way to show your heritage and tradition. Another simple tradition that Jazmine loves is going to her grandma’s house early in the morning to eat and gather with her family.

“My grandma will make Salvadorian food and we’ll all be there laughing and eating,” she said.

She thinks that it’s important for a person to keep their heritage alive and to share it with their friends.

“I have a lot of different friends from different cultures. It’s cool because I’ll get to go to their house and eat a lot of different types of foods and they all think differently and we can all keep our own cultures by sharing it with each other,” she said.

Jazmine’s future plans include going to college to become either a child psychologist or a veterinarian. No matter where she goes, though, she plans to stay true to her Latina roots.

“You never want to forget who you really are,” she said. “Whoever your parents are that’s your heritage and who you are.”

By Dejeanne Doublet

Quinceañera On A Budget

The day has finally come, the day a young girl turns fifteen. This coming-of-age ball celebrates a young girl’s 15th birthday and dates back to ancient cultures in Mexico, Central and South America. This commemoration honors a young girl coming of age with a ceremonial mass and eventful festivity. Customarily, planning for an eventful day typically takes almost a year to prepare and can be very expensive. If you find yourself wanting to have a Quinceañera and are on a low budget, these simple tips may be of help.

Tip #1 Find the right place at the right price
Many families opt for a rental dance hall to host the event, but many alternatives exist. What about a backyard party or the local park? Check with your local parks and recreation department for a listing of parks in your area where you can rent a rec center room or park shelter.

Knowing it would be expensive, 16-year-old Vanessa Silvas of El Paso, Texas chose an alternative: “Instead we had a huge party at my house with my family and friends with lots of food and decorations,” the teen said.

Still considering a hall? Try booking for a Friday night where your costs can be cut by half as opposed to the $2,000 to $3,000 price for a Saturday or Sunday night reservation.

Tip #2 Move the Mass
Having the traditional church mass costs money, especially when it interrupts the regularly scheduled masses. Ask your church about the option to have the cleric, pastor or priest hold the ceremony in your home or at the hall. The price on this option can be significantly cheaper than reserving the chapel.

Tip #3 Be your own photographer
Photos of the memorable event don’t have to set you back with the hiring of a professional photographer. Seek out resources within your family or circle of friends who like taking photographs and whom you can trust with taking pictures of the event.

Developing and editing the images isn’t expensive either. Many photo editing websites like www.flickr.com exist that offer free or inexpensive services. Prints can be made at your local drugstore for as little as 13 cents a print.

Tip #4 Make your own steps
Typically a Quinceañera includes a court, a group of the girl’s closes friends who are often expected to perform a dance routine during the dance to entertain the guests. In order to have the perfect dance routine down, many girls decide to hire a choreographer. This, too, can cause a strain on your budget. Instead, opt for creating your own dance routine with your friends. Get ideas from your favorite music videos and artists known for their awesome choreography like Britney Spears or Beyonce.

Tip #5 Decorate with style
Your decorations should look fabulous, but should not break the bank. Check out your local craft stores for centerpiece ideas and inexpensive materials to make your own. Even your local grocery store has weekly specials on fresh flowers, so check with your grocer’s florist for tips on when to get cheap flowers and how to arrange them.

Tip #6 From one dress to another
It is customary for the Quinceañera to wear a white princess-type gown. This can often be the most expensive part of the entire event especially since it is only worn once. Ask your family and friends to see if you can get a hand-me-down from a cousin or sister. If anyone in your family has excellent sowing experience, you can buy the fabric and have a custom-made dress for less. You can also buy a cute party dress instead of an intricate and pricey gown.

By Natalie Hinojos

Top Quince Trends

The quinceañera has been a tradition for many generations, but today’s quinces are not your mother’s traditional quinceañeras. Today, Latinitas push the limits of this coming of age celebration with new and exciting trends.

The Court
The vital quince court has been a staple in quince celebration. Now, courts come in all different varieties. Some are all girls or all boys, others have couples, and some have no court at all! Elodia and Bridal Novias specialty store is seeing more and more quinceañeras who elect to have smaller courts. “The parents just don’t want to spend the money on dresses and tuxedo rentals anymore,” mentions Elodia Adamson, owner of Elodia and Bridal Novias. Although courts are getting smaller, Adamson says that economizing does not mean the loss of the court altogether. “Courts are always going to be part of the quinceañera, whether it is large or small,” adds Adamson.

The Dress
The traditional image carries a strong image of a Latina girl becoming a woman in a beautiful white gown. The top trend in quinceañera dresses is no longer a vision in white, but in color. Color is no longer reserved for the court, and according to Elodia’s, “color brings excitement to the overall look of the celebration.” The top three colors for spring and summer at Elodia’s are fuchsia, turquoise and lime green because of their light and vibrant shades. In winter and fall, the top three colors are a more traditional ivory, chocolate brown and a dark rose red. “Usually, we see all shapes and sizes of dresses, short and long. Some quinceañeras even just wear wedding dresses,” says Adamson. “Even though we see many colors, we still see the traditional white.” With white being the staple, one wonders if the color trend this season will fade. Today, dresses become the focal point of the quinceañera, often carrying the theme itself.

The Theme
The idea of a quinceañera theme is a relatively new trend that has slowly become the standard in quinceañeras today. UniquelyQuince.com is a quinceañera leader for creating and perfecting themes. This online quince mecca specializes in theme sets and props, as well as displaying new and hot trends. This season, Uniquely Quince has themes that range from winter wonderland to rock and roll. The top five themes on Uniquely Quince include: fairy tale, castle in the clouds, red carpet, princess for a day, and butterfly garden. Although mostly whimsical, many other unconventional themes include: quinceañera royal, underwater wonderland, Arabian paradise, paradise island, and, if your quince happens to fall during this time, a Mardi Gras theme. Uniquely Quince also sells blank kits for those who are especially creative. Most themes take imagination, and a lot of time to put together.

Planning
In the quinceañera world, details are everything. From the flowers to the dress, many qirls are turning to a professional for the planning. Organizational skills are a must for laying out the theme to food, up until the day of; the big party. In the past, most of the planning was organized by the mom, tias and abuelita. One of the top trends occurring today involves quinceañeras choosing highly recommended event planners. Emily’s Flowers and Bridal specializes in quinceañera packages which include the custom dress, doll, photo album, commemorative wine glasses, pillow for shoes, and tiara. “We are always booked, so we only take about 20 quinceañeras a month,” informs Emily, the owner and operator of Emily’s Flowers and Bridal. Emily’s Flowers and Bridal plans and packages about over 200 quinceañeras a year, and often resorts to a waiting list. Because of the growing popularity of quinceañera planners, Emily suggests that parties book early. “As soon as possible would be the best time to start planning,” Emily recommends.

Accessories
Accessories no longer just include the usual rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings. When being a queen or princess for a day, accessories must follow accordingly. A growing trend in quinceañeras are whimsical and royal accessories. “Scepters and tiaras are our number one seller, for every theme we see,” says Elodia Adamson. Adamson also adds that the tiara has become a growing staple. With so many styles and colors, any quinceañera can find the right one that corresponds to her theme. Although a little more elaborate, scepters are becoming more popular as well. “For the scepters, usually girls have a more fairytale theme that is little more elaborate,” describes Adamson. Uniquely Quince also specializes in scepters in different styles such as the “Corazón Scepter.” Scepters are not only for accessorizing, but have evolved into a modern tradition. Uniquely Quince suggests that, “The scepter signifies the responsibility being given to her [the quinceañera] as she becomes a young woman.”

Many trends stick, while others are in the moment only lasting long enough to bask in their fifteen minutes of fame. As trends become more popular, there is no telling if they are here to stay. When trying to create a trendy quinceañera, it is always important to watch the latest trends, but it’s also important be true to yourself. Oftentimes, the trends that stick are the trends that are timeless and define you. Even though there are many trends out there, there is one out there for you.

June 2009

Fifteens, Drama Queens and Sweet Sixteens

In the Latino culture, many girls celebrate their coming of age through a significant ceremony called a quinceañera. Usually this occasion is marked by a girl turning fifteen years of age, hence the phrase “quince.” As many generations of Latin Americans become settled into the United States and become more “Americanized,” the tradition of having a quince is becoming more and more obscured. When American social images and Latino traditions collide they create a new image of the quince. Many girls take that collision and mold a new idea out of the popular tradition. Some girls elect to have a sweet sixteen, a trend made popular by the MTV show of the same name. Others just say no to the whole idea of a coming of age celebration, a thought that would make any abuelita cringe. As the generations build and traditions fade, the meaning of what it is to have a quince is often lost in translation.

Something Old, Something New
When traditions seem too old fashioned, many girls take the quince situation into their own hands. “It was traditional and untraditional,” remembers Jazmyne, an eighteen year old Latina. Jazmyne’s quince was modeled after an Arabian night’s theme, complete with rhinestones, and magic carpets. “It was really fun and I’ll remember it as long as I live,” Jazmyne smiles. “I decided to have a quinceañera because it was a tradition family,” explains Jazmyne, “most of my family had had one so I decided to have one too.” In mixing up new and old, Jazmyne wore a traditional white gown but had a court of all girls. “I decided to just have a small group of girls, half family and half friends,” Jazmyne says. Jazmyne added personal style by choreographing dances that she and her court performed as entertainment for guests. Because this was such an elaborate touch, everyone in her court, including Jazmyne, had to practice often. “It was hard to get everyone to show up to practice and cooperate,” laughs Jazmyne, “two of the even girls got into a fight at one of my practices!” Although Jazmyne feels that her quince was not exactly like the traditional celebration, she feels that she represented her cultural identity and appealed to main stream America accurately. “A quince is just a fifteenth birthday party and it doesn’t matter how you do it,” says Jazmyne, “as long as you share it with the ones you care for.” Jazmyne hopes that the tradition of having a quinceañera continues grow in future generations of her family. But as generations grow, will they eventually lose this coveted tradition? Or will the tradition become so far stretched that it will no longer appear to be a quince anymore?

Breaking Tradition
Even when the quinceañera tradition runs rampant in a girl’s family, some decide to skip out on the whole thing. “Everyone had one, my friends, my cousins, and even my older sister,” says sixteen year old Latina Andrea. When Andrea turned fourteen, her family already had plans to throw her a quince celebration. “My family was excited about throwing me a party!” Andrea remembers. Andrea blames everyone’s excitement on her older sister’s celebration. “She had a very fun quinceañera, and everyone was asking me when I would have mine,” says Andrea, “I had a lot of fun but I didn’t want to have a traditional ceremony with the white dress and the doll.” Andrea often watched the show My Super Sweet Sixteen, and liked some of the ideas that they had on the show. “I liked how they were not so traditional, how you could show your individuality and be different,” Andrea explains. Andrea’s mom wasn’t sure that her daughter was serious about having a quince or sweet sixteen, so she put off planning. “She [my mom] was so used to planning a quince, because of my sister, that she would have probably made my sweet sixteen party into a quinceañera,” Andrea says. During this planning time, Andrea ended up moving to another city and planning for a party was put on hold. “I just was happy that I didn’t have to worry about this big thing that I wasn’t even sure about,” Andrea reveals, “and by the time I turned fifteen, I was happy just to have a small birthday party at my house.” Although Andrea never had a quinceañera or sweet sixteen, she is fine with her choice and can’t wait for the next quinceañera or sweet sixteen celebrations in her family. When Andrea wanted to find a middle ground, her ideas went against the traditional grain. It seems as if younger generations are beginning to think differently about the quince traditions. Even if girls have some sort of coming of age celebration, it is unclear if they will incorporate older traditional symbolism into their celebration.

My Big Fat Sweet Sixteen
12 year old Latina Alex plans to have a fairytale like coming of age celebration.”I want a sweet sixteen because I want to different,” Alex says, “almost all the women in my family had a quinceañera.” Alex has big plans for her sweet sixteen and hopes to make it a celebration no one will forget. Although she is only twelve, Alex can already picture and pick out the specific look for her day. “Hot pink, lime green, orange and turquoise are the colors that I want to use in my theme” describes Alex. Because she is having a sweet sixteen, Alex elects not to have a court or chambelan. “I want it all to be about me,” Alex smirks, “every girl has a chance to be a princess, and have a special day of her own.” Alex has high hopes for the future as she becomes a young lady and her family introduces her to society. “I like the idea of a quince, but it’s just not for me,” Alex says.

When traditions fade and new ideas collide, it is certain that younger generations will draw out their interpretations about coming of age. Although it may seem as if the quinceañera is slipping out of style, all hope is not lost. As many new immigrants bring traditional ideals into the “melting pot” that is America, these sacred traditions will not fade away easily. When coming of age, many Latinas are faced with the excitement and wonder of quinceañera and sweet sixteen traditions. Now more than ever, girls are discovering new trends, breaking tradition, going all out and finding their individuality within these meaningful ceremonies. Whether you are a fifteen, sixteen or even a drama queen, it doesn’t matter how you step into your future, as long as you don’t forget your past.

January 2009

Quince – My Sweet 15

Alyssa Silva, a fifteen-year-old from Austin, Texas, celebrated her quinceañera with her family and friends last November. “When we were at the church and my father blessed me during the ceremony, we both cried. It was very emotional for us. He was very proud of me,” says Silva.

“Mine was different than my sister’s “quince” because I had girls and boys in my court. She just had boys. She wanted to be set apart. I wanted my friends to be there, because they know I’ve been wanting this since I was little,” explains Silva. Silva chose burgundy for her friend’s dresses and white, black and burgundy tuxes for the guys.

When asked what kind of preparations she made for the reception part of her quinceañera, Alyssa said she decided not to have formal dancing since many of her friends would not be able to practice because of their commitments to sports. “We just had slow dancing,” she says, “less stress for me!”

“I had a theme – roses and Cinderella. Everyone had glass slippers on their tables with my photograph in them. My cake was also white and three tiered with rose petals,” Silva explains, seemingly pleased with her choice.

No matter which traditions are integrated into the event, it remains one which strengthens cultural roots and reinforces values. Silva says she is surprised not as many girls want to do a quinceañera and that it is sad that the tradition is fading. She says girls are getting cars instead. On choosing her ceremony over a car, Silva affirms, “My quinceañera made me feel special. I have gotten this far. I’ve had all my sacraments. I wanted this. It only happens once in a lifetime.”

By Laura Donnelly

Quinceañera 411

quince latinitasBy Cynthia Rodriguez

After the church ceremony, the young woman celebrated her day at the reception which followed immediately. In her long white dress, she danced, ate and visited with family and friends. This day, which marks an enormous change in her life, is hers to remember forever and is one she will surely never forget.

While this picture may invoke images of a bride, it is also familiar to many women who experienced this situation on their 15th birthday. A quinceañera is the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday. It is a Mexican tradition that has been handed down generation after generation. Although quinceañeras have evolved over the years, its significance remains the same.

Quinceañeras originally began in ancient Central American societies around 500 B.C. In the Aztec culture, 15 was considered a monumental age for both boys and girls. Boys were viewed as warriors and girls were the force which kept the community going. At the age of 15, a young woman was presented to the community and the king would then educate her on the duties of womanhood. A woman’s role in this society was so powerful that a woman who died during childbirth was honored in the same manner as a fallen warrior.

When the Spanish entered what is now considered Mexico, the Spanish and indigenous cultures combined. The debutant tradition of introducing young women to Spanish society when they came of age became part of the quinceañera ritual. Gradually, quinceañeras changed over time; however, there are many traditions that are present in almost all current quinceañeras.

The church service is an important part of the event. The young woman usually recites a biblical passage that is significant to her and the priest blesses her in the presence of her family and friends. A white dress is typically worn, although light pink dresses are popular as well. The young woman also chooses 14 friends which serve as her damas (maids of honor) and each woman is accompanied by chambelanos (chamberlain).

After the mass, a reception is held to further celebrate the young woman’s important day. At the reception, there is food, music and dancing. Today, many honoree’s construct their own dance which is performed with her court for the attendants. Elements of this event vary from family to family, but each is filled with long lasting memories and a strong sense of culture.

No matter which traditions are integrated into the event, it remains one which strengthens cultural roots and reinforces values. Today, this custom is still strong in many Latino families. The experience stands out as a special day for not only the young woman, but for all those in attendance as well.

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