A quinceañera is a celebrated tradition that transitions a young girl into a woman. It is marked with a festive celebration to commemorate a girl’s 15th birthday. It is generally celebrated in Mexico and other Latin American countries where Catholicism is rampant. It is a Latina’s very own sweet sixteen.
Celebrating a quinceañera
A quinceañera includes a mass in church followed by a themed party. During mass, a girl is given thanks and encouragement for her transition into a young woman. The party includes a father-daughter dance that commemorates her closeness to her papí. There is also a group of boys called Chambelanes, who escort the girl and perform a choreographed dance with the quinceañera. This event also includes a moment of “el primer ramo de flores” which translates to a bouquet of flowers. It symbolically signifies an offering of a bouquet of flowers, the first flowers given to the quinceañera to symbolize that she is a good woman. Despite the vibrant and symbolic festivities, a small percentage of Latinas are choosing alternative celebrations.
When a quince is not for me
For some Latinas, the price tag that comes with the festivities can be an obstacle. “I wanted one, but my family could not afford one,” says Diana Gamez of Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
“I wanted one because it is an important step in the coming of age,” Diana shares.
For others, having a quinceañera means finding alternate ways to celebrate el día que cumple quince años. Kristin Gamez of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 15, found herself unprepared for the setbacks of not having a quinceañera. “Around the time we were saving for a quinceañera … a couple of years back, my mom lost her job,” she says. Keeping a positive attitude throughout this situation, she adds, “I went out to eat with close relatives. Quinces are all fun to have and share the memory, but as long as you are with your family, then it really shouldn’t matter what you do.”
Many like her are choosing to embrace the simple pursuit of spending time with family instead of a having an elaborate coming of age celebration.“A quinceañera didn’t define me at all. [Instead] my parents gave me 1000 and I got to visit some family in California…and I still got presents. The only difference was that I got to choose to have one,” adds Maria Lopez Dubon.
Transitioning into womanhood
The coming of age celebration is not entirely different from the way Maria describes it. “Supposedly it meant that you were a woman,” she says. “At that time, I thought being a woman was being able to drive, to date and have a job. Now I suppose it means being independent.”
“My mother never had the chance to have one…they had no money growing up,” Stephanie Ann Gutierrez of Houston, TX says. “They had the money for me to have one, so they wanted me to experience one, but I never saw the big deal about the transition into womanhood. Honestly, I think being an adult, a women means you are out of your teenage years being able to make your own decisions.”
“I didn’t want to have one, my parents did. It was a tradition. When you are 15, you don’t know who you are. When I look back on it, I think I didn’t spend or take any of my family’s money. They chose to give me money to do something that I wanted to do,” Stephanie adds.
Is a quince necessary?
A quinceañera could be the mark of a major milestone in a young Latina’s life, but it should not define who you are. Diana Gamez, 15, could not agree more. “If I could tell my 15 year old self about that day it would be, that as long as you’re with people you care about the most, then having a quince shouldn’t really matter,” she says.
Dubon and Gutierrez both say that having a quince was not “necessary” for them.
Having a quinceañera is not all you can do. Go out and volunteer! Or spend time with family and friends! Share your quince story with Latinitas. More importantly, what do you think defines a woman?