A Quinceañera is the Latino equivalent of a sweet sixteen party, only more so. The quinceañera is a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday. It is a coming of age ritual, marking the transition from childhood to womanhood. In the Mexican tradition, the quinceañera typically begins with a mass in the Catholic Church. It is then followed by a big party. The whole event is a lot like a wedding, but without the groom. La quinceañera (the birthday girl) looks like a bride, she wears a formal dress and a crown like a princess would wear. There are a group of boys called “chamberlains” reminiscent of groomsmen in a wedding. There are also a group of girls similar to the bridesmaids in a wedding. The quinceañera is primarily celebrated in certain Latin American countries and also in the United States by immigrants from Latin America.
I don’t really like going to weddings, but I went to a quinceañera in Tijuana over the summer and it was pretty impressive. Actually, I didn’t go to the mass, but I went to the reception. One of the things that impressed me most was the choreographed dance routines. It was a pretty entertaining show. The dancing began with the girl dancing a waltz with her parents and other family members. Then she performed several dance routines to the typical popular music an American girl might like, like Justin Beiber. She was sometimes accompanied by the chamberlains and other times by the girls that were part of the ceremony. It was obvious that they had spent a lot of time practicing these dance routines.
The reception was held in a large hall and had a DJ, catered food, and drinks. There was a large screen which alternated showing pictures of her growing up and a video feed of the dancing. There were fifteen cakes, one for each year of her life, on a large stand used especially for these events. Being a numbers oriented person, I noticed that 15 is the sum of digits from 1 to 15. You can clearly see the way the 15 cakes were displayed.
The parents of the birthday girl are people of modest means who live in Tijuana, Mexico. They saved money for years for this party. I’m not sure how much money they spent on this event, but it had to be in the thousands of dollars. Spending $10,000 on a quinceañera is not unheard of. Quinceañeras are a big business near the border where I live. There are ads for quinceañera stores on the giant TV screens placed on the line for the border wait.I have a young daughter and my wife is from Mexico, so I may be holding a quinceañera party for her in the future. I guess I better start saving soon.
by Greg Martinez