American culture has hybridized the quinceañera. Your little girl will not only still dream of turning into a beautiful princess, but she will also want a professional dance routine and luxury car too! Oh, and dads, I hate to break it to you, but not only will you be waltzing; you may also be taking hip-hop lessons now. These drastic changes all started with MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 and the newer Quiero Mis Quinces. Prior to these shows, quinceañeras were not as grandiose and sweet sixteen parties were not as common amongst Latinos.
The quinceañera marks a young Latina’s rite of passage into womanhood and has historical roots tracing back to the Aztecs. Although ceremonies that celebrate a child’s transition into adulthood are not unique to the Latino culture, the quinceañera is one of the most well known Latino traditions. With all the changes taking place, can a quinceañera still be considered a quinceañera when it is no longer held on a fifteenth birthday? The greater question is: does it even matter?
Quinceñeras of the past were simpler affairs where families attended a traditional Catholic mass and dinner reception. It was after the popularity of these MTV shows that high school girls opted for more opulent quinceañeras, or their own super sweet sixteen that was essentially still a quinceañera, just a year late. It doesn’t matter what you call the party; both are basically identical and serve the same purpose.
MTV shows an exaggerated portrayal of the modern day quinceañera and sweet sixteen, but they still hold some truth. When closely observed, there is a clear revelation of what these parties have actually become – a hybrid of Latino and American culture. The problem with both shows is not their effect on the merging of two cultures; this is the beauty of being Latino. The issue lies in whether or not the sacredness of a quince is being overshadowed by the glitter and glamour.
Television may be able to sway teens, but parents must stand their ground on ensuring that the beauty of becoming a woman amongst close family and friends is not overpowered by material desires. Personal preference and the maturity of the girl participating in the ceremony should be factored into the planning of such an elaborate event. If the young girl can truly understand what it is to become a young woman at fifteen, by all means stick with having the party on her fifteenth birthday. If not, wait another year and opt for the sweet sixteen instead. This is okay too. All that matters is keeping the sacred parts of the ceremony intact.
The key words to remember while planning are “becoming a woman.” As long as the church ceremony, reception, dancing, and attire highlight the girl’s transition into womanhood and therefore remains classy, the integrity of the quinceañera tradition remains unscathed at any age.
Ces’Ari (pronounced Chez-ah-ree) earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine, and a M.Ed. from Arizona State University, while simultaneously balancing writing and marriage. Read more about Ces’Ari on her personal blog.