Coming of Age
Teenage Girls Celebrate Transformation Into Adulthood
December 5, 2017
As the church bells ring for junior Monika Veliz’s Quinceanera mass to start, she walks in knowing how much she’s waited for the day to come. She walks to the altar beside her parents’ side and gets on her knees, thanking God for the past 15 years of her life.
With Quinceaneras being one of the biggest parties for a Latina-American girl entering adolescence, people still don’t seem to know what the tradition really signifies.
“I was on the fence with having a quinceanera at first,” Veliz said. “As my birthday was slowly approaching, I changed my mind. The whole event was amazing and the church service was very emotional and unforgettable.”
A Quinceanera celebrates the welcoming of a girl’s 15th birthday. The term quinceanera goes back to the Latin and Spanish countries and refers to the girl having the special occasion. Senior Mackenzie Mohr didn’t understand the significance of a Quinceanera until attending one for the first time.
“It was a really cool experience,” Mohr said. “All the planning got the end result. The quinceanera really stood out, and I think it’s a very nice tradition even though the culture is much different than mine.”
The party can take 1-2 years to plan. A quinceanera typically costs $5,000-$20,000 total, but the cost varies based on the number of guests, the venue and the type of food offered. The party involves expenses that are very similar to a wedding.
“Of course I felt bad because my parents could’ve used the money for something they actually needed at the time,” senior Alicia Banda said, “but as the day got closer, I got very excited. The quinceanera ended up being one of the best parties I’ve ever had.”
The party practice has cultural roots in Latin America but is now celebrated today throughout the Americas in many different ways. Senior Leslie Ledesma believes there’s more to a quinceanera then what people see.
“The purpose of a quinceanera to me is seeing yourself grow and mature to a young lady,” Ledesma said. “People tend to skip the point and focus on the materialistic things such as the party decorations and the big dress.”
The Quinceanera custom in Mexico honors the Quinceanera with a court consisting of young men and women known as Damas and Chambelanes followed by a Chambelan of Honor. As of now, people usually only have either boys or girls in their court. Junior Monika Veliz enjoyed having only her closest guy friends in her court instead of both.
“Sometimes guys are just easier to work with,” Veliz said. “They’re my best friends and although sometimes we argued, I still love them and I’m glad I got to share this experience with them.”
The event, much similar to a wedding, will hold a toast dedicated to the quinceanera in honor of her turning 15 years old. The toast usually happens after the quinceanera introduces her court and sponsors.
“The job of a photographer is to capture every memorable moment in this celebration,” Quinceanera Photographer Jesus Abuanza said. “It’s always good to see the look on the girl’s face when experiencing this exciting moment in her life.”
During the reception, the Quinceanera holds a special presentation. She dances with her father holding a father-daughter dance after in honor of her growing up.
“The best part of my quinceanera was dancing with my dad,” junior Laura Mancilla said. “It was nice dancing with the person that has been there for me through everything. It also brought memories back.”
The quinceanera will also receive special gifts from her godparents or sponsors that usually given to her during the presentation. Some of these will include the shoe change, the tiara and the medal — representing her entering womanhood.
“The shoe change was an unforgettable experience,” Veliz said. “I still felt like a kid just putting on heels.”
A quinceanera in the Catholic religion will usually hold a church ceremony before the party to celebrate her 15 years of life. But now, many girls create their own quinceañera celebrations.
“What I loved about my quinceanera was that it wasn’t a traditional party with a big reception hall or a big poofy dress,” senior Azalia Velasquez said. “Only my closest friends went and that’s what made it memorable.”
The quinceanera custom branched out to to many religions today. Although people may practice the custom a bit differently, it’s still something people enjoy attending. Ledesma believes her quinceanera highlighted one of the best things that’s ever happened to her.
“Having a Quinceanera is a beautiful and unforgettable experience,” Ledesma said. “It’s tons of fun and although the planning is stressful. It’s worth it in the end. If you’re Latina, I suggest you have one because this experience only comes once in a lifetime.”