Hispanic Coming of Age Tradition: Quinceanera
In many parts of Central and South America, young girls celebrate their Quinceanera when they turn 15 years old. The coming of age tradition typically begins with a Catholic mass where the girl renews her baptismal vows and solidifies her commitment to her family and faith. Immediately following the mass is a fiesta where friends and family eat and dance.
The fiesta de quince años is a celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday. It has its cultural roots in Latin America but is widely celebrated today throughout the Americas. The girl celebrating her 15th birthday is a quinceañera.
The celebration is for Latin American girls who, on turning fifteen are no longer considered children, and are honored and introduced into their community as young women. Contemporary festivities combine Spanish-Catholic traditions with those of Aztec and other indigenous heritages and add in a few modern twists.
In ancient Mexico, the Aztecs and other indigenous peoples had many different ceremonies to mark the passage through the various stages of life. The quinceañera marked a young woman’s transition to adulthood, as she was presented, as a virgin, to the community for probable suitors.
Friends and family gathered in order to give the girl a chance to mingle with young men. Rich families celebrated quinceañeras with big parties and elaborate dresses. In Latin American countries, wealthy families announced quinceañeras in the newspapers to publicize their extravagant celebrations.
At the birthday party, the birthday girl makes her entrance to the place of the party accompanied by 14 pairs of guests who, together with the teenager’s escort, number 15 couples in total. The quinceañera customarily wears a brightly-colored dress. Ladies wear long dresses and gentlemen wear suits and ties, which are often brightly-colored, but never to overshadow the birthday girl’s dress, which is the focal point of the celebration.
In the 21st century, many girls create their own quinceañera celebrations. Whereas traditional dresses were formal and usually white or pink only, dress designs are now more varied.Also, instead of having the traditional seven damas and seven chambelanes, the Quinceañera may pick all damas or all chambelanes. Traditionally, girls were not allowed to dance in public until turning fifteen, but this taboo has also receded significantly.