A Quinceañera story


Jennifer Ortiz, 10, celebrated her Quince in Guanajuato, Mexico.


   For a large number of Hispanic girls nearing the age of fifteen, there is a dream shared in common: their Quinceañera .

   A Quinceañera celebration includes a religious ceremony followed by a big celebration which signifies the transition from a little girl into womanhood, and becoming capable of making her own decisions. The word itself comes from the Spanish quince, “fifteen,” and años, “years.”  “Quinces,” as they are called, celebrate the transition into the first stages of adulthood, similar to a sweet sixteen celebration here in America.  Girls who experience this celebration are referred to as “Quinceañeras,” while boys are called “Quinceañeros.”  

   Quinceañeras and Quinceañeros must make a variety of decisions:  picking theme colors, checking out Youtube dance classes, taking ideas from Pinterest, making trips to Chicago, and picking songs and chambelanes. As time passes, generations adapt and change to the modern world. Families pass on specific traditions from one generation to the next,  such as passing on a crown from grandmother to mother to daughter.

   “I decided to have a party because my older sister had one and all my dad’s side of the family went, and that’s when I decided to have one,” said Diana Marquez, sophomore.

   Quinces  have come a long way since their roots in ancient Aztec cultures  around 500 B.C. They became popular in the United States in the 1900’s and still flourish in various cultures around the world.

   “It might be rare for a boy to have a Quince, but I wanted a different way to celebrate my birthday, so that’s when I decided to be a quinceañera, or in this case, a quinceañero.” said Israel Paredes, junior.   

A charro theme was the choice for Diana Marquez, 10, who also celebrated her Quince in Mexico.

   As a quinceañera tradition, girls have an escort of boys, who are usually called “chambelanes.” Girls tend to have fifteen chambelanes in total, one being their honor chambelan, or “chambelan de honor.” On the other hand, for a boy having a quince, they will call their escort of girls “damas.”

   “The dance choreography is the hardest for a guy version,” said Paredes. “My little sister and cousins were my damas.”

   One of the first things the girls do for their quinceañera is to come up with an agreement with close members of the family to be their “padrinos,” who will take the roles of second parents. Padrinos traditionally are part of the big celebration, and often they pay almost half of the whole party. They are the ones who pay and help pick out the quinceañera dress. The tradition of the quinceañera is that the girl wears a huge gown dress with the color of their choice and the party decorations match that color.

   “My main color was red, white, and green representing my Mexican culture,” said Dayanna Garcia, freshman. “The dress was probably the hardest to find because the dress is the main highlight, what everyone is going to look at and for me what made me feel like it was actually my big day.” 

   Quinceañeras go through many stressful ups and downs, which is the reason why many families start planning it out around a year or two before their fifteenth birthday.

   “Me and my family started planning my quince almost when I was in the 7th grade,” said Jennifer Ortiz, sophomore. “It was also difficult to find a place to have my party because the stage for my group playing wouldn’t fit and because of the violence where I live in Mexico.”

   Having a quince is full of surprises, emotions and sometimes even physical scars caused by wearing an uncomfortable gown all day and into the night. Not only are there surprises for the quinceañera, but for the guests as well. Sometimes the DJ plays a surprise video or reads a note sent from relatives from miles and miles away who could not attend. 

   Last year, on October 20th, a quinceañera was placed at Fusion Sports Complex, mostly recognized as “NetLynx.” The quinceañera received a surprise letter from her grandparents and aunts, all the way from Mexico, in place of their absence during her special day.

   Most girls that have had a quinceañera will never forget their big day. Most of the day’s events are videotaped,  from getting up in the morning, to getting their makeup done, to putting on their dress, up until the dance and party. Other highlights include their “last dance with dad,” “last doll,” and the crown or big tiara that is worn to represent the princess of the night. 

   “ Finding my crown was very difficult for me, since I didn’t just want a basic traditional tiara,” said Ortiz.