USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘quinceañera’
Adulthood
Customs
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Quinceanera

I interviewed my informant, a young lady of Mexican descent, in the study lounge of the band office. Because of her upbringing in Mexican culture, she was able and eager to share a lot of folklore and folk traditions. At the top of her list was her experience with the tradition of Quinceaneras, which she learned from her family members. She watched her older cousins performing the event when she was younger, and she had one herself when she turned fifteen. The following is the information she shared with me during the interview:

 

According to my informant, a Quinceanera is a celebration of a young girl’s fifteenth birthday.

 

In the past, they were to show the village/town that this person is now ready to be wed/ now ready to meet suiters. Now it’s more of a celebration of coming into womanhood, and presenting her as such to family and friends

 

Girls wear bridal-like dresses. In modern Quinceaneras, girls wear colors that match the theme color of their party. My informant informed me that she wore a white dress because that was the main color of her party.

 

Quinceaneras also have a Court. The court is made up of seven couple with one main escort to dance with the Quinceanera [here the word is being used to describe the girl herself rather than the entire celebration].

 

At her party, when she enters the room, a waltz is performed with her court. And then she dances with the father/male figures in her family. Her father performs changing of the shoe, which is usually changing a ballet flat to a heal.

 

This is followed by the presentation of the doll. There is a doll that looks like the Quinceanera. She has to present it to a younger female figure (a cousin, or sister). My informant gave her doll to her younger sister at her Quinceanera.

 

My informant also told me that a more recent Quinceanera tradition is the surprise dance. The girl being celebrated will choreograph a modern dance of some sort to entertain guests.

 

It is also expected that the Quinceanera greet every guest and thank them for coming to their party.

 

My information added that Quinceaneras are traditionally for catholic people. There is usually a mass beforehand where they honor the Virgin Mary because she’s the pinnacle of womanhood.

 

I asked my informant for the context of a Quinceanera. She admitted that most of what she shared is based on the American tradition. In the Mexican culture, the whole town would be invited, not just family and friends. The party is usually held anywhere people fit: a ranch, in a dance hall, etc. The entire party also functions as a display of wealth for the family.

 

Analysis

I have ever experienced a Quinceanera party, but I have a great idea of what it’s like based on my informants description. She obviously is well informed about the complexities of the tradition, and was able to explain it to me in a way that was easy to document. I feel that if I ever go to a Quinceanera in the future, I will be knowledgeable of what is happening and why it’s significant.

 

For more information on Quinceaneras (including who celebrates it, and rituals that are part of it), go to https://www.quinceanera-boutique.com/quinceaneratradition.htm

 

Adulthood
Customs
Holidays
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Quinceaneras

Quinceaneras

“A quinceanera is party done for a girl who has turned 15 years. It’s not a regular party, it is a very big party where money is just thrown left and right and the parents of the quinceanera usually ask other family members to help with the cost of the big party. Before the party begins, the party girl and her parents and padrinos (godparents) have to go to church where a misa (mass) is given. It basically means that she needs to go to church to thank god for letting her turn 15. After the church, the quinceanera goes to the party where people are already eating and stuff. Before the quinceanera though, it takes months and months of preparation. I know that for my quinceanera, we literally began planning for it since a year before…when I turned 14. The first thing we had to take care of was the misa because according to my mom, that’s the most important thing, even though nobody of our relatives go to the misa. Anyway, after we went to get the date for the misa, we then started to look at venues. Then once we had our eyes on the venue, we began to look for a banda, because a good quinceanera must always have a banda or else there shouldn’t even been a quinceanera in the first place. The next thing is deciding who you will chose to be in your court. Those elected to be in your court are going to perform a big first dance because supposedly my mom, and your mom tambien (also), say that a girl can’t dance until they’re 15 or else they don’t get a party and blah blah blah. So once all that is set, you need to tell your padrinos of the date, they usually are the first ones that should know if when the event will take place because they will be in charge of helping organize. Your padrinos can’t be any random person, they have to be the people who baptized you so in that sense, your padrinos should already know that your party is coming anyway. Moving on, next your parents need to start telling family members to help with the cost of the venue, food, banda, drink, and other things. People usually have no problem helping because it’s seen as “I help you now, you help me later” type of thing. So once all that is planned out, the party then takes place. Oh I almost forgot, the party girl has to wear a big puffy dress, kinda like they used to wear back then, it sort of make you feel like a princess, oh and you also get to wear a tiara so that’s a plus. And that is what a quinceanera party is.”

The informant is an American born Mexican. Her parents and family all were born and raised in Mexico but she was born in the U.S. This essentially makes her a Chicana of 20 years. She grew up with the U.S customs yet still had really strong ties to her Mexican heritage because of her relatives and parents therefore, she fuses her American surroundings with her Mexican heritage. This can explain why she still practices some of the customs that are very Mexican originated.

In my analysis of this, I found that a lot of Mexican quinceaneras are very similar to that of which my informant described. However, I also found that quinceaneras are not only celebrated among Mexicans; Quinceaneras are also celebrated among other Hispanic nations such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica and etc. A reason for why Quinceaneras aren’t only celebrated for the Mexicans can be attributed maybe to the copying of certain traditions from these nations however, perhaps, Mexican may also may be the ones copying the quinceanera idea from other nations. Regardless, the point is that just because one tradition may be thought to be solely for a particular culture, traditions can make their way around the world and in their way gaining different aspects to the tradition which then makes it each country’s own new tradition.

Adulthood
Customs
general
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

“Quinceañeras”

… Let’s see… So you get there and you eat dinner and it’s kind of like the first hour or so is just socializing with your family and friends… because you invite everyone you know, basically… and everyone brings a present or money… and then, after dinner’s done, they go through like a slideshow of pictures of you growing up and stuff… and then I think that’s when they do speeches—like your mom does a speech, your dad does a speech, sometimes an uncle, or grandparents…

I went to one where her dad was in jail, so he actually wrote a speech and then her brother gave it… they had pictures of him before he went to jail, and him and her together on the slideshow running during the time her brother was giving the speech written by her dad about how much he loved her and how sad he was to have missed her growing up even though he was a terrible dad… and everyone was bawling… It’s kind of the point for someone to cry at these things…

And then there’s dancing; and so you get a court––like a bride gets her bridesmaids, you get like four or five girls––and you also assign them guys to be partners, and of course you get a partner. So you perform like a ton of really choreographed, complicated and tough dances. You go through months of hard core practice for them… and everyone just kind of goes and sits down while you’re performing, and then there’s one you do with your dad—it doesn’t have to be intricately choreographed or anything, it’s your choice of style of dance… and I think you get one more non formal one, it’s kind of at your discretion how many dances you want.

At one of them, she was a ballerina, so she had her own recital for just herself, but the other two, they didn’t have that because they didn’t have a dance routine to perform solo. That part’s not a requirement or anything…

Then they bring out dessert after all of that, like the main thing is done after all that… and everyone is now free to dance—again it’s one of those big social things, you’re allowed to dance, it’s not just a dinner. They don’t open presents while you’re there. And that’s kind of the end… you just kind of socialize ‘til it’s over (they’re usually like four to six hour events, that just carry on…).

Oh! The most important part: her dress(es)… She wears this really big—usually a white dress because there’s usually a mass part before it, and you wear this big white, formal prom-like dress—and she wears this for the church. And in the reception, she wears whatever she wants. It’s still a formal dance, but it’s not as strict… and then there are dresses for the dances, which she gets to choose, too. That’s why they (the quinceañeras) get so expensive, because they (the family) pay for the dresses of everyone else in the procession… they pay for everything.

 

How did you come across this folklore: “I wanted to talk about them because they’re a cool coming of age type of ritual thing… and I’ve been to a couple, but I didn’t get one because I’m third generation, so we’re kind of removed. I’m also half white. I was just as likely to get a sweet sixteen as a quinceañera. I studied abroad for a month the summer I turned sixteen, so on my sixteenth birthday I was abroad. So instead of a fifteenth or sixteenth birthday party, I had a big going away party that wasn’t as formal as a quinceañera, but it had the same general idea of celebration around that time.”

Other information: “I can tell you about them—I’ve been to several, and even though I never had my own, they’re still really important, especially to some families. Usually parents who are actually from Mexico, those kids will have to have one… it’s only first generation because it gets really expensive.”

This is an example of a coming of age ceremony, ritualizing the transition from girl to woman in Mexican(-American) culture. Something that stood out in the particular details of the quinceañera were how much it resembles a wedding-like ceremony, reflecting the cultural emphasis on this time period in a girl’s life and the importance of marriage (which is another marker of being a woman, the transition to the role of wife and eventually mother).

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Quinceañera Festival

Informant Bio: Informant is a friend and fellow business major.  He is a junior at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.  His family is from Mexico but he has lived in Southern California for nearly all of his life.

 

Context: I was talking to Fabian about Mexican stories and folklore.  He started mentioning how there are several important festivals/traditions one goes through in traditional Mexican culture, one of them being the quinceañera festival.  He then detailed his experiences going to close family and friends’ festivals throughout his life.

 

Item: “It’s a coming of age kind of thing for girls.  The way they work is there’s a royal core that is usually made of, uh, direct blood relatives (female and male) and also really close female and male friends.  There’s a chambelan which is the quinceañera’s escort which is either the boyfriend or girlfriend if they have one, or a close male relative or a really close male friend.  This is the quinceañera’s main escort for the night.  So, uh, it all starts off with a dance.  The dance varies, but the entire core people perform this choreographed dance that they do.  Once they are done, then the main guy and the quinceañera girl have a solo dance in the middle.  This is a little more elaborate and involves just those two.  It’s usually a waltz.  And then, um, the guy gives the girl to her dad and there’s a father-daughter dance.  And then, after that, like, there’s just kind of eating and kind of a regular party.  The main difference between celebrations comes from the type of dance that is performed at the beginning.”

 

Analysis: The quinceañera party helps celebrate a woman’s coming-of-age and sexual maturity.  The order of events in Fabian’s recounting parallels the path of the girl thus-far in her life.  In the beginning, all the close friends and family are involved in a special dance, showing how the girl has thus far been raised and been intimately connected with her close friends and family.  Then, the girl is given to the special chambelan who gets to dance with the girl, representing how the girl will move on from her childhood familial upbringing and find a suitable mate in society.  The subsequent father-daughter dance is an homage to the fact that the original man in her life for the past fifteen years has been her father.  This dance represents the fact that the father will continue to respect his daughter (but shifting from treating her as a little girl to treating her as a woman).  This celebration is a very important event in Mexican and Hispanic culture, and traditionally is maintained even for families that have moved to the United States.

 

In the Mexican tradition, the most important element of the quinceañera is a Thanksgiving mass that commences the celebration.  After this mass, the girl enters the banquet hall or wherever the celebration is being held.  Typically, the girl was not able to dance in public before the age of 15, so the dance with the chambelan is the girl’s first public dance.  Therefore, this event would be very important in the girl’s life and something that girls look forward to for months or even years prior.

This tradition has many parallels to the American tradition of a Sweet 16 party.  They both celebrate the coming of age of girls (marking the transition from child to woman).  Quinceañera’s, as written above, are elaborate celebrations held in banquet halls, and can be extremely formal and has a relatively set progression.  The sweet 16, a celebration of a young girl’s virginity, varies much more.  Although some folks make it a formal celebration, many times it is a more informal house party or get-together of close family friends and relatives.  At its core, the variations in sweet 16’s shows the diversity in American culture, while the relative rigidity of the quinceañera shows the more homogeneous Mexican culture (highly tied to Catholicism).

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