Being Hispanic, we have many cultural traditions that we celebrate. We keep those traditions alive by passing them on to the children in our families. I am all for preserving these traditions and I will continue passing them on to my children. But there is one that I will be tiptoeing around as my daughter gets older… la Quinceañera. For those not familar with Quinceañeras, they are a celebration for Hispanic girls when they celebrate their 15th birthday, which marks her passage to womanhood. It is also a celebration where we give thanks to God for his many blessings and la Quinceañera is then presented to the community as a young woman. I really don’t know how this tradition came to be, but rumor has it, that it was brought over to Mexico from the Spanish conquerors. Some people would argue that this tradition originated with the Aztecs. Either way, it’s a celebration and a tradition within our Hispanic culture for young girls turning 15 today. At one point in time, I had hoped to have a daughter just so that I could plan her Quinceañera. Now, for me personally, that has all changed. I have a daughter, but now I hope that she doesn’t want one.
I know my family will give me some backlash for this. I can already hear my mom telling me, “mija, ¡no te creo!” (daughter, I don’t believe you!)
How could I be such a hypocrite? I had a Quinceañera.
It was 1990. Ice, Ice Baby was at the top of the charts that year. I was entering high school and felt stressed the first few months going in. It wasn’t because of volleyball practices before school or learning the new high school routines, it was because I was just too busy helping my family plan my Quinceañera. While I was sitting in Math class, I was doodling dress ideas and daydreaming about this birthday. That is all I thought about from September to December that year. That could explain why I struggled in a few classes my freshman year of high school (I later picked up my grades in the spring semester…after my Quinceañera).
While some of my friends dreamed of their wedding day when we were little, I dreamed about my Quinceañera. This is all we talked about growing up. As the date drew closer to the big celebration, we were running errands all over town daily. We had cake tastings to conduct, interviews for DJs and bands, dresses to select for the court, tuxedos to reserve, invitations to pour over and we updated that guest list so many times! We planned this event for many months – but honestly, it was years in the planning. When the day finally came, it was a relief as much as it was magical. I’m grateful that my parents did this for me. I truly am! Though I enjoyed the celebration of my coming to age, there were a few things I didn’t enjoy. I didn’t like the long drives to/from dress fittings (an 8-hour drive to the border and back), the going back and forth on colors, finding enough friends to be on my court without hurting anyone’s feelings, asking a boy to be my chambelan (escort) hoping he wouldn’t dump me before the event and making sure all of my friends were all still getting along!
It has been more than 27 years since I had my own Quinceañera and I have attended countless 15th birthday celebrations since then too. I also helped with the planning of my niece’s Quinceañera a few years ago. Oh boy! There were moments I was ready to throw in the towel and I only had a small role in the planning of it. The planning of a Quinceañera is a complete team effort from everyone in the family. Sure, we could look into hiring an event planner, but Latinos don’t do that! We recruit our Tias to help! Though my niece’s Quinceañera was a success and everything was so beautiful, a part of me on that day was hoping that my daugther wouldn’t want one. Is that selfish? Maybe.
What I do know, and will share with my daughter, is that turning 15 is a big deal. So is 16. And 18 for that matter. Every single birthday my children have is a big deal. Do I need to break the bank to celebrate my daugther’s coming of age? Nah. I don’t think so. I know this is a celebration within our culture and I am not changing anything other than I will be giving my daugther the option to have a Quinceañera. I won’t be telling her that it’s tradition, therefore she has to have one. I will share with her my experiences and allow her to decide if she wants to follow that tradition. It will be totally up to her. Of course, I will be secretly hoping she doesn’t want one. Why? I would just rather spend that money on her college education. Right now, I see more value in being able to provide her with a college education versus a big party celebrating her womanhood. And no Mom, I don’t want padrinos (sponsors).