Photo credits: Gabriela Garcia
By Gabriela Garcia
October 20th, 2021 at 8:00 P.M. EST.
In Latin American countries, Hispanics preserve a tradition predominantly called
quinceañera, a term used to describe when a young lady turns fifteen years old in her youth. This transition is remarkable in a girl’s life as it symbolizes the progress from adolescence to youthful womanhood. This celebration is primarily commemorated with a traditional mass in church followed by an extravagant party filled with family members and friends. The purpose of beginning the festivities with a mass is to receive God’s blessing and express gratefulness for one more year of life. At the birthday party, the quinceañera makes a grand entrance dressed in a colorful, princess-style dress accompanied by her suitors. Typically, the party starts with a waltz danced by the quinceañera and her father. In some cases, it follows with the symbolic act of replacing the quinceañera’s flat shoes with proper heels presented by her father. This serves as another representation of the girl’s transition into adulthood.
Likewise, as the quinceañera shifts to the age of fifteen, she is then granted other privileges such as being able to pluck her eyebrows, shave her legs, wear make-up, jewelry, and high heels, and perhaps form a relationship with one of her escorts. This night marks a beautiful time in a girl's youth since she is now considered a young adult in the Latin American community with many responsibilities. Conversely, this tradition has been altered throughout the years since not all quinceañeras opt to have an exotic and lavish party, including myself.
Personally, when I turned fifteen years old, I was lucky enough to be offered a trip across Europe. My sister made a very different choice since she preferred to experience the traditional quinceañera party. Nonetheless, I was grateful to my parents for having offered me the incredible opportunity of getting to travel across continents and taste different cultures around the world, including Rome, Spain, and France. Indeed, this was a special time in my youth. I will never forget the beautiful landscapes Europe has to offer and submerging myself in diverse cultures with significant backgrounds and lessons to tell. The views and staples such as the Eiffel Tower, The Colosseum, and Pisa’s leaning tower are priceless. Moreover, I will never forget the lovely friendships I made throughout the trip, which remain part of my life today. Turning fifteen and coming from a Latin American community does come with its benefits, but also plenty of responsibilities. As soon as I turned fifteen, I was responsible for cooking my food, cleaning my house, washing the dishes and my clothes, and overall acting more mature than before. I slowly began being treated as a young adult, but I counted on the love and support from my parents. Nevertheless, turning fifteen is a prime time in a girl’s youth but mainly in a Hispanic girl’s youth.
This tradition, like any other, has changed throughout the years. In the early twentieth century and before, in its original intent, this tradition tells the world a girl is ready for marriage, exhibiting the sexist beliefs it was rooted in as potential admirers presented gifts to the birthday girl’s family as a marriage dowry. In essence, it was a materialistic and patriarchal custom since the birthday girl’s family will give their daughter in marriage to whoever offered the highest dowry. Quinceañeras were often objectified. They were solely treated as objects to be exposed and sold into marriage.
As we get a taste of the start of our Urbana Literary & Arts magazine Vol. XV, which we facetiously and affectionately call the “Quinceañera Volume,” brief enlightenment of the quinceañera tradition is essential. It is important to highlight the misogynist roots of our beloved tradition. They are often disguised by the grand celebration itself; consequently, blurring the true sexist meaning behind it. It is indeed sad and disheartening, how such beautiful young ladies were seen only through the male gaze. As a proud Latina and media director of our magazine, I cherish this tradition but not all the implications of women’s subjugation that comes with it. I have learned to discard the bad and embrace the good.
Gabriela Garcia is a second-year student at the Miami Dade Honors College Dual Language program at Eduardo J. Padron Campus. She is majoring in accounting and hopes to transfer as a finance student. She is currently President of Phi Beta Lambda Additionally, she is an ambassador for the IMPACT committee and is passionate about improving her community and provoking change. During her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, tutoring children, and volunteering in her community.