A girl celebrates 15: ‘I’m like Cinderella’
On Saturday, Brenda Ramirez took the hand of her father, Jose Luis, and danced her way into womanhood.
This Mexican tradition is just one aspect of a quinceanera, a coming-of-age rite that most 15-year-old Mexican girls participate in and look forward to most of their lives.
“This is the biggest event of my life,” said Ramirez, who looked like a princess in a pink gown. “You turn into a lady. You’re not a little girl anymore. You have to be responsible.”
The event took her family a year to plan and was bigger than most weddings. Held in the North Tahoe Community Conference Center in Kings Beach, Ramirez’s Quinceanera included elaborate decorations in pink and white to match her gown, a video of Ramirez through the years, a spread of homemade Mexican fare, a five-tier cake, a bubble machine, professional photographer and videographer, live music, a DJ and the traditional dance and other elements that make up the celebration.
Family members and friends are asked to “sponsor” each item, helping cut down the cost of the celebration, which can cost thousands of dollars. Brenda, who actually turned 15 in March, even had her dress specially made in Mexico for the occasion. The entire family chipped-in for the quinceanera, but Ramirez’s sister said all the fuss was worth it.
“We did it because she was so excited to have a party,” said Claudia Colmenero, Brenda’s 29-year-old sister. “We want her to be happy.”
The youngest of six sisters and three brothers, Brenda is the only one in her family to have a Quinceanera. She had wanted one her whole life and was all smiles the day of the event.
A traditional Catholic Mass was held earlier in the day to wish Brenda good fortune, and then the reception went into the night. During the reception, Brenda was crowned with a tiara, which symbolizes that she is a princess before God. Her 250 guests gave a customary toast to offer their congratulations and well wishes, while her parents, Evelia and Jose Luis Ramirez, stood by their daughter’s side. Later, her parents presented her with a doll ” the last one she will receive.
Brenda’s 12-person court, which was made of six boys and six girls, all friends and family, danced around her while she twirled and made her debut as a woman. Dressed in military-like uniforms, the champelanes, or male escorts, hoisted Brenda into the air and danced a choreographed routine that they had prepared months ahead.
With her hair and make-up done like a model’s, Brenda shed tears of joy when her parents gave their congratulations. And although the celebration included family members and friends alike, this day was for her.
Said Brenda: “I’m like Cinderella.”
Quinceanera: What is it?
Intended to usher a 15-year-old Mexican girl into womanhood, the Quinceanera marks the responsibility of adulthood and traditionally permitted girls to date, go to parties and wear makeup and high heels.
Such cultural norms have become less rigid in recent decades, particularly in the U.S., but many families continue the 15th birthday celebration as a ritual that carries on family tradition and heritage. In addition, the celebration is intended to reaffirm religious faith, good morals and the virtues of traditional family values. A Quinceanera ” which refers both to the celebration and to the girl who has turned 15 ” is similar in concept to a debutante’s “coming out party.”
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