Twin sisters Jaqueline and Jessica Mosqueda give up their flat Converse sneakers for blinged-out high heels, representing the change from childhood to womanhood at their quinceañera celebration. — Johnson Publications

My Sweet 15

Lavish quinceañeras celebrate the coming-of-age for Hispanic girls

    She’s got the ballgown, the heels, the jewels, the flowers and the up-do. There’s guests, food, cakes, music, dancing, gifts and photos. She feels like a princess, and it’s something she’s dreamed about for as long as she can remember.
    No, it’s not a wedding.
    It’s a quinceañera.
    That’s the Spanish word used for a girl who has turned 15 as well as the coming-of-age celebration in her honor.
    Like a 13-year-old Jewish boy’s Bar Mitzvah or a debutante ball, a quinceañera is a symbolic passage from childhood into adulthood.
    The centuries-old tradition is believed to have originated with the ancient Aztecs. They felt 15-year-old boys were now old enough to be warriors and 15-year-old girls were now women.
    Traditionally, the 15th birthday milestone was the first time a girl wore make-up, the first time she danced in heels and the first time she was presented to potential suitors.
    Today, quinceañeras are lavish birthday parties — often costing thousands of dollars — that allow families to celebrate their daughters and connect with their Hispanic roots.
    A group of girls from Holyoke High School who recently celebrated their own quinceañeras reflected on the importance of the ceremony and gave some insight into the tradition passed on from their families.
    “It’s something I always hoped to have. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Lali Marquez.
    “Our dad is letting us grow into womanhood,” added Jessica Mosqueda, who had her quinceañera with her twin sister, Jaqueline.
    For some girls, it’s the choice between a car, a trip or a quinceañera. But a 15th birthday only comes around once, and after years of planning and dreaming for the special day, it’s something that’s hard to pass up.
    As the celebration is hyped up by friends and family members who have already had their quinceañeras, expectations and budgets are set. Sometimes parents will take on an extra job and the girls will work in the summer to save money for the long list of expenses.
    Maura Castillo said she’s been planning her quinceañera in her head for several years, and Jacqueline Valenzuela admitted that she actively planned her party for about a year and a half.
    Even though every family has their own interpretation of what a quinceañera should look like, here’s an example of a rundown of the big day.
    Professional photos and videos are taken as the 15-year-old prepares for the day’s festivities. Her hair and nails are done at a salon before she slips into her dress. And this isn’t just any dress. It’s a bedazzled ballgown that can be white or a color of the 15-year-old’s choosing.
    Some dresses are bought in the U.S. while others are ordered from Mexico. The girls noted that families can get more for their money when buying quinceañera items from Mexico.
    Individual photos are posed in addition to photos with the girl’s court — all in coordinating outfits. Several girls (damas) and boys (chambelanes) have been chosen to accompany the birthday girl at the quinceañera. One boy can also be chosen to escort her down the aisle at the church ceremony.
    Valenzuela noted that sometimes a cousin is chosen as a “mini me” to represent the girl who is “next in line” for a quinceañera.

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