- Historical & Cultural Information>
- The Quinceañera of Latin America
In Latin America, it is common enough for families to celebrate the 15th birthday of the daughter.
They call it the quinceañera.
Sometimes called simply the quince or fiesta de quince.
When I was first learning Spanish in high school and later college, we always used these textbooks that had chapters dedicated to specific Latin American countries.
In each chapter, you'd have to learn some very basic stuff about the culture of the country.
One of the things I remember learning very clearly about was the quinceañera.
In the moment, I was curious briefly as to why Latin Americans celebrate the 15th birthday and not the 16th like we do in the US.
I get we are talking about different countries with their own cultures and habits.
I'm not nor was I looking down on Latin America for celebrating the special birthday one year earlier.
I was just briefly curious as to why they chose the 15th year.
Was there something about that year that they preferred?
Obviously, it was just something in the culture where, because of whatever history existed leading up to the creation of the quinceañera, people decided that the 15th birthday was the one to go for.
To this day though, I never cared enough to look into the issue specifically as to what the history was that led the locals in Latin America (or Spain?) to decide on the 15th birthday as the one to celebrate for this occasion.
Regardless, I never gave it much thought as I'm not a chick turning 15, don't have any Latina daughters that will turn 15 and so quite frankly I don't give many fucks about the topic.
Especially not back then when I was living in Iowa and am not Latino.
Not really my culture to care all that much about.
Though, as ironic as it is then, I ultimately chose to begin living in Latin America full time and, as of this writing, have been here for over 7 years.
In that time, you notice the quinceañera from time to time.
For example, as you can see here, it seemed like they were having one recently at a church I visited in San Juan Tezompa of State of Mexico.
Given I've never attended a quinceañera, I obviously wasn't sure what the occasion was.
At first, I thought it must've just been a wedding.
But the "bride" didn't look very much like a bride and she looked quite young to be so.
I asked the taxi driver and he said that he thinks it must be a "quinceañera" or whatever.
So "whatever" it might be!
They were leaving the church in a big group and carried on down the street.
On other occasions, I've seen young people celebrating their birthdays in other ways.
Occasionally in select areas of Mexico City, I've seen young people all enjoying a ride in a limousine.
Were of any of those occasions part of a quinceañera?
Always looked like it might have been such a case.
The only times I've ever -- without question -- seen something of a quinceañera was when I was in a serious relationship with a few of my exs.
With both a Colombian and a Mexican one, it was simply brought up whenever the family of the girlfriend showed me photos of the family going back when.
Introducing me to the family and such.
With the last one in Mexico, I remember visiting the home of her parents and being more impressed by it though.
She seemingly had a much nicer quinceañera and it was cool either way, in both occasions, to learn more about either girlfriend and their life previously.
But that's as far as my experience with the quinceañera goes.
I don't have any real personal experiences with the topic as I'm not Latino and don't have a daughter down here who is turning 15.
From what I've gathered, it is celebrated differently in every country.
But, from what I know, I guess the teenager has a very big dress, they go in a Catholic church before a party, a bunch of decorations, the teenager is walked in by her parents into the party, there is a party and a surprise gift to the girl, some nice words are said by "the padrino" and then the party really begins.
That's my basic understanding of it.
Above all, I simply felt like mentioning casually the topic for those learning about Latin America and who haven't been down here yet.
You will likely hear about the topic eventually.
If you want more detailed information on the quinceañera, you can check this article out here.
I included some key quotes.
"A quinceañera (also fiesta de quinceañera, quince años, fiesta de quince años, quinceañero and quinces) is a celebration of a girl's 15th birthday. It has pre-Columbian roots in Mexico (Aztecs) and is widely celebrated by girls throughout Hispanic America. The girl celebrating her 15th birthday is a quinceañera (Spanish pronunciation: [kinseaˈɲeɾa]; feminine form of "15-year-old")."
"This birthday is celebrated differently from any other as it marks the transition from childhood to young womanhood. Historically, in the years prior to their 15th birthdays, girls were taught cooking, weaving, and about childbearing by the elder women in their communities in preparation for their future roles as wives and during the celebration the girl's father would present her to potential suitors."
"In the past, parallel customs could be found in Europe. Today, the custom remains strongest in Mexico, its likely country of introduction during the viceregal or Mexican imperial periods. However, it is widely celebrated in Spanish-speaking countries in the Americas."
"In Brazil, a Portuguese-speaking country, a similar celebration is called festa de debutantes, baile de debutantes or festa de quinze anos. In the French Caribbean and French Guiana, it is called fête des quinze ans."
Given my time also, I've also realized that some women think the whole thing is a bit sexist as you can see here or here.
Of course, I think most people in Latin America don't think that but it's something I've heard occasionally anyhow once in a blue moon.
And other gringos say there are no social justice warriors here.
Putting that aside, here is a video on the topic as well.
Including, as you can see here, a telenovela based on the topic seemingly.
Telenovelas obviously being another cultural aspect to Latin America.
Anyway, if you got anything to add, drop a comment below.
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Thanks for reading.