Coming Of Age And Not Having A Quinceañera Celebration #TheYearOf40

While I’ve always been a tomboy and didn’t care much for pretty dresses and flowers, when it came to celebrating my 15th birthday I was like any other girly girl out there. That’s why not having a quinceañera left me devastated as I had dreamed of that day for years and imagined my party was going to be like the one shown during the classic Mexican soap opera Quinceañera that showed Adela Noriega dancing with Ernesto Laguardia through a beautiful curtain of flowers.

Noriega played the poor girl in the telenovela and I was about 11 when I watched it, and that made me hopeful that a beautiful birthday party like this was possible for me. It never occurred to me that I will not be having a quinceañera when the time came and I let my imagination run wild during the time I was watching, pretending I was that girl on the screen dancing with a handsome young man.

In reality, that kind of party was something that my family couldn’t afford and this was what coming of age meant to me, facing a reality that although I somewhat knew, it was the first time I truly felt more grown, still crushed about not having a quinceañera but understanding it wasn’t something possible for me. I think it gave me more drive to work and have higher aspirations, I felt I had to stop dreaming and make things happen for myself instead of just being sad about a party.

For those of you who are not familiar with quinces and what it means not having a quinceañera in Latin America, you must know it is more than a party. It is a milestone that represents coming of age, becoming a woman. In some countries, like Mexico, the ceremony includes a religious component, but the majority of them include the 14 dames (maids) and 14 accompanying chamberlains (escorts), with the ‘honor chamberlain’ who accompanies the quinceañera.

That year I took part on another quinceañera as a maid and I remember how excited I was with the preparation and the rehearsals for the dance we were going to do as maids. In the end, I didn’t actually participated in the birthday. I can’t remember why, but it is safe to assume I couldn’t afford the dress that was needed for the occasion.

Not Having A Quinceañera When Turning Quince

On the day of my birthday, my grandmother had a dress for me. It was pink and a bit puffy, but nothing like the fancy dresses that are used during the quinceañera celebrations. On top of not having a quinceañera I didn’t get any formal photos either that could remind me of that day. I remember being sad and Mamá Amparo wanting to cheer me up, asked my dad to take my picture in our front porch.

The non-professional image of me sitting on the floor with my pink dress, matching the house’s pink walls (at this point the outside of our house was painted, but we still had bare walls on the inside). The photo came out dark and not very appealing. Remember the days we didn’t have digital? Well, taking pictures and hoping for the best often turned out to be a gamble in which we often lost, and this was one of those times.

At this point I was a junior in high school and thinking about college and the future, the doubts and questions on what career path to take. I always was a mature child, so I can safely say that at age fifteen I reached another level of maturity. Not that I was an adult by any means, now that I’m forty I can see I was still a kid, but at that moment I felt pretty grown.

Having only one girl I wish she gets excited about having a quinceañera so I can enjoy through her experience. Did you have a quinces party? If not, how did you feel about not having a quinceañera?

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© Dania Santana ~ Embracing Diversity
Multiculturalism, Diversity & Inclusion Expert | Author | Speaker
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