Quinceañeras" have been on my mind as my youngest of three children and only daughter recently celebrated that coming-of-age milestone that is traditionally held in Latin American cultures. I still vividly remember been woken up in the early hours of my 15th birthday and being serenaded by my aunt Pilar and dozens of her friends and musicians. And that was just the beginning of my festivities.
The custom of "quinceañeras" began centuries ago to mark the rite of passage from a young girl into womanhood, and is a milestone that is still cherished by all generations of Latinas. My mom recalled with fondness the parties that were thrown for her and her four sisters back in the day in Bogotá, Colombia. No matter who you talk to, they all agree it was and still is, a big deal.
My daughter's party was not a huge event; she wanted something a little more intimate. So we took her and about 8 friends to a trendy restaurant in Manhattan, where they all dressed up and had a memorable and special evening.
But for some families and their daughters, a quinceañera is a major blowout.
"For me, it was definitely worth the fuss", says San Juan, Puerto Rico, native Vivi Ali Fortuño, 20, remembering her big party where she had quite the grand entrance.
"I mean, I came down from the ceiling on a swing. It was kind of dramatic," she says.
But in the end, it was also about having all her loved ones around her. "It was really, really special having all my family together. The dance in front of everyone… the waltz and my entrance," she adds with a laugh as she reminisced about her special day.