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In US, Latin Coming-of-Age Parties Change with the Times

  • Deyane Moses

The transition from childhood to adulthood is celebrated in various ways, and at different ages, around the world. In many Latin American cultures, young women mark the transition at age 15. In Los Angeles, the celebration is evolving and becoming a more lavish affair.

At a local quinceanera exposition, 13-year-old Adilen Torres and her mother research prices and gather ideas for her 15th birthday, two years from now. Torres says the celebration will be a time to express her identity.

“I want people to know that what they see on the outside isn’t everything that I am. So I want my quinceanera to represent everything I am,” explained Torres.

Adilen's mom, Nellie Viveros, says the quinceanera is an important part of the Latino heritage.

“Kids nowadays, our kids, are very Americanized and this is a part of their culture that we want them to follow tradition with… This is my only daughter and it’s [a] once in a lifetime thing. I’m willing to sacrifice and work overtime to do the quinceanera for her,” said Viveros.

Experts say that in the past decade quinceaneras, which were once small family affairs, have grown in size. Norma Capitanachi of Quinceanera Magazine says they have also become more costly.

“We have a study that says the average family maybe spends $10,000. Some quinceaneras they spend $3,000 but some quinceaneras… are very, very expensive. From $50,000 - $80,000 dollars,” said Capitanachi.

Capitanachi went on to say that for many quinceaneras, elaborate dresses are custom made and can take quite a while to produce.

“Some dresses take 3 days, 5 days, 10 days or 1 month, it depends,” she said.

Margarita Bargas and her staff spend hours sewing custom-made quinceanera dresses in an East Los Angeles shop. After more than 30 years of making them, Bargas has seen a transformation in quinceanera dresses.

“In the beginning we started with the light colors, maybe pink, lavender, baby blue off white and white. Now it’s a lot of different colors. More bright colors,” commented Bargas.

Planner Celia Barrios has coordinated 300 quinceaneras in Los Angeles. Her clients often request lavish venues, caterers, choreographers and custom-made dresses.

“Latino Americans that are born and raised here or have spent more, they’re wanting more. They kind of want to blend the tradition with something contemporary… That’s where I come in,” said Barrios.

A typical example is the quinceanera of Tatyana. Her family and friends have traveled from all over to celebrate. The ritual starts at a church, where Tatyana promises to honor herself, her family, and her religion.

At the reception, the family looks back at Tatyana's childhood pictures. Her mom, Helen Hernandez, says the family struggled financially at first.

“You can see through the pictures. And we’re so blessed and thankful that we were able to move it around and do this,” said Hernandez.

Tatyana’s family will then present her with the last toy doll she’ll ever receive. Her father will change her flat shoes into high heels and Tatyana will honor him with her first dance as a young woman.

“My parents sacrificed a lot of things to do this. And I really appreciate that they did that. And in the end it’s going to be worth it all and I’m going to remember this day forever,” said Tatyana.

“It’s really something you can take to the heart. It’s worth it. It’s definitely worth it as you can see she was definitely happy with it,” said her parents.

Today, Tatyana starts her new life, as an adult.

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