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Don’t change purpose of Mexican celebration

 Detroit resident Wendy Vazquez wearing a typical dress for her quinceañera last summer. Photo by Liset Diaz.

Quinceañeras are an important tradition in Latino culture, especially the Mexican culture. But some girls and their families are trying to redefine the honored traditions of the quinceañera and repurpose it to fit their own cultural identities.

Being a Mexican Latina myself, I believe it's wrong to change the purpose of a whole tradition and give it the same name. Every ritual in the ceremony and specific action in the party have symbolism and meaning. For example, the big puffy dress the quinceañera (the 15-year-old girl celebrant) wears signifies the life change she will go through as she passes into adulthood. The choreographed dances the quinceañera and her court perform represent the transition from a happy end to childhood and the start of an exciting new adult world full of friends, family and love interests. The high heels her father places on her feet at the party symbolize her becoming a woman and her new roles in society. 

A quinceañera or quince for short, isn't only a fancy party where a 15-year-old girl wears a big dress and has a court just to be spoiled. It also isn't a tradition that's up for grabs for everyone, which means it isn't fair to change it. The religious aspects of a quince are a rite of passage filled with pride. The quinceañera typically has to have a mass in her honor at Catholic Church of her choice. This is a way of announcing to the community that a girl has matured into a young woman capable of so much success.

Maybe as Mexicans we have allowed this special tradition to pass on to other types of Latinos because they have proven to respect the tradition. After all, it is an ancient Aztec tradition mixed with other customs from around the world. So, why do young girls nowadays want to take my tradition and change it so that it's no longer a quince, but an average sweet 15 birthday party? In doing this they miss the original point of the celebration. There are recent examples of girls who have replaced the honored history and traditions of the quinceañera with elements of their own cultures, such as African and Islamic. These girls and their families have failed to see that a quince celebrates a young woman's Latina heritage and Catholic spiritual practices.

Maybe these girls celebrate a quinceañera to add honor to this important passage of life, but too many have overlooked the deep significance and traditions of the quinceañera and turned them into birthday parties. This, I believe, is a disrespectful thing to do. 


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