News Column

Coming of Age: Hispanic Teens Gussy Up, All Grown Up for Quinceanera

May 29, 2012

Chelsea Boozer

It's more than two months off, but Georjina Estupinan has already begun planning.

She envisions a room decorated with flowers and accented in her chosen colors -- white and neon green -- filled with upwards of 2,000 guests, including family who are traveling in from Mexico. She'll be accompanied by 14 damas, or ladies, and partake in the customary father-daughter dance.

While it may sound like a wedding, Georjina is planning her quinceanera, a Hispanic celebration of a girl's 15th birthday marking her ascent into womanhood.

She translated for her father, 36-year-old Spanish-speaker Manuel Longone, who said he'll shed sentimental tears at the ceremony.

"The most important thing for me," he said, "is she's presenting herself as a young adult to the church."

Traditionally, the occasion marked the first time a girl donned makeup, and she wore pink to represent purity. That's not typically the case now, but other traditions are still commonly practiced.

"They receive their last doll, or muneca, their shoes change to high heels and instead of putting flowers (on their head) they put a crown," said Oralia Alvares, co-CEO of Royal Events.

At least a dozen coming-of-age girls attended Royal Events' "My 15" on Sunday at the Hickory Ridge Mall. The trade show presented vendors who sell dresses and decorations or services such as disc jockeying or photography.

The girls vied for the coveted prize -- their dream party with free hair and makeup, a dress, crown, decorations and music. Judges asked what the importance of winning a quinceanera was, in search of the girl who answered most sincerely and presented herself authentically.

Last year Ama Karen Rodriguez, now 16, won second place in the contest. Her winning answer described what a quinceanera dress should be.

"It should include everything that you like, and your dress really represents you that day so just like fashion it's a way to express yourself," she said Sunday, clad in the gold princess-style dress she designed and which her mother made. She also wore it to her celebration last year.

Its embroidered silver swirls symbolize her frequent doodling, she said, and the small gold leaf, a gift from her mother and fastened at the gown's hip represented love for autumn and her mom.

Extravagant dresses were worn by many during the expo Sunday, as those like Rodriguez who had already celebrated their quinceaneras competed to be featured on the cover of La Onda Magazine, the largest Hispanic and Latino magazine in the Mid-South.

Georjina, though, said many forget about the point behind a quinceanera. She bought a Victorian-style dress that puffs at the waist and a crown Sunday, but said her celebration will embrace the culture of the tradition.

She placed emphasis on the thanksgiving Mass, which begins most ceremonies, and translated for her mother, 34-year-old Maria Guadalupe Espinoza, who noted the religious significance of the celebration.

"The most important thing for her is giving thanks to God for having me here at the age of 15," Georjina said of her mother. "That is the point of having a quinceanera."



Source: (c)2012 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)


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