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Puerto Vallarta Living: 15th Birthday

The Mexican Quinceañera

Every Mexican girl has a quinceañera. The translation means fifteenth birthday but in Puerto Vallarta it can mean so much more. A young lady often gets a party to outdo all parties; a celebration of many things. The priority of a quinceañera is the acknowledgement of social responsibility, which symbolizes the passage from childhood into maturity. The focus is on family, friends, music, food, dance and religion. Quinceañera is also what we call the young lady being honored.
Akin to the tradition of cotillions and debutante balls, the young lady will choose an escort (chambelan) to accompany and present her, dance with her, and be by her side for the entire event. Being chosen as a chambelan is considered an honor. At some quinceañeras, you will see several chamblanes and perhaps young women damas to counter them. The waltzes they do have often been practiced for months in preparation for the party.
Traditional quinceañeras begin with a mass at church, followed by what is most often a lavish party. They are not only similar to a wedding; they often cost more than the average Mexican wedding. It’s not unusual for a father to pay upwards of $10,000 for his daughter’s quinceañera. Venue, food, music, DJ’s, decorations, dresses for the honoree, outfits for the rest of the family.
At the mass, the young woman will be presented to God and make promises to honor herself and her religion. The changing of the shoes is fun ceremony where the parents symbolically give their daughter her first high heels and help her change out of flats into shoes that indicate she has transitioned out of childhood. Chances are she has tested these shoes out beforehand, since she will spend the evening dancing in them. Sometimes the young lady will pass on a favorite doll to a younger sister, another sign of growing up. The father-daughter dance kicks off dancing for everyone, just as in a traditional wedding. An MC, or maybe a DJ, will have members of the family and community take the microphone and say something memorable about the quinceañera.
Appropriate gifts, should you be invited to a quinceañera, are rosaries, bibles, tiaras, scepters, medals that can all be purchased in the cathedral shop. Money is also a highly regarded gift and the most common. Grandparents often present the quinceañera with fifteen red roses, stems that signify strength, and roses for sweetness. Birthstone rings and bracelets are often gifted.
Though a quinceañera seems like a very dressy event, it’s mainly the celebrants and family who are decked out in fancy apparel. Guests are expected to dress nicely, but gowns and tuxedos are not expected.
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