While every culture has its own coming-of-age ritual, quinceañeras are quintessentially Latinx, with various Latin American countries holding on to their own distinct (and sometimes very sparkly) take on the festivities. Because it’s such a rich topic, Latino USA has devoted an entire episode to quinceañeras, and poses an interesting question about this coming-of-age party: “Is it a more radical expression of brown girl self-love than we give it credit for?”
We go to the LA fashion district to buy the perfect dress, hear from family friends who are struggling to decide whether to give their own daughter a quinceañera, and hear from the self-proclaimed quince lord whose videos blow up on Instagram. In the process we hear about how the quinceañera is seen as a status symbol, a form of female empowerment, a statement about Latinx identity and also just a really fun party.
With so much discussion and dissenting opinions on whether quinceañeras are outdated relics of another or time or a meaningful cultural practice, wastes of money or an empowering coming-of-age event, it’s definitely worth diving into what they represent not only for Latinx culture as a whole, but for the individual teen girls at the center of the festivities.
Latino USA’s quinceañera episode premieres Friday, September 16 on NPR.
On November 22nd, Lisa Treviño received news that is every mother’s worst nightmare. Police officers came to Treviño’s house and informed her that two teenage girls had died in a fire at a nearby apartment.
One of the girls was her daughter, 15-year-old Azalyia “YaYa” Hernandez. The other victim was her friend, 16-year-old Eliza “Ellie” Maurer.
The girls were sophomores at Fredericksburg High School. The night started out like a typical weekend for any teenager: Hernandez told her mother that she was going to go to a sleepover with Maurer after they had both attended a quinceañera with her family earlier that day.
“I’m the type that when my kids aren’t at home, I’m the type that calls them. And I can’t go to sleep until I hear from them that they’re okay,” Treviño told Spectrum News 1. “I told her, ‘Okay, Azalyia, make good choices, think good choices and I love you.’ And the last text I got, ‘I will mom. I love you too.'” That was the last communication Treviño had with her daughter.
The Maurer family is also coping with their grief. They released a statement, saying: “We are shocked and devastated at the news of our daughter’s death. Ellie (Eliza) was a beautiful child. She loved playing basketball and volleyball. She had a spunky personality and was a social butterfly. Ellie was loved by her friends and family. We still cannot believe this happened. We have been so blessed by the outpouring of support by friends, family and the community and we are incredibly thankful for that.”
According to the Sorola-Treviño family, police suspect foul play was involved.
“As with all deaths, they are treated as a homicide until proven otherwise,” said Fredericksburg Chief of Police Steven Wetz to Spectrum News 1.
According to Treviño, police told her that the girls’ bodies were found in a bedroom. The Fredericksburg Police Department says that the primary causes of both deaths was smoke inhalation. Evidence points to the fire having been started on a couch.
“The very first thing that they told us was that they found them nude and that there was foul play, and there was some suspects who had run from the apartment,” said Gary Sorola, Hernandez’s stepfather, to Fox 7 Austin.
It is still unknown why the girls were at the apartment building, but the Sorola-Treviño family say that the girls knew the son of the woman who rents the apartment.
The Fredericksburg community is shaken by the death of the two girls. Both of the girls’ families are devastated. The victims’ families and friends said the two girls had big plans for the future. Ellie wanted to become a lawyer, while YaYa wanted to join the Air Force and work with K-9s before becoming a nurse.
December 14th would have been Azalyia’s 16th birthday. But now, her mother will have to endure what should have been a happy day without her daughter.
“Now she’s gone and I’m not gonna have a chance to ever see her grow or accomplish what she wanted to accomplish. She’s gone. They took her from me too young,” Treviño said.
Police are asking anyone with information about the night in question (November 21st) to come forward. Contact them at 830-997-7585 or call Crime Stoppers at 997-8477 (TIPS).
Few days are as important or as celebrated as a teenager’s 15th birthday. So imagine the level of selflessness one must have to be able to say ‘no, I don’t want any of the celebration, I rather help out my community.’
Well, one teen in Merida, Mexico did just that this week when she told her family ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to her big quince and instead used the money that had been raised for her special day to help out her neighbors who have been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Her party was canceled thanks to Coronavirus, so she decided to help out those less fortunate.
In many countries across Latin America, the quinceañera is a huge milestone for teenagers. Beautiful dresses, visits from the entire family, big parties, and the best gifts are the norm at most quinces. But for 15-year-old Jiromy Xool Pech, instead of spending money on a lavish birthday celebration, she opted to use her party funds to help feed the needy.
Jiromy and her family had long planned her quinceañera – she had been looking forward to it for years. But with the pandemic hitting her community in Mérida particularly hard, the teen decided to put the party aside and use everything that had been invested in the ceremony to help her neighbors who have been impacted by the pandemic.
“Instead of partying, I prefer to give food to people, to help them with that,” Jiromy told El Universal. Jiromy not only asked to donate the money for her quince to the community, but she was also out there helping distribute the food to her neighbors.
Jiromy and her family weren’t alone in helping out the community either. Much of the food that was given out was prepared from by neighbors and local businesses that came to join Jiromy’s cause once word began to spread.
Unfortunately, many quinceañeras have been canceled or postponed thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic.
One of Mexico City’s most famous markets for buying quince dresses – el Mercado Lagunilla – has been closed for three months. This ins’t just hating a major impact on dressmakers and salespeople, but it also means that young teens aren’t able to buy the dresses to celebrate their big day.
But not all is completely lost: there are those who have begun to return, like Ximena González, who came with her family to try on dresses. Her quince was scheduled for May 16, but the pandemic changed everything, and now they expect it to take place in November.
“I was scared and upset but I had to accept it. Some friends can no longer go because they are moving,” she told El Universal. She added, “I hope that when it is my party the infections have gone down and that everything is done as if nothing had happened.”
Mexico has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, including Jiromy’s hometown of Merida.
Jiromy’s selfless act to help her community comes as Mexico continues to see record breaking numbers of cases. Tens of thousands are dying and even more are losing their jobs and being forced back into poverty.
As of August 6, Mexico has more than 456,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 49,698 people have died from the virus. In Jiromy’s state of Yucatan, there have been more than 10,000 cases of the virus and it’s had a huge impact on tourism, which is a major economic force in the state. Therefore, it makes sense that the 15-year-old thought it was important to use the money raised for her party to help those who are suffering financially.