Family Hosts Mexican Quinceañero for Son: ‘People Loved It. It Was Really Different’
Gustavo Martinez is a seemingly typical teenage boy. He plays sports, works part-time at a BBQ joint, loves his mom’s tortas and was initially apprehensive about celebrating his 15th birthday in the same way that all three of his three sisters had: a quinceañera. Or, in his case, a quinceañero.
As we all know, the term “quinceañera” has historically applied exclusively to 15-year-old girls, heralding their coming of age and welcoming them into womanhood. However, Gustavo’s mom, Bety Martinez, had different plans. As the youngest child and only son, Bety felt it wasn’t fair to exclude Gustavo from the long-standing tradition, which date back as far as the Aztec and Mayan civilizations.
“My mom started talking about it after I turned 14,” Gustavo said. “She told me, ‘All your sisters have had a quinceañera, I want to have one for you!’ She wanted a picture of me to hang on the wall, because she has pictures of all my sisters at their quinceañeras. She said she wanted me next up there with them.”
Although Bety’s idea may have started as a joke, it quickly began to sound better and better to the whole family, and finally, to Gustavo. “At first I said I wanted a car,” he admits. “But when I saw that she was serious about it, I was like, ‘Okay, I guess we’re doing it!’” And so they did.
The party took about 10 months to plan, drawing inspiration from the family’s Mexican roots. Gustavo was born on Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of Mexico’s victory at the Battle of Puebla, which is also coincidentally where his dad Juan is from. Needless to say, they had a lot to celebrate and a lot to do for their 150 guests.
Many of the components were custom made in Mexico, including dresses worn by Gustavo’s nieces and his own black and gold charro suit, accented by a red silk tie and sash. The decorations used were colorful, thoughtful and incredibly creative, ranging from the same streamers and banners that are used during Día de los Muertos celebrations to centerpieces made from the bright fringed fabric of ponchos.
“We had big clay casuelas full of taco meat at the center of every table,” Gustavo shares. Around it, there were clay plates with all the fixings — cilantro, lime, onions, you name it. The tortillas were kept in a basket and wrapped in napkins that featured Gustavo as a cartoon in his charro suit. Everyone made their own tacos table-side — a fun and interactive alternative to serving food buffet-style. There was also fresh fruit with Tajín and chamoy, Mexican sodas and of course, dessert: three tres leches cakes decorated in black and red fondant to match Gustavo’s suit.
Juan gave Bety most of the credit. “His mom was the big brains behind it, and then we all helped make it happen,” he began. “A lot of people loved it, they said it was really different.”
Gustavo’s quinceañero seemed to be the talk of their town in both anticipation and in the aftermath. His sister Kim, who was adamant about telling his story, explained, “We didn’t plan on it being big, we invited maybe 150 people that we knew, but then all of a sudden after we started dancing, people just kept coming in and it was filling up. There were even kids that were at other quinceañeras that night that left to come to Gustavo’s — it was just that big of a party.”
For Gustavo, el rey of the ball, it was largely about celebrating his heritage and sharing it with his friends, which feels so refreshing, especially at an age when many of us were embarrassed or ashamed of where our parents came from and just wanted to fit in.
“It was pretty cool because none of my friends had ever really seen my culture like that,” Gustavo explains. “I wanted them to know that this is what I had grown up with and that I was proud of it. I wanted to bring a little bit of Mexico to my hometown.”
I feel like I’m speaking for the entire Latinx community when I say that we all think you did a wonderful job. ¡Viva México!
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