My Quinceañero – Reminiscing on a Latino Tradition

by Melanie Edwards on September 1, 2010 · 39 comments

in Puerto Rico

Quinceañero Puertorriqueño Latino - Puerto Rican Sweet Fifteen Party

You know how a lot of women say they dreamed of their wedding ever since they were little girls? For me, I would think about my Quinceañero. Ever since I learned about this tradition and knew that I’d have a choice of celebrating with such a party, I knew that I wanted one. I’d sit and think about what I wanted the room to look like, what kind of dress I’d wear, and who’d be there, much like one does when preparing for a wedding.

My two older brothers had been provided with a trip to New York City to spend the summer with family when they both turned fifteen. When my turn came about, I too was given a trip as a choice, or I could have a Quinceañero to celebrate my birthday. I chose the party.

What is a Quinceañero?

Similar to the American custom of a Sweet Sixteen, a Quinceañero (sometimes referred to as a Sweet Fifteen) is a celebration of a young girl’s fifteenth birthday and signifies leaving childhood behind and beginning the journey towards womanhood. It is celebrated in many Latino countries in different manners, but is generally a rather festive occasion.

By the time I was turning fifteen, we were no longer living in Puerto Rico – in fact we had already been living in Florida for seven years. Even still, my parents and I wanted to keep tradition alive and so we set to plan the biggest birthday party I’ll ever have.

Back in 1995, there weren’t a lot of available resources for planning a Quinceañero in Orlando. Though there were quite a bit of Latinos in the city, the community wasn’t as large as it is today. Even with a few challenges, we were able to find a proper venue, an event planner familiar with the celebration and traditions, and everything else we needed to pull off the party.

Traditionally, in a Quinceañero, the birthday girl will have an accompanying court – akin to a bridal party – that consists of fourteen girls, aged 1 to 14, signifying each year of her life. There are also escorts for many of the girls, particularly the older ones. However, being that back in 1995 we did not have a lot of family living near us, were not living in Puerto Rico, and I did not have many Latino friends, we improvised. I had several of my friends be the girls in my court and only had one male in the party – my own escort.

Quinceañero Shoe Changing Tradition - Tradición de Zapatos en Quinceañero

However, even with some necessary improvisation, we maintained many of the traditions of a Quinceañero. I wore a traditional dress and my court and I did the formal procession. Additionally, my father and I danced the traditional dance to Julio Iglesias’ song “De Niña a Mujer” (From a Girl to a Woman) and the rest of the court danced a waltz. My father also changed my shoes from slippers to heels, in a very Cinderella-like fashion – a ritual that as you can guess means the girl is now a woman and no longer a girl.

Looking back on it, it was a very beautiful night and I’m happy to have participated in something so symbolic and full of tradition. I now have many memories to share with my daughter as she grows. The fact that I celebrated when I turned fifteen with a Quinceañero instead of celebrating a Sweet Sixteen, provided me with another link to my heritage. It was another way of keeping my Latino culture alive even while living in the United States.

I look forward to sharing this tradition with my daughter when the time comes, showing her pictures of my own Quinceañero and providing her with another choice – one that will allow her to tap into half of her heritage, should she choose to do so. My husband already asked her a few weeks ago, “When you turn 15, would you like to have a big party or get a car?” Can you guess what our 4 year old responded? “A party.” Of course she did – she’s just like her mama!

Have you ever heard of the Quinceañero tradition before? Did you have one yourself?

Liked this? Share the love!

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Eren Mckay September 1, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Hi Melanie,nThis post reminded me of my huge birthday party. Even though they celebrate the 15th birthday I decided to have a Sweet Sixteen. It was a lot of fun and even though it cost a lot of money it was so worth it.nAll the best,nEren

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I think that nowadays there is that choice, since many of us are growing up biculturally. I loved my party too!

Reply

Young And Fabulous September 1, 2010 at 7:20 pm

I didn’t have a Quinceau00f1ero nor a Sweet Sixteen party but had a Debut (18th birthday party) which is similar in nature. Yes, you’re right, it was the most memorable birthday I ever had and even if it costed a lot of money, it was definitely worth it!

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Ahhh yes! I’ve heard of debut parties and definitely, they’re very similar.

Reply

Cuponeando September 1, 2010 at 7:30 pm

I had a small family dinner because I knew my mom wanted to do a party. Loved watching your pictures.

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Thanks!

Reply

Migdalia (@MsLatina) September 1, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Love your pictures!

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Old school pics, huh? LOL

Reply

Rory Mama_contemporanea September 2, 2010 at 3:10 am

Gracias Melanie, great story. There is a huge difference between Quinceau00f1era / Quinceu00f1ero in the U.S and Los quince au00f1os in America Latina. Love your pictures!nBy the way …I should start calling my broker and start saving for Chloe Quinceau00f1era.

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:12 pm

You’re right – start saving! ;)

Reply

Denisse - Ahorros para Mamá September 2, 2010 at 3:31 am

Melanie, I loved those pictures!
I always dreamed of having a Quinceañera, but my friend that wanted to be my “caballero” lost his life a few months before I turned 15 (he lived in Ecuador). Not to mention I had just moved to the US, and although I had made new friends and had attended a few Quinces, it just didn’t feel the same. So I decided not to have one :(
But I do remember having lots of fun at all of my friends’ Quinces. :)

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Wow, Denisse. I’m so sorry about that. I can definitely understand you not wanting to have one during that time.

Reply

Dorismrivera September 2, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Mine was a Party the Marquesinsa — meaning was @ home. Music, friends, 14 girls in pastel colors BIG cake, pictures and a beautiful tiara. I was the princess.. it is like having your wedding but by yourself. I was one of the 14 for a few friends and some where like real wedding .. church, misa, tux.. catered food… music…. – It is a BIG event in Puerto Rico..

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:13 pm

It really is a huge event! Thanks for sharing about your own. :)

Reply

Maura Wall Hernandez September 2, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Love the vintage photos from your special day, Mel!

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:14 pm

“vintage” LOL You just made me feel so old Maura!!! ;)

Reply

Lucilla Feliciano September 2, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Hi Melanie,nI opted for money and dinner at my favorite restaurant. Mom and dad have three girls and I figured if the other two wanted a party, they could save up for their special occasion.

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:14 pm

That is so nice of you! I can’t imagine having to do 3 Quinces, 3 Weddings, etc. Ouch!

Reply

Debbie@Invisible Heartstrings September 2, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Hi Melanie,

We didn’t have any traditions like that when I was young. I do remember turning 16 because I got my drivers license and was allowed to go on a date. It sounds like a wonderful tradition with so many fond memories.

Thanks for sharing.
Debbue

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:15 pm

It truly is a lovely tradition. But, so is getting your drivers license and dating! I didn’t get to date until much later. ;)

Reply

Ana L. Flores September 2, 2010 at 10:46 pm

So beautiful!! The pictures are just amazing

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Thanks so much! I miss my 15 year old self. ;)

Reply

Roxana September 3, 2010 at 3:30 am

Qué linda! Me encantan las fotos!

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Gracias!

Reply

Anonymous September 3, 2010 at 5:22 pm

I love your pictures Melanie! They bring that tradition feeling!
I too celebrated los Quince with a party and I was very excited to have it!! Plus I went to all my friends’ parties!! Maybe one day I’ll share it too, it’s fun!!
But you know, I’m not sure if want to teach Maya about the quince, don’t know but since here in CA the tradition is very geared towards Mexico (nothing against it) but it’s a little different than ours, plus my side of he family wont enjoy it, so not sure about it. I guess I still have time to think about it LOL!

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:16 pm

They’re so 1995 aren’t they? LOL

Yes, you do have time. Maybe you can bring in elements from Venezuela to make it more like what you know and love?

Reply

Marcela Beatty September 5, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I had a party at home. All my family and friends, catered food, DJ. I wore a pink cocktail dress. It was so much fun. Simple, for money reasons, but very special memories. nnMy youngest sister (who turned 15 a couple weeks ago) chose a trip. Yet, because of tradition we still had a party for her here at home. Salvadoran food, a candy bar, music …we had so much fun. She was so happy. nnLove your pictures!

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I saw your post about your sister’s party. It was beautiful!

Reply

Monica September 6, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Ah! The memories! I did not have one of my own, but I did participate in my prima’s quinceau00f1era. This is such a special tradition in the Latino culture, no? Very symbolic. Love the pictures and the reminder!

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:17 pm

So special and so symbolic. I hope I can share it with my daughter when it’s her time.

Reply

Sandra Charron September 6, 2010 at 5:02 pm

I love that you included pictures. Your dress was beautiful! Lucky you, all women should celebrate a Quinceau00f1ero, it’s like getting to wear a big, beautiful dress without the hassle of having the husband at the end of the ceremony!

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:17 pm

hahaha that is a great way to think about it!

Reply

Angelica @ Modern Familia September 6, 2010 at 5:47 pm

I had a Quincean~ero party. My sister did too. My mom still has the large framed photographs of each one of us sitting on our big, laced chairs, with our huge dresses. Today, we look at it and smile…we know it means a lot to my mother.

Reply

modernmami September 17, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Yes, the pic at the top of this post is on my mom’s wall – large and framed. It’s great to remember.

Reply

Liz C. September 7, 2010 at 4:30 pm

I love the pictures chica!!!nn(:nn

Reply

Rachel White September 7, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Gorgeous photos and great post Melanie. Its wonderful to look back at such milestones in our culture and smile.

-Rachel

Reply

AngEngland June 4, 2012 at 11:48 pm

One of my husband’s fondest memory is being part of his cousin’s court…learning the dances, being part of the ceremony, dressing up….It was really a highlight of his growing up. 

Reply

modernmami June 5, 2012 at 8:19 am

That’s a wonderful memory! I forget that Quinceañero parties can be just as much fun for the boys in the family. ;) Do you think you’ll do this tradition with any of your girls?

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: