The Roman Catholic Diocese of Reno
290 South Arlington Avenue, Ste 200
Reno, NV  89501

Let us talk about “Who is a Quinceañera”

The celebration of the Quinceañera is an old tradition of some Latin American Countries; it is the celebration of a young lady’s fifteenth birthday usually with a Mass and a party. The origins of this celebration can be traced back to the indigenous traditions that revolved around the dedication of young people to their gods. The actual celebration now, however, evolved from the colonial era, especially from the last part of the 19th century. The upper class of Latin American emulated the European trends; one of this was the formal introduction of young women into society, on their fifteenth birthday. This celebration marked a very painful social difference. Fr. Raul Mora, a historian from the Jesuit University of Guadalajara, recounts how the lower classes of Mexico were silent onlookers at the upper class Quinceañera celebrations. It was not until around the 1950’s that the celebration became a social event among the middle and lower classes.

The current celebration lf the Quinceañera today is something similar to the “cotillion”   frequently danced in the Viennese courts, where young ladies were introduced into society as they symbolically danced their first waltz in public.

For the great majority of Hispanics who live in the United States is of great importance to continue with this tradition for many reasons. In the first place, it is an opportunity for the young lady to give thanks to God for the gift of life and to learn her traditions. From the Quinceañera celebration, a period of preparation begins for her role as guardian of the faith and traditions. This is the reason that, from this time on, the young lady is invited to learn the family recipes, home remedies, devotions and values. However, this task is not an easy one, it is very difficult for parents to share their culture and values with their daughters, due to the easy enculturation of the young ladies into the dominant culture.

The family ties among the Hispanic community are very strong when it comes to this celebration because it’s not always possible to celebrate this feast with a party due to severe economic limitations. It is the extended family and friends who share in the expenses which gives this very special day a sense of magic.

The immigrant Hispanic community would like to express a tremendous gratitude to our Catholic Church, which has lovingly received us and has tried to respond to our pastoral needs, as well as our own traditions. Without a doubt, in many occasions, consumerism prevails in the celebration of the Quinceañera, blocking the Christian significance of this celebration. However, should we take advantage of this opportunity to offer a serious pastoral program for Quinceañeras? Perhaps then these young ladies would be able to see themselves in the mirror of Jesus Christ and discover the real meaning of their existence.

Sometimes, the practice of this tradition turns out to be incomprehensible. Many other times there is a struggle between the families and the parishes in accepting the resources that parishes lovingly propose, with the intention of bringing the young girls truly close to Jesus Christ, at a crucial and difficult stage in their lives.