Ok, first things first for those of you wanting to correct me on that title: it’s a “Quinceañera” party in Northern Mexico and Texas, but it’s called a “Quince años” party here in the south of Mexico. The girl herself is actually called the “Quinceañera” here (which to me, makes more sense, but that is neither here nor there).
Now that we’ve got that cleared up, for all of you out there who are still confused, a “Quince años” is a HUGE party that parents throw for their daughters on their 15th birthday. Not every girl has a Quince años party, but those that do usually go all out! And let me tell you, my first Quince años was an experience, to say the least.
The history of these parties comes from 16th century Spanish nobility, who had a tradition of hosting a party for their daughters in order to introduce them into society and present them as eligible for courtship and marriage. The people in Mexico adopted that, and it’s changed quite a bit. Of course, the formality and extent of the party depends on each family, but it’s almost like a wedding. It usually begins with a traditional Catholic Mass, and afterward, a party that can go all night.
We were honored to be invited to the Quince años of the cousin of one of our students, so one weekend several weeks ago we got on a bus and traveled up into the chilly mountains of Ajusco. We were running late, so we missed the Mass and went straight to the party. When we stepped into the gymnasium that was covered in decorations, balloons and candy, we immediately saw the Quinceañera in a huge sparkling purple ball dress. She was being serenaded by a Mariachi band that played there for several hours. We were also treated to a delicious taco buffet and some kind of non-alcoholic piña colada drink made from real fruit (yum!). After the Mariachi band finished, the DJ kicked in and started playing some salsa music to warm up the crowd. Almost everyone was immediately out on the dance-floor showing off some really impressive moves. It made me want to take salsa lessons again!
But the next part of the party is the part that really blew me away. Everyone sat down in chairs at tables surrounding the dance floor and got ready for the big performance of the Quinceañera. She and 5 of her male friends had choreographed an extensive routine that lasted about an hour and included approximately 7 songs, 4 costume changes, and some very intricate choreography. I’ve never seen “High School Musical” but I imagine that it might have been similar.
First, she started out in her purple ball dress doing some fairly complicated ballroom dancing for about 3 songs. This part included a traditional gift-giving section where she did things like drink out of a glass of champagne and received some things from family members. Next, she changed into her “Shakira” outfit and did some salsa dancing for a few songs. Finally, she changed into her “Britney Spears” outfit and for about 3 songs she did some pretty crazy moves that I usually only see in music videos. What is amazing about all of this is that these 15 and 16 year old guys were right out there with her. They looked like they had been doing musical theatre all of their lives, actually. I laughed when I imagined teenage boys at my high school doing any sort of choreography for my 15th birthday. What an impossiblity! But here, it is apparently the thing to do, because these guys were attacking their Waltzes and In-Sync dance moves with a passion that I’ve only seen on Broadway stages.
The dance shown above wasn’t the most complicated by far, but it’s the best video I was able to get. My favorite part of the video that you can barely see is the guy who was running the “special effects.” He had this confetti gun that looked like a Bazooka, and at one part he got right behind her in an amazing confetti-shooting pose in order to shoot it in the air right above her head. Sometimes he even turned on the fan to make it more highly dramatic with the confetti and her hair blowing in the wind. He also set off some pyrotecnics at one point which scared the heck out of all of us. And then there was that tricky little electrical fire on the gym floor during one of the numbers… Overall, the special effects guy was my favorite part of the show, hands down!
Anyway, I’m very glad that I got this chance to see one representation of a real Quince años party in Mexico! It was very interesting… and it looked like quite a lot of work. My parents have 3 daughters, and as I mentioned in my last post, they just finished planning a wedding. Just imagine, guys… be very thankful that you didn’t have to throw all of those Quince años parties as well!