The Quinceanera is a celebration of a girl's coming of age in
the Latin countries. Basically, when a girl turns fifteen, she gets a really
big party, and she and all her friends dance and eat all night long...
On Saturday, February 20, 1999, a huge party was held at the Scottsdale, Arizona.
One-hundred and fifty people from California, Florida, and different towns from
Arizona gathered at the Scottsdale Princess in celebration of my fifteenth birthday.
Now, you're probably going, "What? You had a huge party just for your fifteenth
birthday?" Well, yes, and there's also a reason why the huge shindig was for
my 15th birthday and not my 16th.
Many of the Native American races of Central and South America
have rituals for the coming of age of girls. This usually happens when the girl
turns fifteen. This also most of the time means that the girls is ready for
marriage, but this is the nineties, so uh...um...no...
In Spain, during the fifteen and sixteen hundreds, the princess would hold a
yearly ball. She would invite the daughters of her father's administrators and
noblemen to be a part of her court. The daughters (teenagers) would come and
basically be shown off to the eligible young noblemen also present at the ball.
Some married and were replaced, others stayed until they were married off.
Somehow the traditions merged (I'm guessing when the Spaniards came to the Americas)
and formed the tradition of the Quinceanera. The girl who is turning 15 (she
is called the Quinceanera) has a partner (a family member, a close friend, a
boyfriend). The Quinceanera also has a court of 14 couples, each representing
a year of her life, with her and her partner being the 15th. Everyone is dressed
up in ball gowns and tuxedos, the Quinceanera is in a white ball gown, they
dance the waltz, her shoes and halo are changed by her father to represent her
passage to womanhood, and everyone is happy, and everything is perfect.
HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!! Right! Only in fairy tales do things go as planned. You can
ask any of my friends, and they will tell you that the process of getting from
point A to point B is much more difficult than thought....
About two years before my 15th birthday, my mom said to me, "Karina,
when you turn 15, I'm going to give you a Quinceanera." I was like, "A what?"
My mom explained it all to me. I was like, "oh, okay." Kinda impartial at first,
until she told me about the ball part of it.
My mom then proceeded to tell me that I needed to find a partner first of all.
Naturally, the first person who came to my mind was my then boyfriend. My mom
looked at my skeptically, "Realistically, will you and him stay together for
two years Karina? Why don't you choose someone you know you will be friends
with in two years, and is very close and special to you? Just think about it,
you don't have to make a decision right away."
Well, I thought about it, still not really sure who I should ask. Even after
a few months had passed I still didn't know who to ask. Yes, my boyfriend and
I did break up, and I was happy I hadn't chosen him. One good thing was that
I had nearly all of the guys for the court picked out, and 2 or 3 girls ready
and willing to participate.
Approximately one year before my 15th birthday, I finally decided who I would
ask to be my Chambelon de Honor (escort of honor). I would ask John, my best
friend, if he and his brother would be part of my court, and of course, he said,
Summer came and went, and Mom and I were beginning on preparing for the Quince.
Now, you're supposed to start preparing for a Quinceanera at least a year in
advanced to have a really organized event. My mom was still looking around for
a place to hold it still, and we were also looking for a seamstress to make
the girl's dresses. We still didn't have the full court and Quinceanera was
in 7 months!!!!
One day in August, my mom said to me, "Karina, you need to find your entire
court by the end of this week, or I will choose the people for you." My jaw
just about dropped open. It was Wednesday, and I had until Sunday to find my
I went on the prowel, calling everyone I knew and asking them to be a part of
my court. By now we had known the prices of the tuxedos and the dresses, so,
when I told half of the people the price, they were like, "Oh, I can't afford
that. I'm sorry Karina." And that's how it was for a few days. I did have people
who would be in the Quince despite the cost. Most of them stuck with it, most
The next thing we had to do was find a place to hold practices and a dance instructor.
I was taking Tae KwanDo at the time, so I asked my instructor if I could rent
the dojo for our practicing. He agreed. So, our first practice was held there,
at the dojo. A proffessional ballroom dancer came and taught us some steps.
In the time frame of September, four people dropped out. During the month of
November, two others dropped out. My next case was to now find replacements.
I had attended summer school at my new High School, Xavier, and I had met three
girls there. They were part of the Quince already, but I asked some other Xavier
girls to be a part of the Quinceanera as well. Well, I found the replacement
girls quickly in my PE class and also from my old school Shepherd, so I was
set with an even number. The guys, oh, I had a waiting list of guys who wanted
to be in the Quinceanera, so I was okay with them, it was just the girls I was
having trouble with.
During this time, my mom had placed the downpayment for a manor near our house
for the Quinceanera. Two months later, in November, they called us and told
us the plans they had originally didn't work out, and that our event was cancelled.
They kept our downpayment (a hefty sum) and left us without a place. Immediately
my mom went frantic. Then, on top of trying to find a new place to hold the
party, my mom also had to find a new practice studio (the Head of the dojo discovered
that we were using it, and for insurance reasons, we couldn't rent the dojo
out anymore) .
We finally found a place to practice, but when we got there, we
discovered that it was a disco club with a bar. I'll tell you, we experimented
with the liquor, soda, hairspray, and turpentine (we mixed them, we didn't drink
them). My mom found the bar and all the dangerous chemicals they kept with the
bar, and immediately searched for a new place. She didn't have to look very
Right across the street was a small dance studio called Dance One. We called,
and they agreed to rent the studio to us. It was under construction, so it was
a little dusty, but it worked great. This was around the end of November. Oh,
and another member of the court dropped too.
Now everyone was getting edgey. The dance teacher hadn't taught us anything
new in two months. Finally, after my mom yelled at him, he taught us something
new. Then, suddenly, he disappeared off the face of the earth. My mom tried
calling him several times, but, no one would pick up the phone. My theory was
that he died (he was pretty old). My mom's however, was that he was very ill
(he still owes us $200). So, here we were, two months before the Quinceañera,
and we had no choreography, and no instructor, so, what did my mom do. She placed
me in charge...
I had this beautiful choreography in mind. Lots of turns, and twirls and changing
partners. That wasn't happening. I wasn't a very good leader, I kept joking
around with my friends, and I wasn't enforcing the rules very well. I was having
a fun time socializing! I was tired of learning the same old thing, and having
nothing come of it. Things went haywire, and nothing was being learned. Anything
that was learned, was soon forgotton because it was much too difficult.
One good thing did come of this, however, we found a hotel to
hold the Quinceanera. It wasn't fully built, but from what they had described
to us, it would have everything we wanted. All this was happening in January,
a month and a half before the Quince.
My mom and I went to visit the hotel, and it was nothing like what they had
told us it would be like. My mom had already placed the downpayment on it, but
she was really unhappy. I tried cheering her up, but it didn't help. She was
totally upset. She called and told them that our event wouldn't be held there
anymore. Now, we had no place. My mom called everyone she had turned down for
this place, but they were all booked (it was afterall, a month away).
Finally, my mom finds a place. The Scottsdale Princess. It was everything we
had been looking for, and more. I was in love. My mom gave the downpayment,
and we were set (for reals this time). The photographer was happy we had chosen
the Princess (he said there were nice shots there), the videographer liked it,
and the DJ had never been there before, so it was a new experience.
I was lucky in that we found my dress off the rack at David's
Bridal during their $99 sale. It wasn't white, my mom didn't want this to be
confused with my wedding, it was cream, and it fit perfectly. The only thing
it needed was to be hemmed 5 inches (I'm short) and since the skirt was tulle,
there was no real problem. The girls' dresses, on the other hand, was a totally
On top of everything else, my mom and I were having difficulties getting the
dresses to come out right. My mom had the first batch of dresses made, but they
were too bright for winter, and since our photo shoot was going to be outdoors,
the colors would have been amphlified to three times their brightness. We had
picked Electric Blue, Bright Jade, dark green, and Bright Purple. the only color
that stayed was Dark Green. It was a very dark, rich color. So, three weeks
before the Quinceañera, we told the seamstress to completely redo the dresses
in only two colors: Dark Blue, and Dark Green.
Two weeks before the Quinceanera, my mom and I have to drive down to Mexico
to pick up the dresses. Our car broke down halfway between Tucson and Nogales.
We were stranded for eight hours in the middle of nowhere. We finally got help,
and the seamstress came up and gave up the dresses. Then we went home (not before
breaking down three more times).
The next day was the weekend before the Quinceanera. The flowers were ordered,
the Tuxedo colors had been picked, and the dresses had arrived. It was now time
for the final fitting.....NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! None of the Dresses fit correctly!!!
All of them had to be tailored in some way. They were also made of two different
materials. The top part of the original dark greens was shiny dark green. For
the new ones, and the Dark blues, it was matte. Oh man, talk about bad luck.
We sent the girls to seamstresses to all across the greater Phoenix area. The
seamstresses were astonished by the work. One worked day and late into the night
to have the dresses finished by the next weekend.
Still, it was two weeks before the Quinceanera, and we had no
choreographer. We were in trouble. Suddenly, the owner of the studio, Kent,
met with my mom again, and he said he didn't know anything about Quinceaneras,
but he would sure try. He had two weeks to try really really hard. My mom and
I were frantic! The dresses were still not done, the choreography was almost
complete, and familia was still having problems booking reservations at nearby
hotels. (it was Valentine's day).
So, our dress rehersal came around. We had just finished the choreography
the week before, barely, and my cousin was flying into town to be in my court.
We had to teach her everything we had learned in the past 6 months, in one night.
::sigh:: what a task! Despite fitting the girl's dresses ONE LAST TIME, and
getting everyone ready, the night was surprisingly great! My cousin learned
quickly (after she yelled at her partner a few times). Oh yeah, dinner was good.
Tuna fish sandwiches. Lent just started, it was a Friday, so none of us could
eat meat. Dress rehersal went off without a hitch, except...at the very very
end, when I did my number of turns in succession, I'm supposed to stop, and
curtsy gracefully. The whole choreography was perfect, and I did my part, except,
when I went to bow, I was so dizzy from all the spins, I staggered a few steps,
and collapsed on the ground. Everyone was laughing. That was the last practice
until the next day. We were in a room half the size of the actual dance floor,
and we were nervous.
The next day I woke up at 7 or 8. My cousin and my friend had
spent the night at my house, so they showered first. Then the makeup lady arrived,
and I showered while the girls had their hair done by my mom's friend and make-up
done by a travelling make-up company. Meanwhile, the girls in Phoenix were having
the same thing done to them. I was getting my make-up done by Clinique, so I
had to leave for the mall early. It took an hour and fifteen minutes to do my
makeup. During this time, my mom went and bought a $500 dress for that night.
We went home, and my mom's friend was still doing the girl's hair. There were
two more girls left to do, and then me. The Limos were coming at 1:15, and it
Instead of getting dressed, I was doing a lot of last minute preparations. The
party favors needed to be placed together, and the programs needed to be stuffed.
suddenly, I looked up at the clock, and it said 1pm. I ran into the kitchen
and saw my mom's friend working on the last girl. All of them had their makeup
done, hair done, dresses on, and they were waiting on me. I looked down and
realized I hadn't dressed yet. Finally,, the hair dresser was ready, and I ran
to sit down.
Now I have extremely long hair, so, curling it all in fifteen minutes would
be a miracle. I asked the girls to bring me my undertings, dress, petticoat,
stockings, and shoes. I was just about to start dressing, when I saw to my horro,
the limos pull up. The guys jumped out of the limo looking presed and neat (once
in a lifetime event here) and walked up the sidewalk to my house. The girls
kept a wall up in front of me while I changed. We delayed the limo driver for
ten minutes before he said they had to go, NOW! I was dressed, and my hair was
almost all curled. My crown was in, and I walked out to the bright sunshine.
The girls and I received whistles from the guys, of course, when we walked out
to the limos where the guys were waiting. We got in, John and Neal (my two best
friends) were in the girls limo with me and David (who has been my good friend
since the seventh grade) also sat with us in the limo.
We were on our way to the Princess!!!
Well, to find out more, click on the pictures
and I'm sure you can figure out what happened. The dancing was perfect, I didn't
fall again, and the group had a standing ovation. The girls were serenaded by
the boys "Gils" by the Beastie boys, the cake was excellent, and we were all
exhausted by th end of the night.
It was a great experience, and I'll always treasure the memories in my heart.
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