ONCE UPON A DREAM.....
The parking lot has a few spots left. Cars zipping past each other, racing for empty space next to the shaking ballroom with every thud thud of the music playing inside the brick- lifeless walls of the building. “Ahora vamos a empezar la presentation, now we will begin the presentation... de nuestra bella princessa, of our beautiful princess… Heidy Jacqueline”.
At that moment, she didn’t think she would’ve felt so nervous and self conscious even with herself standing at the entrance in a beautiful green, custom, handmade, 180,000 thousand dollar dress with a white lily hanging at the side with two great lily pads around her legs that fall underneath her bedazzled green corset fitting her just perfectly around her body. Make-up done. Hair done in big long curls that fall freely at her waist, bouncing with every step she took in her gold sparkly flats. Nails done; french tipped with a matching lilly on her thumb and big toe . All she has to do is take one step and begin her one special night.
The music begins. She takes in a deep breath.
Her parents walk in first, hand in hand, and the audience applauses slowly one by one.
Her siblings walk in quite quickly like little mice scattering when the light to the kitchen turns on, shyly to stand behind their parents.
She steps into the ballroom. Scattered applauses grows louder. People are now standing.
“I can do this”, she whispers to no one.
She’s met up with the rest of her family in the middle of the ballroom and stares at the familiar faces, all whom have come to see her and be here on her special day.
The room is beautifully decorated, even better than she had imagined when she spoke to the set designer the night before. Twinkling lights on the once pale white walls now popping with color from the see through fabric covering its bare nudity. The tables decorated with the thick green linen cloth that matched her dress with green and a contrasting light nude color. The water lilies in the center of the table, floating and just chilling in the bowl, sprinkled little mini stars all around, resembling her favorite movie Princess and the Frog- the main theme of her Quinceañera.
Everyone in the ballroom is all dressed up and quietly waiting for the ceremony to begin. The whole room signs in with the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, bowing their heads in prayer lead by Heidy’s uncle, Pastor David. As he is praying aloud to bless this special ceremony, little four year old Janery comes next to Heidy and grabs her hand.
“Heidy, look I have a dress on just like you,” she whispered grabbing her dress to show Heidy the flower on the exact same side as Heidy’s quinceañera dress. Same colors only Janery had white tights underneath with a matching white little sweater over it.
Everyone now took their seats and Pastor David began with an hour long sermon on what the true meaning of growing up is and what we might see in the future. How only with God and Jesus Christ in our lives can the young people of this world live to the fullest happy, peaceful, and satisfied.
Janery grabs Heidy’s hand, admiring her nails. Heidy can only think, How fast time flys by. I remember you were so tiny, and now look at you! Man, I can’t even remeber how it was for me at your age. And at that moment she flashes back into the depths of her memory seeing a man and a women arguing- No! This is my day and I will not let anything ruin it.
“Heidy, puedes venir aqui adelante.. can you come here to the front,” Pastor David says motioning with the wave of his hand to go up.
She nods her head as she walks up to the front where her parents meet her, smiling from cheek to cheek. David begins another prayer, only this time Heidy’s parents end it with a blessing of their own to their young beautiful young lady. Everyone in the ballroom signs off, once again, with the Father, the Son, and the Holy spirit, ending the mass of thanks.
“Ahora… now… La comida esta preparrada para que cenen… the food is ready for y’all to enjoy. Por favor… please… ponganse en linia para servirsen.. get in a line to serve yourselves”, the announcer for the night implies with his arm instructing the direction of the food tables in the back.
The word “quinceañera” is derived from the two spanish words “quince” meaning “fifteen” and “años” meaning “years”. Today many hispanic girls are having quinceañeras and I can’t help but feel like most of these girls only care about the party, when in fact quinceañera’s are a modern coming-of-age tradition that is rooted to the coming-of-age traditions in ancient Aztec society.
At fifteen, the Aztec girls were moved and groomed by other women other than their own mothers in the area. The girls were taught how to do several different duties that an Aztec women does. This tradition was to acknowledge that the fifteen year-old girl now entered maturity and her next stop is to adulthood where she is now able to take on roles that are reserved for the older women of the community. Now a days, quinceaneras are a lot different from back then. Over time, it modernized just like the US and become less about a coming-of-age tradition to more of a huge birthday bash, which technically it is.
She stood there greeting all of the family members and friends. Walking, around with a huge smile on her face.
"Wow. So this is what it's like to be a princess", she thought to herself.
"Heidy can you stand up in the front please", Sayde the photographer says. She walks to the front and turns to face the tables full of familiar faces and awkwardly smiles. She tugs at her white lily on the side of her long puffy dress and fixes her corset.
In each quinceañera, the birthday girl is dressed in beautiful gown which back then was white, symbolizing purity, or pink, to symbolize youth, but as times have changed, the quinceañera chooses the color of her dress to her liking. She then is taken to a church, after getting ready, where there is a Misa de Acción de Gracias, a Mass of Thanking. This is still a current tradition.
The mass is an occasion wherein the community gives thanks for the blessing of the quinceañera. At the end of the mass, small gifts are handed to the guests while the quinceañera offers her bouquet to the Virgin Mary before being escorted out of the church by her chambelán, or escort for the rest of the night. This now reaffirms her transition into adulthood.
After the mass, there’s a reception at a ballroom where friends and family are invited to attend. This reception starts off by the presentation of the court of honor, which consists of 14 damas (girls) and 15 chambelanes (boys). citationNow a days, the number of the damas and chambelanes are up to the quinceañera- sometimes there’s just the chambelanes and no damas, others just damas. Once the court is presented, the quinceanera makes her grand entrance. Traditionally, she enters with the escort of her father
but recently, more modern and dramatic entrances are favored by the quinceañera. Shortly afterward, the quinceañera goes into the waltz with her father which is then transferred to a waltz with her main chambelan and then turned into her full court choreographed waltz and recent tradition has seen the addition of another dance, a modern music choreographed surprise dance practiced by the court and quinceañera months before the celebration. After these dances, there is a Bridis, or toast. Then is the lighting of the fifteen candles on the cake. Traditionally, the lighting of the candles is done during the mass having the quinceañera lighting her candle then passing the light to her parents candle and her parents lighting their parents candle and so on. However since families and generation gaps are now so thinly spread, this is no longer a viable practice, leaving just the normal “Happy Birthday” song and “Las Mañanitas”, a mexican birthday song.
After several flashes, click click click, photos with family, click click, and friends, click, was finally over. The DJ begins to play music. "Vamos a darles un buen applauso para Heidy y su papa Javier Maya....Lets give a great round of applause to Heidy and her father Javier Maya".
Everyone in the ballroom begins to lean forward and take out their phones to record the great father daughter dance. "Tiempo de baltz un dos tres un dos tres sin parar de bailar.." goes the chorus of the song.
"I want you to know that I am very proud of you", he whispers in her ear,
"I am honored to have helped you make this dream come true for you".
"I love you papi", was all she could spit out as she was crying on his shoulder. The song begins to fade and a roar of applause fills the air.
Finally is the after party, where the DJ just blasts music. But before, This wasn’t part of the celebration. The whole day would be scheduled as the mass, the dinner, the dances, and the other practices like the changing of shoes- from flats to heels, followed by the waltz of the last doll, where the quinceanera is given her last doll and dances a waltz with her father symbolizing the goodbye of her childhood, and then the last waltz with her father in heels, symbolizing her adulthood now.
"Ahora....now, tomale maestro... take it from here master. Tribal starts to play and everyone begins to stand up and go onto the dance floor. After several hours passing, people began to ;eave with their sleeping children and their intoxicated husbands home.
One last song was played and Heidy began to help pick up the trash on the tables.
"NO no no no no no. You go ahead. We got this," says a lady who happened to have been watching her for a while cleaning up tables by herself. Heidy thanks everyone for all of their hard work and walks to the van where she instantly falls asleep.
So to all those soon to be quinceañeras, this one is for you. Don’t just have a party. This is you’re coming-of-age ceremony. You know what you want in life and having the biggest and baddest party isn’t what is going to start you into your adulthood. Coming-of-age is where you leave all the childish like behavior behind, pick yourself up and strut out into the world as a new woman. As a woman, you will go a lot farther than as a child. A quinceañera is you’re start.