Fundación Corazón de Niña

Culture


 

Why culture is important

We celebrate Mexican culture at Corazón de Niña to instill in our children and youth a sense of pride, identity and community, of  value and belonging.  Below is one such event.

Quinceañera (keensay an-yay-ra) in Mexico

Quinceañera or “fifteen year old girl”, also called fiesta de quince años, fiesta de quinceañera, quince años or simply quince, is a celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday in parts of Latin America. This birthday is celebrated differently from any other as it marks the transition from childhood to young womanhood.

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In Mexico, the quinceañera is adorned with elegant jewelry and makeup. Traditionally, this would be the first time she would wear makeup, but this is no longer the case. The quinceañera is also expected to wear a formal evening dress, traditionally a long, elegant ball gown chosen by the girl and most often, her mother, according to her color and style of favor.In the Mexican tradition, when the teenager is Catholic, the quinceañera celebration begins with a thanksgiving mass. She arrives at the celebration accompanied by her parents, godparents and court of honor. The court of honor is a group of her chosen peers consisting of paired-off girls and boys, respectively known as damas (dames) and chambelanes (chamberlains). Typically, the court consists of pairs ranging from seven to fifthteen damas and chambelanes.At this religious mass, a rosary, or sometimes a necklace with a locket or pendant depicting Mexico’s patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe, is presented to the teenager by her godparents, the necklace having been previously blessed by the church clergy. She is also awarded a tiara, which serves as a reminder that to her loved ones, especially her immediate family, the quinceañera will always be a princess. Some also sees it as denoting that she is a “princess” before God and the world.After this, the girl may leave her bouquet of flowers on the altar for the Virgin Mary.After the thanksgiving mass, guests gather for a reception where the remaining celebratory events meant to honor the quinceañera will take place, including the rendering of gifts.

The reception may be held at the quinceañera’s home, at venues (such as dining halls, banquet halls, or casinos), or in some cases, in more public places, similar to a block party. During the reception, the birthday girl usually dances a traditional waltz with her father to a song chosen by both that speaks about the occasion and their relationship. Then her father passes her over to the “chambelán de honor”, who is her chosen escort, and afterwards continues the dance with the rest of her court of honor. Often this section of the celebration is previously practiced and/or choreographed, often weeks in advance, sometimes even with months of anticipation.

The basic reception consists of six major parts with dances taking place while a traditional Mexican meal is served:

  • The formal entry – A grand entrance made by the Quinceañera once most guests have been seated.
  • The formal toast – An optional but usually featured part of the reception, generally initiated by the parents or godparents of the birthday girl.
  • The first dance – Usually a waltz where the girl dances, starting with her father.
  • The family dance – Usually a waltz involving just the immediate relatives, the “chambelanes”, godparents and the closest friends of the girl.
  • The preferred song – Any modern song particularly enjoyed by the Quinceañera is played and danced.
  • The general dance – Also usually a waltz, where everyone dances to a musical waltz tune.

Traditionally, Mexican girls could not dance in public until they turned fifteen, except at school dances or at family events. So the waltz with her “chambelanes” is choreographed and elaborate to celebrate what was meant to be the quinceañera’s first public dance.

The next morning the family and closest friends may also attend a special breakfast, especially if they are staying with the family. Sometimes what is known as a recalentado (re-warming) takes place in which any food not consumed during the event of the night before is warmed again for a brunch type event. Some families may choose to add a ceremonial components to the celebration, depending on local customs. Among them are the ceremony of the Change of Shoes, in which a family member presents the quinceañera with her first pair of high heel shoes.

The Crowning ceremony, in which a close relative vests her with a crown on her head; andceremonia de la ultima muñeca (literally “ceremony of the last doll”), during which her father presents her with a doll usually wearing a dress similar to the quinceañera herself. The ceremony of the last doll is based on a Maya tradition and is related to the birthday girl’s receipt and renouncement of the doll as she grows into womanhood.

Likewise, the ceremony of the change of shoes symbolizes the girl’s maturity. Once all symbolic gestures have taken place, the dinner is commenced. At this point, the celebration reaches its peak; contracted musical groups begin playing music, keeping the guests entertained. The music is played while the guests dine, chat, mingle, and dance. (Source: Wikipedia; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quincea%C3%B1era)

Quinceanera at Corazón de Niña

Each year we have a number of girls turning fifteen. There is much preparation in the weeks leading up to the big day. Dresses are bought or made. Make-up is readied. Volunteers are organized. Food is prepared. Then Quinceanera arrives and with it,there is great excitement and trepidation.

It begins at Casa Corazón with the Presentation. One by one, the girls walk down a long staircase to an admiring crowd. Next, the priest arrives and holds Mass, an emotional and spiritual time. And finally, in the evening, the grand ball at the Marriott Hotel. For these girls, it is a Cinderella day they will never forget.

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