The quinceañera, a celebration of a Latina girl’s fifteenth birthday, has become a uniquely American trend. This lavish party with ball gowns, multi-tiered cakes, limousines, and extravagant meals is often as costly as a prom or a wedding. But many Latina girls feel entitled to this rite of passage, marking a girl’s entrance into womanhood, and expect no expense to be spared, even in working-class families. Acclaimed author Julia Alvarez explores the history and cultural significance of the “quince” in the United States, and the consequences of treating teens like princesses. Through her observations of a quince in Queens, interviews with other quince girls, and the memories of her own experience as a young immigrant, Alvarez presents a thoughtful and entertaining portrait of a rapidly growing multicultural phenomenon, and passionately emphasizes the importance of celebrating Latina womanhood.
The essays explore the quinceañera and the coming-of-age ritual from various angles. Prior to 2007, the quinceañera received no formal ritual through the Catholic Church, which has since issued one. As such, the role of religion and the Catholic Church in the quinceañera celebration is given extensive consideration. Gender, family status, class, race, as well as the aspects of performance are all discussed as central themes of the celebration. Delving through myriad perspectives, Quinceañeras illuminates the festivities' form and function in creating social and personal identity within the family and the larger Latino community.