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The Quinceañera, Quinceañero, or Quince años ("fifteen years" in English), in Latin American culture, is a coming of age ceremony held on a girl's fifteenth birthday, comparable to a Sweet Sixteen celebration. The term Quinceaños refers to the birthday of the celebrant, and the term Quinceañera refers to the celebrant herself. Like many other coming-of-age ceremonies, the Quinceaños is associated with the Quinceañera "becoming a lady". During the celebration, the young lady dances with her father.


The Quince años ceremony came from French culture during the later part of the 1800s. In Mexico, this period of the century is called Porfiriato, which is comparable to the Victorian era in Anglo-speaking countries. The Mexican president Porfirio Diaz brought this celebration to Mexican culture due to his admiration of French culture; this includes the Vals (European music) and the term Chambelan.

The meaning of the ceremony has changed over the centuries, but the celebration is becoming more popular in the United Statesmarker than it is in Latin America . Quince años celebrated in the United States reflect the family's economic and social status, and the ceremony has become a means of preserving their culture as Latinos become more Americanized. Quince años are, today, a unique feature of Latino culture.

By 2009 many quinceañeras in the United States have become more elaborate and extravagant.

Quinceañera Celebrations

The celebration carries religious significance for Spanish-speaking Roman Catholics. It begins with a religious ceremony in which the Quinceañera affirms her faith. It is customary for the Quinceañera to receive gifts that are religious in nature, such as a cross or medal, a Bible, rosary, or scepter. The presentation of these gifts by her Padrino and/or her family members, along with their blessing by the priest, often forms a part of the ceremony.

The quinceanera girl/woman carries a doll (representing the last doll of her childhood) intended to represent her childhood. The doll is dressed like the girl. The girl's father exchanges her flat shoes for heels after their dance together.

A Quinceañera with her court

After the conclusion of the Roman Catholic religious ceremony, a reception is held either in the Quinceañera's home or in a banquet hall. The decor of this reception often resembles that of a wedding. The Quinceañera's court is typically composed of her padrinos (godparents) and the Chambelan, a young man who is her companion and date for the evening. The Chambelan typically has the first dance with the Quinceañera, a traditional ballroom "waltz" or "vals". The Chambelan initiates the vals by requesting a dance, to classical music, with the Quinceañera. This is followed by dances with her father, and then her godfather.

Following these initial presentation dances, the guests join the dance floor as well. Godparents play a significant role in the preparations for the Quinceaños, often handling arrangements for the party, church and celebration. The event is the culmination of the godparents' responsibility to oversee the religious upbringing of their goddaughter. Otherwise, it is customary for the Quinceanera's parents to arrange the celebration.

In popular culture

See also


  • Bertrand, Diane Gonzalez. Sweet Fifteen, Houston: Piñata Books (1995).
  • Davalos, Karen Mary. "La Quinceanera: Making Gender and Ethnic Identities", Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2/3, Gender, Nations, and Nationalisms (1996), pp. 101 – 127
  • King, Elizabeth. Quinceañera : celebrating fifteen, New York: Dutton's Children's Books (1998).
  • Horowitz, Ruth. "The power of ritual in a Chicano community: a young woman's status and expanding family ties". Marriage & Family Review (Jan. 1993): 257. Academic Search Complete . EBSCO. Cabell Library, Richmond, Va. 8 Apr. 2009 /,url,cookie,uid&db=a9h&AN=27461232&site=ehost-live&scope=site>.

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