Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Quince Project Helps Quince Dreams Come True

Latinas go through a very special coming of age celebration that is a compilation of significant events. The celebration consists of a grand mass, elegant attire, and an elaborate fiesta. But what is most important is the appreciation of the life the girls have had and will aspire to experience. The Quince Project decided to help celebrate the coming of age for three girls who learned about their heritage and the cultural significance of a quinceañera, while working together to develop organizational and leadership skills. We call it, The Quince Project, and we’re planning on keeping this project going for years to come. The mission of The Quince Project is to provide young Latinas with the tools they need to succeed as young adults. Our objective is to encourage young Latinas to become leaders in their communities, to foster cultural pride, to pursue higher education, to build life skills, to discover creative ways to express themselves and to develop a strong voice. There were three girls, Danielle …. Esmeralda … and Shaye …., who went through a specific application process where girls were selected based on their leadership, volunteer and academic experience. More specifically, a spot was given to girls who have overcome a substantial challenge in their life or who have a financial hardship.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Danielle and Esmeralda as they were getting ready for their big day. The girls came about the project through friends and family and were encouraged to apply. The girls learned how hard work, management organization and fun helped create a beautiful night for their big day. They both loved fundraising and working together, Danielle stated, “choosing the dress and shoes, and fundraising at Applebee's” was her favorite part about participating. We fundraised through various organizations, Peter Piper, Candle sales, and a pancake breakfast at Applebee’s which was the most hands on fun we had saving up for the big day. 

Through their quinceañera planning and journey, the girls did a little soul searching and Esmeralda noted the importance of “transitioning from a young girl to a young adult.” The memories made and treasured from a quinceañera experience are well worth the hard-work and time. These memories were also created through traditions that helped the girls grow and feel closer to their culture.  A quinceañera maintains worthwhile traditions that inhibit coming of age appreciations. There is the lighting of the candles where each spark signifies a person who means something special during every year of her life; the changing of little girls shoes to a more womanly pair to express growing up into a mature woman; and there’s also the passing of the doll, where the quinceañera passes on her favorite doll to another young lady who will soon be on her way to maturity.

The girls commented on what growing into a young woman and having a quince all really means, Danielle stated, “(it means) to turn to womanhood and be more mature, and being a role model to other girls.”

Esmeralda said, “It’s not just about more liberty, but having more responsibility for yourself and others." The girls reflected on their journey that created their quinceañera experience and understood that the planning and learning was all worthwhile, Esmeralda stated, “since we are young Latinas in comes with who we are.”  She added, "be grateful, because they’re (quinces) expensive.”

The girls also gave advice for families getting ready to have a quince in the near future and both decided that planning ahead is the key effort to attaining a beautiful experience. If anything, the girls wanted more time to plan, organize, and be involved in the process. The girls’ gave advice to all those future quinceañeras, Danielle stated, “Take advantage of every moment.” 

Overall, the Quince Project experience was absolutely amazing to say the least. All the help and efforts were done by the amazing  volunteers who make up he quince project planning team. There were months of planning, hard work, acting, loving, appreciation, and fun that created an amazing experience for everyone involved. All three girls were so very appreciative, and Esmeralda spoke for all three when she so lovingly stated, “Thank you for making a dream come true and all the hard work you do for nothing in return but to make us smile and have a great day.”

Monday, August 12, 2013

Tips for a Stress-free Quince

By Rachel Jackson

Adding “plan my quinceañera” to a to-do list as a 15-year-old right along with “study for chemistry” and “get a driving permit” might be a little overwhelming.  From the months of planning to day-of details, here are some tips to make your day a stress-free and spectacular affair.

Time flies: start planning early

Across the board, the number one piece of advice to future Quinceañeras is to start planning early. According to Isabella Wall, the self-proclaimed “Fairy Godmother to Quinceañeras,” planning should start up to a year before the big event.  “Booking the venue a year in advanced really helped reduce our stress” says Carmen Valles, a mom who helped her daughter, Crystal Valles, plan her quinceañera back in 2006. Giving yourself at least six months in advance to get invitations, food, decorations, and choreography ready will do wonders to reduce your stress level.

Help is here! Involve family and friends in planning

"I delegated the tasks," says Carmen on ways she asked for help. “My sister did the decorations, my sister-in-law did the centerpieces, and I made the cake." Getting family and friends involved in the planning is a great way to make memories, save money, and have the most important people in your life put their fingerprints on your quinceañera.

Go green to save green: make easy, do-it-yourself decorations

Some families hire event planners to handle all the dirty details from food to decorations. For economical Quinceañeras interested in a fantastic day without breaking the bank, DIY is for you! Websites like pinterest.com have imaginative decoration ideas that can easily be adapted to your quince theme. Carmen and Crystal, one dynamic mother-daughter quince planning team, handmade their centerpieces out of clay.  Though Carmen said it took some time, the decorations looked great and their family saved money.

Just ask: give people the opportunity to help you

Crystal advises future Quinceañeras to practice their choreography and grand entrance in the venue the night before the reception to calm nerves and get the court comfortable in the space. Though this might be hard to do, don’t be afraid to ask the venue managers if you can use the space to practice for an hour anytime the week before the party. The same goes for invitations, food, and cakes – don’t be afraid to ask for discounts, special offers, and specific designs. The worst they can say is no, so ask away!

Honesty is the best policy: speak your mind

The best way to keep stress under control is to be honest about what you want.  Of any day, this is the day to wear what you want, eat what you want, and look the way you want.  Be clear and kind when you give your opinion and don’t forget to remind the people helping you, from the baker to the florist, how thankful you are for their time and help!

Hasta luego ego: don’t let pride ruin your big day!

Even though your quinceañera is all about celebrating you, don’t let your ego cause unneeded stress. Sometimes little things, like whether the appetizers should be salmon or shrimp, don’t matter in the long run. Choose your battles and embrace flexibility.

Paparazzi, paparazzi: take more pictures than you think you should

Quince fun never has to end thanks to pictures and video, but not taking enough can cause after-quince stress.  “I regret not asking more people to take pictures at my quinceañera,” says Crystal.  Often Quinceañeras take professional photos before the event and hire photographers to take candid shots during the reception.  Crystal advises Quinceañeras to enlist friends and family to take pictures throughout the night in addition to the professional shots. Crystal says, the more pictures the better.

Family first: make time for the people you care about most

The most stressful part of a quinceañera can be the reception, when every cousin is trying to hug you and every aunt wants ten pictures with you. Crystal says that the most exhausting part of her quince was going back and forth saying hi to every guest and every family member. Remember that family, and the friends that are basically family, are the people that make this celebration possible and memorable, so expect to spend a big chunk of time with them.

Keep calm and quince on – even if everything seems like its going wrong

Whenever you find yourself stressed and with too many things on your 15-year-old plate, take a deep breath and ask for help.  Remember that what makes a quinceañera perfect are not the flowers or the chair decorations but spending time with people that have watched you grow-up and want to celebrate 15 beautiful years with you. It might be cheesy, but if you remember to be thankful and to enjoy the process, you will have a stress-free quinceañera fit for the history books.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Evolving Quinceañeras

By Rachel Jackson 
For non-Spanish speakers, quinceañera can be a mouthful. For a young Latina woman, quinceañera means a chance to publicly step into womanhood and reconnect to her cultura.  For event planners, florist, bakers, and dress makers, quinceañeras translate into booming business.

For as long as I can remember quinceañeras were something that I was infatuated with,” says 19-year-old Karla Estrada.  “I would dream of the perfect dress, the music, having all eyes on me.”

But just like there is not one type of Latina, there is not just one type of quinceañera.
Quintessential quinces

According to quincehelp.com, a popular website to help Latinas plan their celebration, a typical quinceañera has two parts – the mass and the reception.  The Catholic mass allows the young girl, also called the Quinceañera, to thank her family and demonstrate the role faith will play in her transition into maturity.

The reception usually takes place in a venue complete with themed decorations and a dance floor.  Beginning with a grand entrance and ending with dinner and a cake, the reception involves all invited in the celebration.

Though this is a basic sketch of a quinceañera, as Estrada says, “Every household and family is different, we all have our traditions that have been passed down for centuries.”

Tracing roots: quinceañera origins

According to a 1997 article by scholar Karen Mary Dávalos, the quince is said to have originated as an indigenous practice, specifically as an Aztec and Mayan tradition.  The ceremony is also said to have been a Spanish tradition passed onto present-day Latin America through colonialism.

“My sense is that rituals tell a people who they are,” says Nicole Guidotti-Hernández, Professor of American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.  “Scholars focus on both to historicize the how, the where, and the why of the quinceañera ritual.”

Though some scholars place the creation of the quince in pre-colonial Mexico, Guidotti-Hernández, notes that “the coming of age ceremony be it the sweet 16 or the quinceañera for 15 year olds is not restricted to one ethnic group.”  She points out that “Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Central Americans also hold quinceñeras.”

Mapping traditions

Estrada, whose father is from Guatemala and mother is from Colombia, says she changed up a few traditions in her ceremony.
“Guatemalan tradition is that the Quinceañera wears white to show purity and honor,” says Estrada.  “I wore a light lilac color dress.” 

The dress, often a focal point of the event, can range from a layered gown complete with elbow-length gloves to a short, trendy, cocktail dress. In countries such as Mexico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic, dresses are more likely to mirror Spanish colonial-style ball gowns whereas quince dresses in Colombia are likely to be shorter and cut in a contemporary style.

The traditional color of the dress also differs. Families in Mexico and Guatemala often opt for white dresses while families in Caribbean countries like Puerto Rico prefer pastel colors.

Gift-giving is a staple ceremony in quinces. In many Mexican receptions, the Quinceañera is given a symbolic first pair of high-heels. In Colombian quinces, girls are often gifted a piece of jewelry.

Quinceañeras even have different names depending on the country. In Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina, the celebration is called the Fiesta de Quince.  In Brazil, the event can be called the Festa de Debutante, Baile de Debutante or the Festa de Quinze Anos.

Perhaps the part of the quince that changes the most from country to country, food is an important part of the event. A 2006 article published by the Washington Post profiled a Bolivian girl who tried to fly a baker all the way from La Paz so that he could bake a traditional Bolivian cake for her quinceañera.  According to the same article, Guatemalans and El Salvadorians turn to white cake with fruit layers and whipped cream icing while Mexican quince receptions might feature a tres leches cake.
Beyond cake, the dinner served during the reception can also reflect a country’s palate. One blogger insists that Colombians must include lechona, a popular rice dish, in their quinceañera celebration.

Like food, the music played during the reception can change from region to region. A Colombian reception might feature cumbia music, a court in a Dominican quince might choreograph a bachata dance, and Puerto Rican quinces might feature reggaeton.

Dancing during the reception, and important part of most quinces, also changes from context to context. In Mexico, the court, consisting of 7 paired boys and girls and the Quinceañera and her chambelán, dance choreographed dances to kick-off the reception. In Cuba, a few paired girls and boys dance in a circle around the Quinceañera.

At the crossroads of time and place

Though the quinceañera ritual can change from Latin American country to Latin American country, the accepted diversity within the centuries-old tradition signals an increasingly dynamic and multicultural Latina identity.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Own Quince Story

Marisol Figueroa

What did turning 15 mean to you?
Turning 15 to me meant I was no longer a little girl; still not a woman, but no longer a little girl. 

Why did you want a quinceañeras?
I wanted a quinceañera because it is what a young Hispanic girl dreams of.  It’s an ENORMOUS party just for you!  Where you get to have the prettiest dress you will ever wear, and everyone is there for you.  I did get offered a car instead of a quinceañera, but the way I saw it was, “I can always get a car.  I can’t always have a quinceañera.”

Tell us about your celebration?  (Dress, theme, location, décor, color, dances, party, court, family)
      My quinceañera was located at The Wild Wild West Ballroom.  The day was Saturday September 4, 1995 (the day I actually turned 15).  My dress was of course white.  It was big and puffy with ruffles; it truly looked like the “ideal” quinceañera dress.  I had no theme, but the color I chose was a royal purple (the color of royalty).  I did have a court, only it was all males; I did not want to share the day with any other female, plus I’ve heard horror stories.  The décor was cute.  I had Barbies in quince dresses at all the tables.  I created the dances for my quince, it was fun and easy plus the guys picked them up quick.  All of my family went except for my dad.  He was an alcoholic at the time and since beer was going to be served he did not want to “ruin” my party.  So, for the father/daughter dance, I danced with my uncle Mike (my aunt’s husband).  I wish my dad would have gone, but I am grateful that I was able to have that dance with my uncle because a few years after that he passed away from pancreatic cancer.

What made your celebration unique?
      My celebration was unique because it was on my actual birthday, I created the dances and my court was all males.

What role did your religion play in your quinceañera?
      Good question.  Let’s see….my parents are Baptist, but they baptized me and my siblings as babies in the Catholic Church (which Baptist’s don’t believe in), I did my First Communion but always attended Sunday school church at the Baptist Church with my parents.  Yet, when I did my quince it was at a Catholic Church.  I would say, “It was all tradition.”  But, I do remember saying a small prayer in my head and being thankful I had lived 15 years.

What is the significance of a quinceañera in our culture today?
      My personal opinion….not sure; I think a lot of the new generation just see it as a big party.

What are some traditions that you incorporated into your event?
      Traditions I incorporated….A Catholic ceremony at the Church, my dress was white and very appropriate, I symbolically did the father daughter dance with my uncle, I gave away a doll.

What was your favorite memory about your quince?
      My favorite memory….all of it....the dance with my uncle, a lot of people went the ballroom fit 500 people and it was packed.  It was a lot of fun!

What advice would you share with a girl planning her quince?
      Enjoy it.  Take in every moment.  Before you know it, it’s gone.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My Quince Story

By Lizette Martinez Maldonado 

1. What did turning 15 mean to you? Turning 15 was traditionally important to me. Having a quince marked my passing a milestone in my life that would enable me to join the "older girls" in my family through experiences. It meant small traditions, like having my dress made by hand by my abuelita and making hundreds of biscochos with my grandma, mother, aunts and sisters.

2. Why did you want a quinceañera? I wanted to see all my family and friends together in one place (my parents are divorced) and I wanted to dance.

3. Tell us about your celebration? (Dress, theme, locations, decor, color, dances, party, court, family) I had a woodland fairy themed quince, I remember my favorite part was the cake, which had real flowers as decor on the frosting. We danced to "Last Night" by The Strokes, "Wonderwall" By Oasis and I literally danced by myself while the song "Dancing with myself" by Billy Idol played. The song I danced with my father was "With or Without You" by U2 and with my buelo - "Mi querido viejo" by Piero.

4. What made your celebration unique? This isn't necessarily a happy sort of unique, but I remember my mother just being released from the hospital after having my baby brother prematurely. It was rough and the week prior (he was born exactly one week before me and as a matter of fact my mother had to leave my quince practice to have him) we really thought we were going to lose both of them. I remember feeling really selfish for going on with the event without her being able to be there, especially the way she planned it, but our entire community pitched in at the last minute to help with everything and I felt so loved. My quince was for me, but in many ways it was for my mom as well, through the generosity of those who helped us on behalf of her.

5. What role did you religion play in your quinceañera? I was raised very devout Catholic, so my family made the religious significance of this event clear, although at the time, I too was developing my own ideas regarding Catholicism and found myself torn with the certain ritual aspects of my quince.

6. What is the significance of a quinceañera in our culture today? In all honesty, I feel that the cultural and traditional aspects of this idea are dwindling and that modern families are turning what used to be a very ritualistic and traditional event into a big party. Its beautiful that girls are still willing to adhere to culture but I feel that, to them (and in retrospect myself included) the celebration would mean more with a better understanding behind why we are celebrating it.

7. What are some traditions that you incorporated into your event? I remember my father changing my shoes, the dances, the cookies, and giving a speech as well.

8. What was your favorite memory about your quince? Dancing with my buelo, crying with him as I supported his weight because of his bad knees. It was beautiful, thinking about it now, I tear up.

9. What advice would you share with a girl planning her quince? Don't care too much about the material and focus more on the quality of memories you are making. The details don't matter in the end.

Having a Quince Mass...or Not?

By Coral Rey

The religious ceremony has been a tradition in the quinceañera celebration for a long time until recently. While some girls choose to continue the religious tradition, others do not. What are the details behind their decision to have or not have a celebration, and how do young ladies decide whether or not to have a ceremony?

While planning (or even just thinking of) a quinceañera celebration, one element of the festivities always comes to mind: the religious ceremony. According to quincehelp.com, “the quinceañera mass is a thanksgiving for [the Quinceañera’s] first 14 years of life.” Nowadays, the religious ceremony is seen as an optional part of the quince celebration. Girls having a quince use their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) to determine whether or not to have a religious ceremony.

For April Reza, a high school graduate who had her quince in 2010, deciding to have a religious ceremony was easy. “It’s something I [had] always wanted since I was little,” she remembers with a smile. Growing up as a Catholic in an all-Catholic household, April saw the religious ceremony pass down as a tradition in her family. “It’s something we always do,” she says.

Since having a religious celebration is a tradition in her family, it was very well received. April recalls, “They really enjoyed it…they wish they could’ve done the whole thing over again.”

While some girls like April go the traditional route, others like to be different, such as Nastassia Artalejo, a self-employed photographer who had her quince back in 2006. Raised in a non-religious household and being agnostic herself, Nastassia chose to not have a religious ceremony for her quinceañera. Nastassia says that having a religious ceremony was “not important [for me]. I just wanted to be there to celebrate what my parents thought was an important birthday.”

While Nastassia’s parents were fine with her not having a ceremony, her extended family did not have a similar reaction. “It was confusing for the rest of my family that I wasn’t having a ceremony because they are all Catholic. My cousins all had ceremonies at churches, but I didn’t,” she recalls.

So what does this all mean for girls out there planning their quince? How should they go about deciding whether or not to have a religious ceremony? Amalia Castro, a musician who had her quince back in 1999 weighs in on the issue, saying “They (Quinceañeras) should just be informed what it is about and let them decide if they want the ceremony or not.”

Ultimately, a religious ceremony should be something you “do…for yourself,” says Nataly Monique Montana, a 10th grader who recently had her quince in 2012. Nataly was raised as a Baptist but was not officially baptized in her church. In order for her to have had a religious ceremony at her church, she and her parents would have had to go through a series of religious meetings with the priest of her church and be baptized. When Nataly and her parents were planning her quince and they learned what steps they would have to take to have a ceremony, there just wouldn't be enough time before her quince. Nonetheless, Nataly and her parents were not disheartened because they couldn't have a ceremony. Nataly says that instead,  "my dad and I said a prayer at the [quince] party" something that Nataly remembers as being personal and fulfilling. Despite Nataly coming from a religious upbringing she recalls, "no one said anything" about her not having had a religious ceremony.

While having a religious ceremony as part of a quince is customary, girls planning their quince shouldn’t feel pressured to follow in tradition’s footsteps for the sake of doing so. According to Quinceanera.com, a girl renews her baptismal vows and promises to honor herself and her religion before God and her community at the ceremony. This carries a lot of religious and cultural significance, so don’t do it if your heart and personal beliefs aren’t in it. Remember, it is your big day, so make it yours in your own special way, with or without a ceremony.

Pick Your Quince Theme

By Laura Werthmann

You only turn 15 once and Latinas have it best: we get to share that day with everyone we love and it’s all about us. A is something most girls dream about so it needs to be all about her. There are so many ways to personalize your quinceanera, by the age of fifteen you’ve already established some interests and future goals to be able to put it all into one big party. Here are a few ways to bring out who you are and what you love for your night as a princess.
By now you’ve found out the colors that compliment you, your favorite colors are, and the colors that have been around you your whole lives. Now it’s time to choose one, or a few, and  use them for your accent color, and dresses for your court.  Think about the colors of your favorite sports team, your school colors, maybe a color that blew up in your room. There are endless possibilities to which colors you can use, why not make it the way you want. If you’re still having trouble, the seasons have a lot to do with your Quince, especially the colors you choose . If your birthday is in the spring season it’s good to use soft hues of the color you want like light purple or a soft pink. For summer birthdays, use earth tones like forest green and mahogany or brighter colors like neons, yellows, or oranges that are found in the sun. During fall you can also use earth tones, and it’s always good to have nice warm colors like peach or burgundy. For winter quinces it’s good to use deep rich colors like red, dark purple, or royal blue.

Why stop at colors when you can create a theme out of your favorite pattern. You can use, leopard spots, polka dots, floral, paisley, stripes, tie-dye, glitter, the list is endless. Not very many girls use patterns for their quince, but it’s a good way to personalize your day, and show off your creativity and who you are.

You have lived almost 15 years on this earth, there has to be a specific story, time period, genre, idea, or movie that you just loved from the moment it entered your life.  Use that plot to customize your party. If you’re into Shakespeare maybe have a Starry Night theme, with lights, gazebos and, of course, stars. There’s an Under the Sea theme for Atlantis and Little Mermaid fans. You can do a casino night and dress in swanky clothes, a 20’s night for all you flapper girls out there, you can even go way back to medieval times and literally have a royal court. If you liked the movie Back to the Future you can do just that, and have a futuristic theme to stun your guests (but not literally I hope leave those stun guns at home). Whatever genre, story, or mood you’ve been into your whole life can be used to really show your 100 plus closest loved ones who you really are.

If there’s a specific cuddly, scaly, or slimy animal that you totally adore, why not let the world know and make that a theme to your party? You can have animal napkins, plates, pictures, decorations, table centers (as long as they're faux), the works to really show you care. Do you like cheetah or zebra prints? Try making those the theme for your party. You could even take a trip to the zoo before the party.

Landscapes and destinations
Landscapes are a great time to use your surroundings and seasons. If your birthday is in the winter, why not go for a winter wonderland? You could have a summer beach party, a spring picnic, or a fall harvest. If there’s a specific place or city you like, New York, Paris, Brazil, India, replicate it! There is so much beauty and wonder in the world, why not share it?

All About You
Because the day is all about you anyway, why not have your face and pictures all over everything? From your diaper days, to your high school halls, share YOU with the world. Put your best memories all over the walls and really make the day about you!