Monday, August 18, 2014

Quince Project Celebration 2014


WHAT: Leadership development and cultural program provides a free quinceañera to deserving girls. 

WHEN: Charity group Quinceañera celebration to be held on August 21st from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

WHERE: Sand Dunes Ballroom (11400 Rojas Dr, El Paso, TX 79936)

WHY: The mission of the Quince Project is to provide teens with the tools they need to succeed as young adults. This program helps girls embrace and celebrate their culture as they prepare for the transition into young adults. 

WHO:  Young women were chosen based on their leadership, volunteer and academic experience. Primary emphasis was given to girls who have overcome a significant obstacle, a traumatic experience or faced financial hardships. Girls committed to leadership workshops and service projects during the summer as they worked as a team to plan their group quince celebration. A team of Madrinas served as mentors throughout the process and volunteered to aid girls in fundraising and planning their group quince celebration.

HOW: For more information, email, call 915.219.8554 or visit

The Quince Project is a summer leadership program geared towards helping Latina teens make the transition from girlhood to young adult through a quinceañera celebration. Members learn about their heritage and the cultural significance of a quinceañera as they work in small teams to develop leadership skills and organize a group quince. The Quince Project aims to inspire young girls to take pride in their culture, self and community as they begin their transition into strong young women. A group of madrinas rally together to make quince dreams come true by volunteering their time and resources to contribute elements essential to a quinceañera. Community support is needed  to guarantee a special day for quince project members in the form of venue space, catering, décor and quince dresses.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Quince Project Accepting Applications

The Quince Project is hosting a summer leadership program geared toward helping teen girls make the transition from girlhood to young adult through a quinceañera celebration. Young women are invited to apply to this free program which will culminate with a group quince party. Girls will learn about their heritage and the cultural significance of a quinceañera as they work in small teams to develop leadership skills and organize a group quince. The mission of 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.

Members commit to attending two Saturday workshops per month throughout the summer.
Open to girls ages 13-16. Young women will be chosen based on their leadership, volunteer and academic experience. Primary emphasis will be given to girls who have overcome a substantial challenge in their life or who have a financial hardship.
Who: Girls ages 13-16
What: leadership development program
When: Application deadline is June 6
Why: Gain leadership skills & win a quince celebration
How: To apply, complete an online application here:

Quince Project Information Sessions

The Quince Project will host a new member information session for girls interested in participating in this summer leadership program and celebrating with a group quinceañera.

When: May 19, May 21, May 26 & May 28 at 5:30pm

Where: 10935 Ben Crenshaw #207

The information session will provide an overview of the Quince Project as well as the requirements. The quince projects promotes cultural identity, confidence and leadership among local teens girls. Young women are invited to participate in this free program which will culminate with a group quince party celebration. Girls will learn about their heritage and the cultural significance of a quinceañera as they work in small teams to develop leadership and event planning skills to organize a group quince.

Members will:
1) Attend attend an interview on June 6 at 5:30pm and an orientation session June 7 from 10am-1pm at 10935 Ben Crenshaw
2) Attend two leadership workshops per month June through August every other Saturday
3) Help with event planning for the group quince in August
4) Assist with fundraising efforts for their quince celebration
5) Complete community service projects

For more information, contact us at or 915.219.8554. 

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 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, 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.