In Puerto Vallarta, there are some traditions that take our breath away with beauty and tradition. We have been invited to quinceañeras over the years and regardless of the economic level of the families, they have all been remarkable events. When a girl turns fifteen in Mexican culture, she is celebrated with a party, equal to a coming out ball for debutantes, which signifies her passage to womanhood, as well as gives thanks to God for having blessed her family, and presents her to the community.
The misa de acción de gracias is a mass at the girls’ local parish. In a loving ceremony, thanks are given for the completion of her childhood. She wears a frock, which has most likely been purchased with much forethought and deliberation. It is traditionally pink or white and rivals the style and elaborate design of any wedding dress. Everyone is clothed in their very best garb and the parents and godparents (padrinos) play important roles throughout the entire day. The young woman being honored, la festejada, is given special gifts, jewelry and bestowed with bouquets, while surrounded by her damas (maids of honor) and chambelanes (escorts). These are cousins, siblings and schoolmates and they attend to la festejada throughout the day.
Following the mass at the church, which introduces the young woman to adulthood, she leaves flowers at the altar for the Virgen de Gualdalupe and the party commences.
Similar to a conventional wedding, there is a large, beautifully decorated cake (the bigger, the better); gifts for the guests, distributed by the damas; and more generous gifts for la festejada. Though DJ’s have become popular, the favored music is a live band that can play cumbia, banda, salsa, ballads and traditional songs. Everyone is expected to dance as a waltz with la festejada and her father begins moving people onto the dance floor.
Dinner is served and a brindis (toast) gives everyone a chance to share memories about the girl and wish her the best in adulthood, as well as impart words of wisdom.
The quinceañera is an old ceremonial tradition that dates back beyond the time of the conquerors. There are shreds of evidence that indigenous people celebrated a young girl’s coming of age. Combined with Catholic and Spanish heritage, what Puerto Vallarta has come to know as the modern day quinceañera is a splendid, culturally rich event that is cherished by all.
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