On Saturday July 6, 2013 we had the great honor of attending the Quinceanera of Diane Vanessa Marquez Reyes. The translation is “One whom is fifteen” but culturally it means so much more. It is an Aztec Tradition that dates back to 500 B.C. and commemorates a young girl leaving her childhood behind and becoming a young adult. My friends and family who read this might think young adult at 15?? From what we’ve witnessed in El Maizal, it’s not rushed it’s very necessary. Both boys and girls grow up very fast because of the work and responsibilities they must take on to help their families survive and get by day to day.
Let me back up to the Estudia Biblia that was held at Diane parents’ house when we were invited. Just before we left she gave us a beautiful invitation and our Deacon explained to us that the family and young girl were inviting us to the Quinceanera. Diane was smiling ear to ear as she gave it to us with her parents standing behind her. It was just a sweet, sweet moment for us to be included like this. It was Wednesday and the celebration was Saturday. We scrambled for a gift, card and gift box (there’s no CVS or Mall nearby as you might imagine). Dianne was able to put together a gift of perfume, cross turquoise earnings in a gold box, I printed a card off the internet and we were good to go. The cross earnings were a great idea by Dianne because the religious part of the celebration is very important to the family. Gifts of a religious nature are always a good idea at a Quinceanera’s.
On Saturday the Church service started at 4 PM (OK, closer to 4:45 but we’re kind of getting used to hanging around). As we walked to the church we saw that its entrance was decorated with woven palms around the entrance way and inside bunches of purple balloons adorned the windows and pews. It was very beautiful.
The church slowly but surely filled and additional chairs were brought in to accommodate the overflowing crowd. There was a commotion outside and Fr. Mario explained that the march was starting. The march is much like a wedding march, there’s 2 young girls who lead the march (just days before I was playing baseball with them, today they looked like princesa’s), followed by a little boy dressed in an ornate white and gold uniform with a matching hat. A court of honor made up of 8 couples was next. Then there was the Quineanera and her proud father. The girls were in lovely purple and lavender dress’s with their hair done the same way. The boys were in black slacks, black vests and purple shirts. They were very charming looking. You may have figured out that purple was her color theme.
The honor court entered the church 1st and with extended arms they created and arch that the Quinceanera and her father walked through. During the service they are seated in the middle aisle with her in a special chair of honor. How cute that like a bride our Quince (short for Quineanera) needs help with her gown to sit because of its fullness. As the service progress’s there are various stages related to the traditions of the celebrations. To start the service there is a specific blessing for her performed by the priest. One of the lessons is read by Quineanera and the sermon is about the importance of her moving from childhood into being a young woman. At the end of the Offertory the Quinceanera and her father approach the alter and we all watch as she takes 15 one dollar coins from her father’s hand and places them into the basket one at a time as the lay person counts them off. Just before the end of the ceremony her Godmother approaches the altar and presents a ring to the Quinceanera. The ring represents the circle of life and how she is now moving into womanhood. At the end they file out much like one of our marriage ceremonies. All of this is done in a very tasteful and respectful way. I should mention that the entire event was being filmed by a photographer that the family had hired.
Following the service there was the traditional photo op’s with Padre Mario, her many family members and friends. People milled around snapping pictures, smiling and talking. It’s such a happy event for everyone. After the pictures the parents had made arrangements for all of us to board a bus and bring us to a restaurant where the reception would take place.
When we arrived people milled about and slowly filed in. The restaurant was decorated in, you guessed it, purple. There were several mirror balls with colored lights reflecting off them and there was a DJ. We sat at long tables with beautiful handmade centerpieces whose colors matched her dress.
The moment arrived and our Quinceanera was ready to enter the hall. Her court came in 1st and she followed with her father. A short speech was made by her father and the DJ (I apologize but I don’t have the translation) and what came next we all would recognize. There was the father of the Quinceanera dance. It was tender moment to witness and most people in attendance surrounded the dance floor to watch. After it was done we all took our seats and awaited a wonderful meal. It started with soup and a meal of marinated chicken breast, tortillas, arroz (rice) and a steamed mix of vegetables. It was a delicious meal.
Soon after the meal the festivities increased in momentum as there was still much to do in the remainder of the evening. It is tradition that the Quinceanera and her court hold several choreographed dances to mark the importance of the occasion, which they performed. They were practicing these for a few weeks in our community. What followed was a phone call that was fed in over the speakers from a relative who couldn’t attend, from the Quince’s tearful reaction it was obviously someone very important to her, it was a moving moment. Dancing for everyone ensued but was then interrupted by another special moment. Everyone left the dance floor and again it was surrounded by onlookers as her father presented her with a large Quinceanera doll. It is dressed like our Quinceanera and it represents her last gift as a little girl as she enters the next phase of life as a young woman. This idea is reinforced by the additional tradition of her giving this doll to one of her younger sisters representing her leaving her childhood toys behind. It was a powerful moment to watch.
It was now time for the cutting of the cake. The father made a small speech and the Quinceanera and her escort for the evening approached the cake, stopped for the necessary photos and then cut to the cake to our applause. It was a beautifully decorated cake and was delicious as well. The last tradition was a formal toast of only the Court of Honor, the Quineanera and her escort as we all looked on. The remainder of the evening was for dancing and a great time was had by all.
It was an evening of new experiences for Dianne and I but also one touching moment after another. I looked at the other Fathers and soon to be Quinceanera’s and wondered what tender thoughts of the future were in their minds. I smiled to myself when I saw the Father of the Quince laughing and joking with his Futbol buddies who sat at our table. How many Moms out there can sympathize with her mom. The event much like our weddings can focus on the Dad when it’s been the mom planning this moment for months and probably years.
Sometimes as we enter and experience different cultures we can focus on our differences. Not because we are judging but because it's easy to see the differences; like language, dress, food and rituals but as a Rector I know used to say, we need to dig deeper. The Quinceanera showed us we are all very much the same when it comes Loving God, our families, friends and maintaining our traditions. When we combine all four no matter where we live, we become one with our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter where they live.
In honor of Diane Vanessa Marquez Reyes;
BCP - Prayers for Young Persons
God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Bless you Diane
Tomas y Dianna