Sweet Quinceañera 15
I was wandering around the city centre today, chatting with locals about the Games when I spotted what looked like the most hideous wedding dress in a shop window. It was a hulking ballgown, with layers upon layers of black, white and red polka dot fabric. I've seen some insane wedding dresses in my travels, including a ruffled satin red mess in St. Petersburg, Russia, but this reached a new level of tacky.
"How could someone wear that on their wedding day??" I asked my translator, Tom.
"Actually, they're for teenage girls. When a girl turns 15 here they have a big party. Sort of a coming out as a woman thing. It's a really big deal," he explained.
What?! Somehow that changed everything. I tried to remember being 14. My Disney princess obsession days would have only passed a few years prior. Yeah, absolutely I would have wanted to rock a ballgown on my birthday.
Tom's a guy and from London, England so he didn't know much more about the subject. So I took a break from Pan Am reporting and walked into one of these shops, which are all over this historic district. One of the sales associates, Norma Sanchez explained that the custom is called Quinceañera — Latin America's version of the American Sweet 16 party.
The Quinceañera has traditionally marked the girl's transition into sexual maturity. Families spend months planning elaborate parties where the young woman gets to be a princess for a day. There is typically a dinner and Catholic mass beforehand. At this shop, which would likely appeal to the lower and middle class families, dresses go for about $5500 pesos or about $440 Canadian. The average living wage here is around $500 Canadian a month I'm told.
Most of them are Mexican girls celebrating Quinceañera north of the border, but others aren't Latin and just want a show-stopping graduation dresses.
For research purposes I of course tried one on. They're very heavy and difficult to walk in. But wow did I feel like Cinderella.
Mom and Dad: That bowling party you threw me sucked.