MEXICO CITY – Almost 200 poor teenagers posed in donated ball gowns and danced traditional waltzes Saturday as Mexico City’s government threw a mass “quinceanera” coming-out party for disadvantaged girls.
The keynote speaker was a 16-year-old who said she missed having her own quinceanera, the traditional right of passage for girls near their 15th birthday, because she was busy caring for the baby she had at 14. She urged the other girls to make informed choices.
Many of the participants were juvenile offenders, shelter residents or girls from poor families.
“I’m very happy, because this is a tradition which we should all continue,” said Rosa Nayeli Lagunes, 14, who showed up in a red taffeta dress with an embroidered white bodice. Fourteen-year-olds who will turn 15 this year were also allowed to participate.
The quinceanera parties in Mexican society often rival weddings in expense and fanfare. But girls from poor families often miss out on the tradition. The parties have become increasingly popular in the U.S. as the country’s Hispanic population grows.
The city’s Youth Institute, which organized the event, said about 180 girls participated, including some older than 15 who had never had a coming-out party.
The only thing in short supply at Saturday’s ball were tuxedo-wearing boys – usually relatives – known as “chambelanes,” who traditionally serve as escorts at such events.
“Not everyone” has an escort, Lagunes said. “We’ve been sharing them.”