Once upon a not-so-long-ago time, I was a young girl about to cumplir quince, or turn 15. In my family’s Colombian culture, it wasn’t typical to celebrate with the extravagant party made famous by MTV. Instead, my fifteenth birthday was small and simple: friends and family attended a Mass held in my name and then came over for dinner. (But if we’re being honest, my family’s home cooking is always a big deal.)
But mine was just one way to do it. The ways people celebrate their “quinces” vary across the Hispanic board, and growing up in the cultural melting pot of Miami, Florida, I attended many different quinceañera festivities. Although each was unique and some much more elaborate than others, they all had the same underlying meaning: a young girl entering her womanhood.
In this letter to my almost-15-year-old self, I shed a little light on what it means to celebrate your “quince” and what memories you’ll hold close to your heart forever.
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It’s me—I mean you—from eight years in the future. Your birthday is approaching fast, and by now, the word “quince” is appearing all over your dreams. You may not understand why it’s a big deal yet, but I’m here to tell you it all makes sense later. By that time, though, you may not remember all the important details. So keep your eyes open, little one, because this birthday will be special.
By now, you’ve been to your fair share of quinceañera parties, dinners, lunches, trips and anything that could be considered a celebration. Yes, those were fun, but you’re wondering what all the fuss is about. It feels like just another birthday, yet you hear your family and friends’ parents call it the “official crossing into womanhood.” Sounds a little mystifying…and slightly ambitious, seeing as you’re still a bit small to be a “woman.” (Spoiler: You’ll be barely 5-feet tall forever. But you’ll grow—or, um, learn—to like it.)
Like any other birthday, it does mean you’re growing up. This time, though, people will go out of their way to show you how proud they are of the almost-woman you’ve become. Of all the excitement you’ll feel, warm words you’ll hear and nice wishes you’ll receive on your birthday, here are some tips for a wonderful and unforgettable quinceañera night:
Just bust a move
Your mom taught you to dance shortly after you learned to walk. That’s why you love doing it so much! So, even though you’re celebrating at home, turn up the stereo and shake what your mama gave ya. Boys your age aren’t into dancing yet (and that won’t change much in the future), but don’t let that stop you. Mami and Mama Leo would love to dance with you, too. (Really, they’d love it.)
Take a moment to savor it all
Enjoy not just all your family’s delicious cooking, but everything. Make note of the loving words your family tells you and the work they all put in to make your night special. From the arepas and arroz con coco to the jokes and loud Spanglish chatter, soak it all in.
Remember your blessings
The gifts in your life are abundant; they surround you. At 15, you have little to worry about and so much to be thankful for. Take lots of pictures, keep all the cards, and write down your favorite parts of the night—you’ll thank yourself later.
Keep family on top
Family is the most important thing to you, which is why you love that they’re always around. Someday you’ll live far away and you won’t see them as much, but they’ll always be your biggest fans. And if you ever need to be reminded of how much you’re loved, you’ll just look to them and it will be clear. So on this birthday, make sure they all know how much you appreciate and love them.
Your quince will be amazing no matter what, so most importantly, have a blast. As you grow up, you’ll look back, cherish those memories, and remember how great it was to be an almost-woman quinceañera.
The Older Caro