Monday, March 28, 2011

La fiesta de quince - The 15th birthday party

For girls in the US it’s a sweet sixteen party, for those in the UK it’s probably two or three bottles of Vodka Absolut while larging it about town on the night of their eighteenth. Every part of the world has its own customs to mark that first moment of adulthood. In Argentina, like in many other Latin America countries, the age at which young girls celebrate their coming of age is fifteen; and they do it with style.

La fiesta de quince, the fifteenth birthday party for girls, is more than just a big deal in Argentina. It’s the moment every little girl has waited for since she was messing around with her Barbie doll and playing dress-up (or messing around with her Action Man and playing footy; to be politically correct).

Although a trip abroad is gaining popularity, more often than not to that fun-packed destination favoured by middle class Argentines – Florida’s Disneyworld, traditionally the birthday is celebrated with an almighty party, largely reminiscent of a wedding.

And it's a party that parents have planned for their daughter since the day she was born; the crowning moment when their baby girl makes the transition to womenhood. They've scrimped and saved, booked the venue, arranged the music and entertainment, and food, and drink, and the guest list, and the flowers, maybe a mariachi band, the cake, the limousine, the photographer, the cameraman, the decorations; it’s all ready to go, one night to celebrate their daughter’s fifteenth with a bang.

In general, it goes something like this.

The hundreds of invited guests, both teenage friends of the birthday girl and adult family and acquaintances, get to the salon ahead of time where the waiting staff accommodates them all while they anticipate the arrival. The dress code is formal and the salon is decked out with all sorts of bright and colourful decorations.  

As the tension builds, tongues are moistened with free flowing beer and soft drinks until the announcement is made; she is here. It is time for the grand entrance.

Guests red rose-up and line the hall to form an aisle, while the immediate family waits at the end of the line to greet their daughter and sister.

The music starts. A song chosen by the girl - maybe a little Britney or Cristina. And then the doors open. She appears on the arm of her father; the duo's smiles lit up by spotlights.

She’s nervous, apprehensive, perhaps visibly overwhelmed; but she’s beautiful. Her hair and make-up are exquisite, and the dress; the all important dress is glamorous, long and glamorous. Gasps and mutterings can be heard in the crowd ‘Que hermosa que está, es una princesita!

By the time her father has walked her down the aisle to present her to her family, she is holding all the red roses and is breathing normally again. She is plastered with kisses from every direction as she soaks up the applause. She is fifteen and this is her moment.

Papa retakes her hand and accompanies her to the floor for the first dance with his grown-up daughter. The Waltz. Eyes are directed to the couple as all the men queue up to take a turn spinning the birthday girl round in celebration.

And when the Waltz is concluded, the food is served. Adults drink and chat, family members reminisce, spotty teenagers joke around and seek out a sneaky beer, while little toddlers run all over the place as they play with their new friends.

After a couple of hours of energetic and rhythmic dancing in a typically natural and Latin manner (the way Argentines are so coordinated on the dancefloor is frankly not reminiscent of everyday society and really beggars belief), the ceremony of the fifteen candles takes place.

This is the moment when the birthday girl chooses the fifteen people she sees as having been the most important in her life thus far. She makes a speech about each and presents them all with a candle.

Finally the cake is cut and scoffed, and the real partying begins. Lights dim, cumbia music starts back-up and it’s proper dancing time until the night finally draws to a conclusion somewhere around 6am.

A good old bit of fun-til-the-sun-comes-up has been had by all, and for now the parents can relax until number two daughter approaches that all important age and la fiesta de quince, which in Argentina, marks the end of childhood and the beginning of womanhood.  


  1. I'm doing a project for my Spanish class about la fiesta de quince a.k.a quinceaneras and I must say this piece was very informative. I think it was wonderfully written and it gives me a greater understanding of what la fiesta de quince really is and what takes place at one.

  2. We just moved to Paraguay a couple of weeks ago. I found your post after searching more information about this event because my son has been invited to a Quinceañera this weekend. I enjoyed your post and because I find your writing style very engaging I started reading your other posts as well and am looking forward to the next ones.

  3. Thanks very much. Hope your son enjoyed the experience. Will be back posting more (after a short break)...Enjoy Paraguay. Un abrazo

  4. Thank you very much for recommendations for this Sweet 16 party. I would like to add that your choice of event venues is among the important thing which decide success or failure of your event, be it of any kind.

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