Turning 15 In Julia Alvarez's Book, Once Upon A Quinceañera

2404 words - 10 pages

Julia Alvarez in her book, Once Upon a Quinceañera, explores the quince tradition from cultural, historical and personal angles. Herein, she seeks to clarify some of the myths and ideas that surround this tradition from the notion that quinceañeras are from old Aztec traditions to the idea that this rite has been passed down from one Latino generation to another. She discovers that most contemporary quinces are firsts for many families and are different from those of the past. Consequently, the tradition depicts a group that is experiencing transformation who seek to establish their roots in a past that is somehow bleak. Many have often described the US has a melting pot of cultures. Therefore, Americans from different cultures find themselves amalgamating their values with those of the American society, thus affecting the overall culture of their communities. In Once Upon a Quinceañera, the author demonstrate and applies the cultural myth of melting pot.

The Latinos make up close to 16 percent of the total American population, thus becoming the 2nd largest ethnic community. Just like many other migrant populations, the Latinos seek to keep in touch with their Hispanic traditions and cultures. As Alvarez puts it, children born in the US are thus taught certain cultural events and values so as to maintain their lineage. The most common one as discussed by Alvarez in her book is the quinceañera. This refers to a girl’s celebration as she reaches fifteen. This day of celebration is supposed to mark a girl’s transition from being a child to an adult woman. Among other traditional symbols, these parties are huge and include choreographed dances and ball gowns.

However, Latino girls in the US prefer celebrating their quinceañeras when they have reached sixteen. This way, they get to combine their quinces with the American Sweet Sixteen parties. The girls celebrate their birthdays in the same ways as a quinceañera, nonetheless. What people fail to notice is that these two cultures have been amalgamated thus affecting the original meaning intended in celebrating the quince. Alvarez likens this tradition to others like Kwanzaa, which have been corrupted due to influence from the American culture. “These invented traditions are likely to appear when a group is undergoing transformation” (Alvarez, pg. 117)

She is worried that a lot has changed because the quinceañera was supposed to be a ritual that ushered a girl into adulthood by controlling her sexual maturity. It is a form way of telling a girl to embrace a more adult appearance and behave like one thereof.

Originally, marriage would follow such celebrations since the girls have reached maturity. A girl was allowed to shave her legs, date, and wear makeup. However, the quince in the US is a blend from other traditions such as Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Western. The quince, in the original version, was meant to tell the girl that she was expected to get married and make her own family....

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