The allure of a quinceañera for teenage girls is the stuff, the attention and the feeling of collective adoration from their family and friends. Is it an outdated tradition with misogynistic roots? Yes, completely. Will it ever go out of style? No, I don’t think so.
The quinceañera is not just a party or a debut into society for a young lady of marriageable age. It is an industry with lots of stakeholders comparable to the wedding industry. Because let’s be honest here, a quinceañera and a wedding have way more similarities than differences. And just like weddings, quinceañeras are here to stay.
People love a party and a quinceañera is a party on crack. There is church, a procession, pageantry, synchronized dancing, and of course, glamour and drama. It is the stuff that literally movies, documentaries, and TV shows are made of and have been made of.
For this week’s podcast we interview Jesse Garcia, the star of Quinceañera, the movie from 2006. This movie was released when I was working as a choreographer for a company called Sueños de Quinceañera. I did not have a quince. I had never even been to a quince before starting to choreograph for them. This job, this movie, and all of the subsequent shows like My Super Sweet Sixteen on MTV, were my indoctrination into an a segment of Latino teen life that I had not been aware of.
We talked with Jesse a little bit about quinceañeras, but mostly we talked about the movie. Enjoy!
Did you have a quinceañera?
Will your daughter(s) have one?
Would love to hear from you!
In the 1990’s there was what the media dubbed the Latin explosion, referencing pop artists such as Ricky Martin, J-Lo and Marc Anthony who were successfully doing cross over albums. I remember my teenage self thinking finally, we (Latinos) have arrived. But as it happens with most trends, the idea of the Latin explosion was fleeting.
It wasn’t until recently that I started noticing more Spanish language programming on Netflix, and then learned about the conscious efforts of said company to appeal to and coerce more Latino viewership that I thought to myself, ok Latinos must be trending once again.
But now that we are popular again, are these bigger entities political, commercial and the media, that are trying to coerce us into backing their ideas, purchasing their products, or following their brands, going to do us justice or will they just perpetuate stereotypes that the the mainstream culture is comfortable with? Will we finally get a chance to be real people living in the US with universal problems or will we still be portrayed as two-dimensional caricatures?
In the past, the representation of Latino women in the media has been extremely stereotypical at best. We have been portrayed as the sex pot, the maid, the gangster or as immigrants that cannot speak English, or speaks English with an accent. And while I admit that all stereotypes are founded in some truth, and that we all know one of these archetypes in our own circles, what is missing is everyone else in between. Real, complex, complicated, people that straddle and navigate both worlds with ease and distress.
All I’m saying is that if the powers that be want to appeal to the Latin market and get the Latina experience right, they should check in with real Latinos from all walks of life. They may learn that we have more similarities than differences and that the part about being Latino can just be descriptive and not necessarily all defining.
What are some stereotypes of the Latina woman or mom that you’ve encountered in the media?
Do you see yourself accurately represented?
What would you like to see in the portrayal of Latina women and moms in the media?
Would love to hear from you!
Wendy writes blog posts that turn into conversations for the Mamá Cita Podcast.