A 15-year-old celebrates becoming a woman
September 25, 2018
A Quinceanera, also known as a fiesta de quince años, is an honored celebration of a young girl becoming a woman. It is a time for the Quince, 15-year-old Bryanna Banuelos, to reflect on the road ahead as she matures.
This celebration is a Mexican “coming of age” tradition that those who migrated to Southwest Kansas brought with them. Quinceaneras highlight faith, family, friends, food, music and dance. The entire community was invited to the Banuelos celebration that took Bryanna and her parents, Nereida and Emmanuel Banuelos, an entire year to plan.
Dancing is an important part of Bryanna’s celebration. They practice for hours and hours before the big event. Lluvia Castilleja and Laura Enriquez were hired by Bryanna’s parents to choreograph the dances performed at the celebration. Performing with Bryanna is a Court of Honor. A Court of Honor is comprised of young people who are close to Bryanna and/or her family.
“Traditionally there are 14 Damas and 14 Chambelanes in the Court of Honor, but there have been changes to that depending on what the Quince and the parents want,” Castilleja said.
In this case, Bryanna chose 11 Chambelanes with her bother, Angel, being the main Chambelan. The Court of Honor, comprised of 11 Chambelanes. The Chambelanes were Angel Banuelos, Armando Armendariz, Robert Campos, Alan Baeza, Carlos Zapata, Cesar Baeza, Kevin Guerrero, Armando Ramirez, Jose Lopez, Hesen Lopez and Omar Calderon. This group of young people practiced for two to three hours each time for almost a month to learn eight dances.
After months of planning and prepping, the celebration day finally arrived. It began at the St. Anthony’s Church in Liberal. This portion of the Quinceanera is mostly for family, though a few friends attended. In this ceremony, Bryanna commits herself to God and the Church and also receives blessings for her life moving forward.
Nereida and Emmanuel kissed their daughter for the photographer hired to cover this big family event.
“Bryanna is special because she is our only girl and is very helpful at home. She works hard and is a good girl. Bryanna has wanted a Quinceanera since she was a small girl,” Nereida said.
After the church service, everyone moved to the reception at the Activity Center. Emmanuel and Nereida hired Wilkens Events to decorate and cater this celebration. Food from Big Bites, a local mexican eatery, was served. Wilkens Events estimated that they are hired to decorate and cater 10-20 quinceaneras every year. Families spend on average $7,000-$15,000. The decor for Bryanna’s quinceanera included beautiful colors of burgundy, coral, green and a couple of chandeliers.
Before the dance started for the guests, the Quniceanera and her Court of Honor performed the main traditional dance, the Vals. While this is a traditional dance, the song choice was more modern. Halo by Beyonce, was chosen by Bryanna. The Vals, also known as the Waltz, is almost always part of the celebration.
“The Daddy/Daughter Dance is an important tradition for this occasion,” Castilleja said.
There were two parts to this dance. Throughout the first song, “Ya No Crescas Mas” by Tercer Cielo, girls of varying ages represented different stages of Bryanna growing up. Each girl danced briefly with Emmanuel. The song talked about how no matter the age, his daughter would always be his little girl.
Bryanna and the Chambelanes take time to pose for a selfie with their choreographers, Laura and Lluvia. These two ladies spend many hours preparing and working with the teenagers
“We spend anywhere from 30-40 hours practicing with the kids. We also offer to be at the reception and dance to make sure the young people are ready to perform. We want the parents to be able to enjoy the festivities,” Castilleja said.
Many friends and family from the community come for the dancing portion of the party. Not many people stayed seated as cowboy hats and high heels filled up the dance floor. The Banuelos family also hired the band, El Morro y Su Reunion, to entertain for a few hours.
Bryanna and her Court of Honor perform the Surprise Dance. It is more informal and used to get the guests excited for the dance. This dance lasted 10 minutes and is comprised of seven different songs/mixes.
“No one seems to do the mixes here in the states, so I asked my cousin, Jahir Castro, who is well known for his mixes in Monterrey, Mexico,” Castilleja said.
Even though this celebration was for Bryanna, her parents said the event brought about a community camaraderie that preserves their Hispanic heritage.
Editor’s Note: This story was also published on Humanities Kansas as part of a partnership between HK and Crusader.