A Quinceañera, a party in the celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday in Latin America cultures, is a coming of age celebration that traditionally, announces the girl is ready for marriage. It resembles a wedding in scale, significance and cost, and the aesthetic is unique and quite pronounced; fantasy, princess-like, and expensive. Miami has one of the largest Qunceañera photo studio businesses in the world. Often, the party is superfluous and skipped. The photos are important.
Even though I am Cuban, I never had a Quince party. I drive by a billboard on my way to work advertising Quinceañera photo packages. It made me think about why girls in our day and age continue this tradition, and the industry built around it. I made an appointment at studio, a one stop-shop Quinceañera photo studio with everything included. I went to the two-room business on Calle Ocho and answered a series of questions about what I wanted, while keeping authentic to the medium. My favorite color was green so we chose the green dress, I liked the outdoors so we picked a garden back drop. They did my hair and make up in typical fashion and told me to look here, place my hand there, hold this, smile, no smile etc. After three hours, we chose the best images off the computer and the frame I wanted. I was in today’s standards, a Quinceanera.
What interests me about the concept is that none of it is real. Not the photos, the dress, the fake background, or even the idea that one day you turn 15 and mature. This illusion, as seen through the photos, is for the ego. The parents can spend up to 10,000 dollars on a photograph, proving they can afford to make their daughter look expensive and princess-like. Their financial insecurity and desire for their daughter to marry well are manifested in the images, Who is perpetuating this tradition? It seems this money would be better spent on the girl’s college education, which begs the question, what is the girl’s role in this society? This antiquated tradition is revealing of the undercurrent of sexism in Latin American cultures. What the photographer found strangest about my photo session was that I came alone. Who were the photos for?