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I have a story for you; years ago, when my now-husband and I were dating, we used to go to The Galleria on the weekends. I can't tell you how often we would see a group of guys wearing the same suit accompanying a girl wearing a beautiful but "poofy" dress.
It was a "normal" thing to witness since I knew that, for some reason, here in Houston, it was a "thing" to walk around The Galleria with your quinceañera group and stop by the food court. But it was quite a sight for my Cincinnati, Skyline Chilli lover husband. He then asked, "what's the deal with those poofy dresses?".
I explained to him that in Mexico, we have a tradition called "Fiesta de Quinceañera." In many Latin countries, it is customary to celebrate a girl's fifteenth birthday by throwing a lavish party; this tradition signifies a girl's transition into womanhood. The equivalent to this would be a "sweet sixteen" in the U.S. But, how it is celebrated in large Mexican cities differs from the customs of smaller pueblos or towns.
Since joining the Catrina Shop team, I have traveled to Morelia several times to meet the artisans and see their work firsthand. Morelians are some of the kindest and most hard-working people I've ever met. But some of the best people I know are right outside Morelia, a small town not too far called Capula.
Capula is a small pueblo famous for having many artisans dedicated to creating Catrinas. This is where we met Angela and David; they have been an essential part of our lives since we started The Catrina Shop.
In January of 2022, their daughter Sherlyn turned 15, and my parents and I had the honor of being invited to her quinceañera as guests and godparents. If you don't know what this entails, let me tell you, it is a huge responsibility.
My parents were named the godparents of the music and the ones to sit next to Sherlyn during mass. Of course, my parents went all out on the music and hired not one but four bands!
The first was a mariachi band; they arrived at Sherlyn's house and started playing while she greeted all the guests and her chambelanes. Chambelanes are like the escorts of honor chosen by the quinceañera to accompany her to the church and dance with her at the party.
Once we were gathered at her house, we started the procession to the church, roughly 2 blocks from her home. As we walked, the mariachi band followed while playing music until we arrived at the church. It was a pretty exciting feeling to walk around town with a procession; you sure get many eyes watching and filming.
After the ceremony, many of her godparents approached Sherlyn to present her with unique gifts, one of them being a bible that symbolically means keeping her faith grounded and turning to the bible in times of trouble. My gift to Sherlyn was a silver ring that signifies the beginning of womanhood and God's undying love for her. Many of the gifts she received have special meanings; for example; it is a custom that the father of the quinceañera will change her shoes from flats or tennis shoes to high heels. Typically, the father removes her shoes and helps her put on the high heels; this means she is leaving childhood and entering adulthood. In my opinion, all the significance of the gifts is something extraordinary and a beautiful tradition that I was lucky to witness.
When the ceremony was over, outside the church, the second band started playing music while Sherlyn took pictures with her friends and family; soon after, we walked to the venue where the party was to be held.
The venue was a huge floor made of concrete, and it had a roof with some openings on the sides for airflow. Immediately after sitting at our table, dinner was served, which was a traditional Morelian dish called Tatemado and Corundas.
Tatemado is simply marinated pork stew, and Corundas are similar to tamales; the only difference is that they use fresh husks, and Corundas typically don't have a meat filling.
After we ate and drank lots of Don Julio 70 and beers, the third band played music, and the rest of the guests arrived. I'm not lying to you when I say we were around 500 people in that venue. I then learned that in small towns, it is customary to let anyone into the party, even if they weren't formally invited.
At some point in the evening, Sherlyn danced the traditional waltz with all her chambelanes. As a surprise, they danced 3 more choreographed dances. As the night went on, the music kept blasting, and people kept dancing and drinking, overall having a good time.
The next thing that happened sent my mom and me running for cover; in Capula and small towns, they have a tradition called "El Torito."
These things are usually built out of wood to look like a bull. They attach all sorts of fireworks to them, and then people line up and dance in a circle while someone holds the "Torito" up high and chases people around the circle. Can you imagine someone running towards you with lit fireworks?! It sounds insane, right? Well, to the people of Capula, it is a fun tradition, and if you end up with a few burns, you'll have a story to tell your friends.
When the "Torito" was finally out of fireworks, it was time to introduce the last band of the night. This band is called La Sonora Dinamita, a well-known band in Mexico. Everyone was hyped when the band came on stage; everyone started dancing and singing along until they finished their set.
Finally, the party ended around midnight, and I was ready for bed.
Overall, it was a fun experience, and I am glad we could be a part of this big celebration for Sherlyn. I learned about traditions from my country that I had yet to know about. This will forever be an incredible memory.