Old World Tradition

Perla Trevizo, Chattanooga Free Press, July 8, 2008

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The quinceañera—quince años, meaning 15 years—is a ritual in Mexico and some Central American countries. And as more immigrants from Spanish-speaking nations settle in Tennessee and Georgia, they have brought such Old Country traditions to their new home.

“A quinceañera is about the girl, it’s pretty much a passageway from childhood to becoming an adult,” said Andrea, a 10th grader at Southeast High School. “A lot of people like to compare quinceañeras to weddings because it’s the size of a wedding, but they are totally different.”

Over the last five years, quinceañeras have grown in popularity across the country, said Cindy Benavides, owner of Strategic Events, a large event-planning company based in Texas.

The tradition started with immigrant families and has expanded to families with children born in the United States but with Latin American roots, she said.

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There are 400,000 Hispanic girls turning 15 every year in the United States, Ms. Benavides said, with quinceañeras generating millions of dollars annually.

Families nationwide spent a estimated $400 million on quinceañeras in 2007, according to Quince Girl, a magazine dedicated to the event.

In Dalton, quinceañeras are held almost every weekend, according to residents. Sometimes families must schedule the mass outside of Dalton to book a date.

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Businesses nationwide and in the region have started catering to quinceañeras, local business owners said. Since Brenda Davenport, owner of Brides of Dalton, expanded her services to quinceañeras about four years ago, her quinceañera business has almost doubled.

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Next to bridals, Jennifer White, owner of Cup a Dee Cakes in Tunnel Hill, Ga., said quinceañeras are the largest business area she wants to grow.

“It’s a good business for me and for the entire community, and it’s year round,” she said.

Although private parties at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center make up less than 10 percent of its total number of events, quinceañeras have surpassed weddings, said Daniel Farrow, event coordinator with the center.

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The cost for a small quinceañera ranges from $5,000 to $10,000, Mrs. Benavides said. Medium-size quinceañeras range from $10,000 to $18,000 and large-scale events can be $25,000 and up, she said.

The Pimentel family spent around $12,000 on Andrea’s quinceañera—about $4,000 on the dinner, $1,000 on the dress, $1,000 for the hall at the trade center, and the rest on decorations, cake, invitations, hair and make-up, accessories, a mariachi band, photography and video and the disc jockey.

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