As the Hispanic population has grown in the United States, so has the practice and industry of quinceanaras. “It’s very closely aligned with the bridal industry, ” says Michele Salcedo, a Newsday journalist and author of “Quinceaera!” (Henry Holt, $25) published last October. “I would say it’s got to be a $500 million industry when you take into account the dresses, the hotel, the catering, the limousine, the dresses for the court of honor, the dress for the mother.” Her book recounts one spectacle in which the girl made her grand entrance from a helicopter.
“It’s everything like a wedding without the groom, ” describes Marisol Barrios-Jordan, co-founder of Latina Bride magazine. She estimates the cost for a quinceanara can range from $4,000 to $20,000. Barrios-Jordan and her partner Michelle Nordblom Hottya launched the bilingual bridal and quinceanara magazine last December because, in doing research for their own weddings, they “couldn’t identify with the articles and the $30,000 weddings” that the mainstream periodicals would talk about.
They decided to focus on quinceanaras when Barrios-Jordan’s niece and her parents began inquiring about traditions, going so far as to calling relatives in Mexico and Texas. When they launched their preliminary Web site (www.latinabride.com) in April, about 80 percent of the queries came from parents and daughters planning their 15th birthday parties.
With increased Latino spending power, more businesses are paying attention to their events. “Because (the quinceanara) is one of those beloved traditions, it’s a way of entering the Hispanic market, ” Salcedo says. A 1997 report from the National Council of La Raza found the purchasing power of Hispanics has increased to $350 billion, a 65 percent increase since 1990. The Hispanic middle class grew 25 percent over that same time period.
This has piqued interest all the way up to the commercial giants. A Coca Cola commercial aired during the last Olympics, for instance, featured a quinceanara. Disneyland Hotel targets the market for these teen celebrations.
“Because Latinos have gained a critical mass, as it were, and because we are more affluent than we’ve ever been before, we are celebrating our traditions with more enthusiasm than we have in the past. The quinceanara is one of those, ” Salcedo says. “It’s an important statement of national identity and celebrating one’s culture in a positive way.”
This article originally appeared in the Contra Costa Times