Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Health

Dreams postponed: Quinceañeras among traditions altered by coronavirus

Latino families and vendors — in Tampa Bay and across the country — find years of planning undone in a matter of days.
Jazmyn Fernandez, of Tampa, had to postpone her quinceañera, the Latin American 15th birthday celebration that marks her transition from childhood. The coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible for the family to gather with extended relatives and friends. The party has been moved to June and although Jazmyn is disappointed, she's excited to celebrate soon.
Jazmyn Fernandez, of Tampa, had to postpone her quinceañera, the Latin American 15th birthday celebration that marks her transition from childhood. The coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible for the family to gather with extended relatives and friends. The party has been moved to June and although Jazmyn is disappointed, she's excited to celebrate soon. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Apr. 23, 2020

TAMPA — The planning for Jazmyn Fernandez’s quinceañera formally began two years ago. But really, it started when Marilyn Rivera discovered she was having a daughter.

Rivera never had her own quinceañera, a distinctly Latin American celebration of her 15th birthday meant to honor her transition from childhood to adulthood. She was determined to see Jazmyn shine in a ballgown on April 25.

Or at least that was the date of her quinceañera before the coronavirus forced the family to postpone the party until June.

“It broke our hearts,” Rivera said.

Marilyn Rivera, of Tampa, had been planning for her daughter's quinceanera for over two years. The celebration would have been this week, but Jazmyn Fernandez had to postpone her party, the Latin American 15th birthday celebration that marks the transition from childhood. The coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible for the family to gather with extended relatives and friends.
Marilyn Rivera, of Tampa, had been planning for her daughter's quinceanera for over two years. The celebration would have been this week, but Jazmyn Fernandez had to postpone her party, the Latin American 15th birthday celebration that marks the transition from childhood. The coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible for the family to gather with extended relatives and friends. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

As social-distancing measures cancel gatherings across the U.S., Latino families in Tampa Bay and elsewhere find years of meticulous planning for quinceañeras come undone in a matter of days.

The celebration is, at face value, a massive birthday party, but across Latin America it’s more of a cultural tradition mixed with a family reunion that has grown into a lucrative international industry.

Various countries have their own customs. In Mexico, the father of the birthday girl changes her shoes from flats to heels to symbolize her first steps into adulthood, while her mother crowns her with a tiara to symbolize her new leadership role in the family. In Colombia, the girl lights 15 candles held by close relatives she chose to honor for supporting her throughout her life, said Esmeralda Solis, owner of Esmeralda’s Boutique in Land O’ Lakes and Tampa, who sells quinceañera dresses.

Regardless of the country of origin, the message remains the same.

“It’s not just a party,” Solis said. “It’s culture. It’s family. It’s tradition.”

And it’s not cheap.

The ball gowns traditionally worn for quinceañeras can cost anywhere from $450 to $900, Solis said. Some special designs can reach a price tag of $2,500. And that’s just the dress.

Families invest thousands into the event. In the U.S. in particular, it’s often a chance for immigrant parents to show how far they’ve come financially, inviting co-workers and even bosses to their version of a realized American dream. The festivities are often so elaborate, with choreographed dance numbers, that planning lasts at least a year in advance.

“You can’t organize a quinceañera in just a few months,” Solis said.

Some of Solis’ customers are still paying off their dresses with their party dates in limbo as they remain uncertain of when the coronavirus lockdown measures will end. One of the big draws of the festivity is the large crowds that gather.

Venues and caterers have been flexible in rescheduling, but families already have lost out on printed invitations and party favors engraved with the party’s original date, Solis said.

Since the quinceañera usually isn’t held precisely on the girl’s 15th birth date, some of Solis’ clients are concerned that by the time they can host the party, the girls already will be 16. And they don’t want a Sweet 16 party. They want a quinceañera.

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Subscribe to our free DayStarter newsletter

We’ll deliver the latest news and information you need to know every weekday morning.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

“It’s unbelievable to see so many dreams cut short,” Solis said.

Rivera’s daughter, Jazmyn, who turns 15 on April 28, was excited to be the first in her household to celebrate a quinceañera. It would be a chance to get all of her family together, to put aside any problems and just be there for each other.

“It was supposed to be a happy day,” she said.

There are at least 3,000 families in the same predicament in Tampa Bay, at least according to the Mi Padrino online and mobile app for planning and budgeting quinceañeras, said Kim Gamez, the app’s chief executive.

And there are at least 10,000 vendors nationwide on the app working to recoup losses and adjust party dates.

Solis is taking one-on-one appointments at her shops, she said, but most families are opting out and simply checking in on their dress orders over the phone.

Jazmyn Fernandez, of Tampa, had to postpone her quinceañera, the Latin American 15th birthday celebration that marks the transition from childhood. The coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible for the family to gather with extended relatives and friends. The party has been moved to June, and although Jazmyn is disappointed, she's excited to celebrate soon.
Jazmyn Fernandez, of Tampa, had to postpone her quinceañera, the Latin American 15th birthday celebration that marks the transition from childhood. The coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible for the family to gather with extended relatives and friends. The party has been moved to June, and although Jazmyn is disappointed, she's excited to celebrate soon. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

Jazmyn’s dress remains tucked away at home for now. The reality of her quinceañera and getting to see her extended family struck her when she found her gown.

She had been looking for something similar to the white dress with gold trim she wore for her first birthday. She wanted a before-and-after effect. When she saw her final choice, she knew it was fate.

“It was magical,” she said. “It was literally the perfect dress.”

Now, the perfect dress will have to wait for the big day in June, barring any further postponement.

Jazmyn is a bit upset at the wait, but she’s trying to keep an open mind about it. After all, her mother’s been waiting for 15 years.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

HAVE YOU LOST SOMEONE YOU LOVE TO COVID-19?: Help us remember them

UNEMPLOYMENT Q&A: We answer your questions about Florida unemployment benefits

CONTRIBUTE TO THE SCRAPBOOK: Help us tell the story of life under coronavirus

BRIGHT SPOTS IN DARK TIMES: The world is hard right now, but there’s still good news out there

LISTEN TO THE CORONAVIRUS PODCAST: New episodes every week, including interviews with experts and reporters

HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips

GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information, six days a week

WATCH VIDEO: How some in Tampa Bay are finding light amid isolation

We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge