Quinceañera to be a community affair


A traditional Latina coming of age ceremony for two teenagers will welcome members of the West Marin community next week. The Dance Palace Community and Cultural Center will hold the quinceañera, or fifteenth birthday celebration, as part of its Latino outreach program; Margarita Echeverria, office manager and bookkeeper at the center, hopes the event will promote cultural exchange.

Two young women who live in Point Reyes, Stephanie Gonzales and Samantha Sanchez, will be honored at the event, which is both a convivial party and a symbol of growing maturity. In a press release, Ms. Echeverria called the quinceañera a “time to honor our daughters who are stepping across a threshold into womanhood.” “My fantasy is that this could extend in the future into there being a coming-of-age ceremony for both boys and girls,” she told the Light.

Dinner will be served during the first half of the event. During the second half, the two teenagers will perform a short dance around each of five chabelanes, or male counterparts, while the latter kneel.

Ms. Echeverria said that in watching the waltz practices leading up to the event, she has realized that “in the same way that the girl is being presented to society as a woman, those chabelanes are also being presented to society as prospective suitors.” Some of the chabelanes are Latino and some are non-Latino, she noted. After the waltz, the chabelanes form an aisle, through which the girls walk to their fathers for another dance. Afterwards, the floor will be opened to everyone.

About 20 traditional and symbolic gifts will be offered to the girls at the event, including a ring, a rosary and a sword, which are given by “spiritual parents,” usually close family members or friends.

The event will take place Saturday, June 15 from 3 to 10:30 p.m. A mass at Sacred Heart Church in Olema precedes it, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Those who wish to attend should call Margarita at (415) 663.1075 or email her at margarita@dancepalace.org.