Hispanic tradition alive and well in Houston family

Sun News correspondentMay 22, 2013 

Baylor Zuñiga made the transition from childhood to adulthood in a Quinceañera ceremony held at the Heritage Club at Robins Air Force Base on May 11.

A Quinceañera is a centuries-old Hispanic coming of age celebration held on a girl’s 15th birthday. The event is more serious than a Sweet 16 party because the celebration includes a church service or a pastor speaking. The young woman has 14 attendants -- symbolizing the 14 previous years.

There are several elements during the event to signify her coming of age, one of which is the transferring of her shoes. Baylor’s father, Reuben, kneeled and removed her flat shoes and helped Baylor slip on high-heels; then the two shared a first dance. The attendants joined in for a dance, and then the families and friends in attendance enjoyed an elaborate buffet and birthday cake.

There are also traditional items presented that have meaning such as a tiara, which signifies triumph over childhood and the ability to face the challenges ahead; a bracelet, which represents the circle of life; earrings as a reminder to listen to God; a cross to remind the young woman to have faith in God and in herself; and a Bible.

According to information provided by the Zuñiga family, the Quinceañera highlights God, family, friends, music, food and dance.

“It can be as extravagant as a wedding,” said Baylor’s mother, Sue. “The dresses are usually elaborate and pastels and the attendants meet prior to the Quinceañera to learn a dance to present that night.”

For the Zuñiga family, it was not the first Quinceañera. Older sister Brittany, now 22, also had one for her 15th birthday. Because of the girl’s Hispanic heritage -- her grandparents immigrated to the United States in the 1950s, it was important to the family to carry on the tradition of the Quinceañera.

“I come from a melting pot,” Sue Zuñiga said. “But my husband has more of heritage, and we thought it was important to pass it along to our daughters.”

When Baylor was asking her friends to be part of the ceremony as attendants, she had little explaining to do about the Quinceañera.

“We all take Spanish in high school, and they teach us about it. My friends were all excited to be in it,” Baylor said.

Baylor’s youth pastor from Central Baptist Church, Brandon Nichols, spoke at the event.

“His words meant a lot to me, especially the part where he talked about how sometimes you have to make hard decisions as an adult,” Baylor said.

“It’s a coming-of-age party, a day about me being older and growing up. You do feel more grown up afterward,” Baylor said. “I am now a woman in my parents’ eyes and in my community’s eyes, but with that comes more responsibilities.”

Contact Alline Kent at 396-2467 or allinekent@cox.net.

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