DANVILLE – When 15-year-old Izabel Juarez and her family and friends celebrate at her Quinceanera today, they know how special this milestone in her life is.
A Quinceanera is the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, marking her passage from girlhood to womanhood. The word Quinceanera is a combination of the Spanish words quince "fifteen" and años "years.”
Her mother, Patty Juarez, who works for Danville District 118, and grandmother Martha Espino, who serves on city committees and works at the Department of Rehabilitation Services, say they often get asked about this ceremony, that is similar to a Sweet 16 or coming-out party, and some other of their Mexican customs.
Espino, who was born in Mexico and has lived in Danville for about 44 years, came to Vermilion County when her father was a migrant worker in Hoopeston.
Izabel, who will be a sophomore this upcoming school year at Danville High School, already turned 15 in May but they waited to have the Quinceanera in the summer when more family could attend.
“This is a cultural part of our heritage,” Patty said.
Martha added that 99 percent of Mexicans are Catholic and the Quinceanera is a cultural and religious ritual.
It will start with a mass with Father Bo Schmitt at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Patty said. A Quinceanera mass is not a Catholic sacrament, like a baptism or confirmation. It is, however, a significant cultural ritual within the Hispanic community that solidifies a girl's commitment to her faith.
The ceremony will be in English and Spanish, and Martha will crown Izabel with a tiara. Izabel also will change from wearing flat shoes to high heels. Izabel won’t have multiple people by her side like “bridesmaids,” but will have one person stand up with her.
A reception with food, music by a DJ and dancing will follow at the celebration today. This will include a father/daughter dance, surprise dance and other dances such as with uncles. There also will be candy for the kids, and special wine bottles given as guest gifts.
Patty said a Quinceanera marks Izabel becoming an adult. That means she can start wearing makeup and high heels, start dating and doing other more adult things. This is also around the age when the young woman starts driving and takes on more responsibilities.
Prior to today’s ceremony Izabel and Patty went dress shopping and found a “big poofy dress” fitting for the occasion.
“All girls dream of their dress,” Patty said, adding that the dresses have become a variety of colors than more traditional pink dresses in the past.
The beaded, detailed red dress was just what Izabel was looking for. It fit into a Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean theme for her Quinceanera.
Izabel wanted a red or burgundy-colored dress. She said the dress is comfortable and she loves the back lace-up detail.
“I made her bouquet,” Martha said, also adding that Patty came up with the decorations all to match the red dress. Izabel’s tiara and jewelry also match the dress color.
The family also will be dressed up for the big day.
“We just want her to enjoy her day,” Patty said.
Patty's husband and Izabel’s dad, Francisco “Pancho” Juarez, who has six sisters, also has been really involved in the planning, they said, such as with the music, centerpieces and Pirates-themed backdrop.
They are expecting about 25 out-of-state guests to come to the celebration in addition to local family and friends. Izabel has invited some of her classmates and friends such as those she’s involved with in soccer and cheer at DHS.
Some of the traditional gifts Izabel will receive today will not include a traditional last doll because Izabel said she wasn’t really into dolls growing up. She’ll receive a favorite stuffed animal, Stitch from the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch, instead.
She’ll also receive a medallion, and gifts from family members include the cake and others relating to parts of the ceremony.
“I’m excited and nervous,” Izabel said about today, adding that she doesn’t want to fall while wearing her dress.
Patty said “it’s just a joyous day.”
Patty became emotional talking about how fast Izabel has grown up, and wanting Isabel to look back on this seeing that the family did this with so much love.
Patty said “our kids are a gift” and “we only have them for a little time and then they leave.”
“You want to make the day special,” Patty added.
Patty recalls her Quinceanera which was in Mexico and more traditional with mariachis and music outside, and eating lamb and roasted pig.
Her pink dress from the U.S. that her cousins all loved might not have been exactly what she wanted, but she said of the ceremony, “It was still fabulous. I was the baby in my girl cousins."
In a few more years, Patty will be going through this again with younger daughter 8-year-old Aniston.
Aniston has different tastes than Izabel, so her big poofy princess dress is expected to be different, too.