A quinceañera is a traditional fifteenth birthday celebration for young women (though in contemporary times, it can also be for young men) in many Latinx communities. While the celebration has roots in religiosity, it has also become a space for imagining and performing class, identity, and Americanity. With fieldwork conducted in California, Texas, Indiana, and Mexico City, Dr. Rachel Gonzàlez provides a richly nuanced study in her recent book Quinceañera Style: Social Belonging and Latinx Consumer Identities
(University of Texas Press, 2019) that examines the quinceañera as a site of possibility where young woman and their families can take ownership of their identity through consumerist actions and challenge narratives of Latinx class status that emphasize poverty and unstable migratory status by presenting an image of middle-class Latinx families
In this podcast, we talk about how Dr. Gonzàlez’s move from studying neurology to studying folklore and why it was so important to study quinceañera with the lens of representation rather than ritual. We also discuss the ways in which aspirations of class mobility and Americanity are articulated through style and consumerist choices. The digital sphere also serves as an important creative space where information about quinceaneras – from clothing, advice, themes, and videos – are shared and allow young women and/or her family to imagine the possibilities for constructing a celebration that reflect their own ideals. Lastly, we discuss the ways in which Lia Garcia, a trans activist based in Mexico, uses the quinceañera in performance art to challenge perceptions of the body.
Dr. Rachel Gonzàlez
is an Associate Professor of Mexican American and Latino/a Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
Nancy Yan received her PhD in folklore from The Ohio State University and taught First Year Writing, Comparative Studies, and Asian American studies for several years before returning to organizing work.