Recession can't stop Latino rite of passage: the quinceanera

Latino families say the recession isn't stopping them from holding quinceaneras. It just means they have to work harder to pay the bills.

A quinceanera is a coming-of-age ceremony common in Latin American cultures on a girl's 15th birthday. It usually involves a church service and a dinner-dance reception. Both include rituals symbolizing the girl's commitment to her faith and family as she becomes a woman.

As elaborate and expensive as a wedding, the typical Valley quinceanera costs $5,000 to $15,000, say store owners who specialize in the business — modest compared with some parts of the country, but still a heavy expense in a community largely dependent on minimum-wage and agricultural jobs.

"I would do anything, whatever it takes, even if I have to work at a second place," said Miny Villarreal of Chowchilla, who is planning a quinceanera for her daughter, Daniela, in July 2011.

"I'm willing to mop floors, because she deserves it."

Latino parents in the central San Joaquin Valley say they are finding creative ways to raise money or reduce costs and still make the ceremonies meaningful to their daughters.

Sponsors, also known as "padrinos," have long played important roles in helping families meet the costs by paying for parts of the ceremony.

Parents say they are willing to seek more of them and to make sacrifices themselves.

Officials at Barr Bros of California near downtown Fresno, which specializes in quinceaneras, say business is steady this summer — the peak season — despite the tough economic times. They said families are finding that every little bit counts.

"You can see the financial situation that some families are in," says Carla Barraza, manager at Barr Bros.

"They want to keep a tradition alive."

Read more of this story at