Quinceanera is a look at what happens when teenage sexuality, age-old rituals, and real estate prices collide. It is a story fueled by the racial, class, and sexual tensions of a Latino neighborhood in transition.
Magdalena (Emily Rios) is the daughter of a Mexican-American family who runs a storefront church in Echo Park, Los Angeles. With her fifteenth-birthday approaching, all she can think about is her boyfriend, her Quinceanera dress, and the Hummer Limo she hopes will carry her on her special day.
But a few months before the celebration, Magdalena falls pregnant. As the elaborate preparations for her Quinceanera proceed, it is only a matter of time before her religious father find out and rejects her.
Forced out of her home, Magdalena moves in with great-great uncle Tomas (Chalos Gonzalez), an old man who makes his living selling champurrado (a Mexican hot drink) in the street. Already living with him is Carlos (Jesse Garcia), Magdalena's cousin, a tough cholo who was thrown out by his parents. Carlos does not disguise his disapproval of Magdalena's arrival.
The back house rental where Tomas has lived happily for many years is on a property that was recently purchased by an affluent white gay couple (David W. Ross and Jason L. Wood)--pioneers of gentrification in the neighborhood. Inevitably, worlds collide when they become entangled in the lives of their tenants.
As Magdalena's pregnancy grows more visible, she, Carlos, and Tomas pull together as a family of outsiders. But the economics of the neighborhood are turning against them. Ultimately, this precipitates a crisis that threatens their way of life.
The Ritual of La Quinceanera (provided by Sony Pictures Classics)
Many countries around the world have celebrations to acknowledge a girl's entrance into womanhood. These events are meant to celebrate a young woman's new maturity, as well as the responsibilities that come with adulthood. In English speaking countries, they have a "sweet sixteen" or a Debutante ball, while in the Mexican tradition they celebrate with a Quinceanera. This traditional event is an important milestone in a young woman's life, experienced with the involvement of her family and community.
A Quinceanera honors a girl on her 15th birthday. The word comes from the Spanish words quince, meaning fifteen and anos, meaning years. The Quinceanera can be quite an extravagant event. If the family is Catholic the celebration begins with the Misa de accion de gracias, Thanksgiving Mass. The young woman turning fifteen arrives at her church wearing a formal gown either white or light pink, she has a headdress and a bouquet of flowers. The honoree arrives with her parents, grandparents, and her court. The young women of her court are called damas, maids of honor, and the young men of the court are called chamberlanes, escorts.
At the end of the mass, the girl being honored lays her bouquet on the altar, and everyone heads to a reception for dinner and a party. The first dance is for the honored girl and her father, it is traditionally a waltz. During the evening, the girl's male relatives take turns dancing with her. During the reception, the girl's headdress is replaced with a tiara, and is given a scepter symbolizing authority and responsibility. Also during the reception, there is a toast where the girl's guests give her their best wishes followed by the cutting of the cake. The evening comes to an end with the festejada, a traditional waltz by the honored and one of her escorts.
Now that the Quinceanera has come to a close, the young girl is considered to be a young woman and will be treated as such by her family and community. She now garners a newfound sense of respect as well as taking on different responsibilities. To this day, the Quinceanera is still popular in traditional families. Even though the celebration changes with the times, the meanings and values remain the same.