The Quinceañera Fiesta | Mexico | Living in Mexico

The Quinceañera Fiesta

We gonna pitch a ball,
Down to that union hall.
We gonna romp and tromp till midnight.
We gonna fuss and fight till daylight.
We gonna pitch a wang dang doodle
All night long.

—Willie Dixon

When Valeria's special quinceañera mass was over, it was time to boogie. We all went over to the party site—a warehouse co-opted for the purpose. It only being five o'clock, we uninformed gringos went in and sat down, unaware that we wouldn't be seeing any food until maybe seven, and the dancing wouldn't start till after nine.


Valeria arrived with her four attendants, all dressed all in black, looking sharp in neckties and perfect hair. They all took off in the beribboned car for more photos.

I think there were almost 200 guests. Most trickled in when the food was likely to be ready—experienced fiesta-goers all.

We were served barbacoa, which in the State of Guanajuato at least, consists of sheep cooked on top of maguey leaves in a pit full of charcoal and heated stones.


Feeding the crowd required five large sheep—whole sheep—all parts of the sheep. Beginning at the upper left of the photo, in front of our friend Aurora, there's a dish of roasted and steamed sheep (not lamb): mostly foreleg and ribs on that particular plate. In the bowl to the right, Patty is dipping her tortilla into consomme, a soup prepared from sheep drippings and juices.

Immediately in front of Patty is a plate of montalayo: sheep's stomach stuffed with various ovine organ meats, tongue, eyeballs (really) and spices, steamed. Think haggis, without the oatmeal.

And in front of the montalayo is moranga: sheep's blood sausage, cooked with onions and tomatoes. Lest you conclude that Mexicans are savages who will eat anything, I'll note that elegant British aristocrats eat black pudding, another sausage made from animal blood.

The plate above my bowl of consomme contains steamed rice and above that, a bowl of traditional garnish, chopped raw onion and cilantro.

All of it was delicious. Not only did I stuff myself with everything that was set in front of us, Jean did too. Even the montalayo and the moranga, while knowing full well what she was eating.

Valeria's extended family served all the guests, running back and forth for hours. Even though she was the guest of honor, Valeria chose not to sit regally at the head table as was her right. Instead she welcomed guests, served them drinks, and carried small children from place to place as needed—a perfect hostess.

It took about two hours to get everyone fed. For children it was a long wait. But an opportunistic balloon and ball vendor showed up, sneaking in past Cousin Edgar, who was guarding the door against party crashers. Soon, the dance floor was filled with small children playing soccer and tossing balloons.


At last, the main event got underway. It has become a custom that the quinceañera (the term applies to the young woman as well as the whole party) and her attendants do a sort of production number. Here we see Valeria trying to get all the participants lined up.

Hmmm. Who's missing? Carlos. Over here, Carlos!
Aahgghh! Won't anyone do anything right? Mom? Mom!

Ceremonies began with a slide show: pictures of Valeria growing up. Lots of cheers and applause. What I great idea. I'm going to do it for my 70th birthday. (Except I won't look as cute.)


Next, Valeria and her attendants, the four boys taking themselves very seriously, performed a well-rehearsed procession and dance.


Several times, they lifted her high into the air. This was a serious performance.


Electrically controlled Roman candles had been set out on the floor and ignited from time to time. I worried that one might go off under Valeria's billowing skirt, but that's just insecure, overprotective father instincts working overtime.


Following the production number was traditional ballroom dancing: Valeria two-stepping with the important men in her life. A score of males, including a couple of little boys, took turns cutting in, but she was the only woman dancing. This was clearly her night—hers alone.

She received some gifts. Here cousin Teresa is helping with a huge stuffed animal. Valeria may be entering womanhood, but she still takes great pleasure in the things of childhood, as do all young ladies her age.


Smoke from the Roman candles became intense. Nobody cared. This image was taken at the height of the smokiness. I'm darned if I can see what's going on here.


The hour was approaching ten o'clock. The party was well underway, but it had a long was to go. Jean and I usually fade around ten or eleven, so we said our goodbyes. It took us a half hour to leave because everyone come up to give us a small parting gift and a hug and a kiss.

This kind of love, this kind of friendship is the real magic of Mexico.

Tonight we need no rest,
We really gonna throw a mess.
We gonna to break out all of the windows.
We gonna kick down all the doors.
We gonna pitch a wang dang doodle
All night long.