Quinceañera: You Only Turn 15 Once

Ahh, the passing of time. What better way to thrust a tween into adulthood than to do it in quince onestyle? There lives a tradition among Latin families where preteen girls have a birthday celebration so large, so grotesquely flashy that you can scarcely believe the birthday girl is only turning fifteen.

Traditionally, this celebration is a representation of the birthday girl’s transition to womanhood. She is presented witquince threeh high heels, a tiara, and she usually gives a speech. People lift her up during a choreographed number, she waltzes with almost every male cousin, and basically this party is just totally outrageous.

And I had one.

I don’t know when it was decided, but sometime, somehow, it was. I was asked if I wanted one (you know- “asked”) and the rest is history.

In the olden days, a quince was a huge deal, but it was

cuba

Quinceañera girl in Cuba primps for her big day

also very sentimental. The ‘Quinceañera girl’ was, essentially, preparing for womanhood. It was a religious as well as
deeply personal experience for anyone involved.

Today, it is more of a “My Sweet Sixteen” experience (check out this multi-million-dollar quince). Everyone included in the Quinceañera’s entourage will have take dance classes in order to learn the choreographed waltzes, the cake will need its own zip code, and there will be hundreds of guests in attendance at a glamorous ball-room, or other venue. For those of you that can’t get enough of reality t.v., here’s something new to add to your binge-list. Below is a clip from a show called “My Dream Quinceañera”:

My quince was a little less traditional, but not quite on the level of today’s standards. There were no choreographed dances for my entourage (I didn’t have one), giant cake, or shoe ceremony. Yet, I was woken up at the crack of dawn, shuffled from house to house, hairdresser to nail technician, all to make sure I looked the part. I came out with tightly wound, tiara adorned, spiral curled hair, and makeup meant for a woman three times my age. I was a Quinceañera girl.

But I didn’t feel like one.

I felt very out of place, like I was participating in a tradition that was not my own. I didn’t quince whitefeel that I deserved the praise of being Quinceañera, because I had put so little effort into
connecting with that side of my culture. While my entire family attended my quince and danced around the ball room, and took pictures with me- I felt the love I didn’t think I deserved. I was surrounded by Cubans and I felt like a white girl.

I was embarrassed, as many fifteen year olds before me have been. But I felt it on a deeper level, a level where my insecurities lived. For months after my quince I dealt with crushing inner-guilt every time I remembered my party. Did I really need that huge celebration? Did anyone actually want to be there? Was I forcing myself onto a culture that didn’t want me? These thoughts plagued me.

Seven years later, I look back on this day as a priceless moment in my life. I am so glad I had a quince and was able to be a part of a tradition that so few girls of my generation participate in. I recognize now that the guilt I felt was not a product of an unaccepting culture, but of my inability to accept it.

Although the quince was embarrassing at the time (I was presented on a stage, revealed from behind a curtain and waltzed with several cousins for what seemed like an eternity); I now realize that, although my quince by no means transformed me into an adult, it did succeed in revealing more of the mystery of my Cuban culture to me- whether I knew I wanted it or not.

Here are some extremely awkward photos of me at my Quinceañera, for your enjoyment:

 

Advertisements

Cuban Coffee v.s. Sweet Tea

If you know anything about the South, you know how necessary and holy Sweet Tea is to its connoisseurs. Some would say that sweet tea runs in the veins of those that call the great South their home.

To really understand sweet tea, you must first know the facts. Below you will see a diagram I have created, outlining the anatomy of a truly southern sweet tea.

sweet tea diagram

What is sweet tea? Let’s break it down.

First, you have freshly brewed black tea, then you have 3 lbs of sugar. Together, you have sweet tea (lemon optional).

sweet tea

For many, this is considered the backbone of a nation. This drink, this seemingly irrelevant iced beverage is, at its finest, a source of power and longevity in the lives of any dignified southerner. In many homes you won’t even hear the word “unsweetened” uttered.

For many years, sweet tea was my main squeeze, and Cuban Coffee was not.

Cafécito, more commonly referred to as Café Cubano (Cuban Coffee) is basically an espresso, Cuban-style. It’s a very strong, very sweet coffee made through the use of an espresso stove top coffee-maker.

As it’s brewed, it drips out into a little pot and is mixed with several teaspoons of sugar. From this sugary mixture, the coffee brewer makes the espumita (a sweet, frothy foam). From here, you can add cold milk to create Cortadito, or add the Cafécito to your hot milk to create Café con Leche.

meth

 

Just as Sweet Tea provides sustenance to the hordes of Southerners who consume it daily, Cafécito is pure Hellion Juice and will kick start your day (or night) within an instant.

 

I’m still learning to love Cuban Coffee. It’s in a category of its own, shared only by its equally  powerful and terrifying partner in crime, Sweet Tea.

You may be wondering why I’ve spent this entire post describing these two delicious beverages in such detail. I visualize both of these beverages as representations of my two-selves.

There’s the sweet tea self. She’s soft-tempered, level-headed, and patient. I’ve spent a long time getting to know this self, I feel comfortable with her. I know that she likes the outdoors, the sound of cicadas, and the smell of a dewy morning.

…Then there’s my second self. I’m just getting to know her.

What I know so far is that she is passionate and indecisive. She loves the heat of the sun on her skin, the ocean but not the sand, and salsa music while she’s sitting down.

I know these two selves are one, I know that. But I also know that there are parts of a person’s identity that sometimes lay forgotten or ignored, and I don’t want to be that person. I want to appreciate both parts of my cultural identity. I want to know how to make sweet tea AND café Cubano. I also may end up with Type 2 Diabetes by the end of this post.

We’ll see.

***

If you’re curious as to how this perverse yet delicious beverage is brewed, take a looksie below at MokaBees’ fantastic ‘How To’ video on Café Cubano (because I’m too lazy to make my own):

 

 

 

 

i·den·ti·ty / i-den-ti-dad

The term Identity encompasses many things: religion, gender, race, sexual orientation, and in some cases even species (see: Dragon Lady). In other words, our identity can fundamentally shape our life experiences. But how much do our life experiences shape who we are?

Growing up, I constantly struggled with my identity.

I was born in the south, and raised by a mother with a culturally diverse background. She was born in New Jersey, grew up in South Florida and was raised by both of her Cuban-born & bred parents. By the time I rolled around, Georgia was our home, and the term ‘cultural identity’ meant nothing to me.

My childhood is a hodge-podge of images of bare-feet on Georgia red clay, honey suckle snacks, and the tight pull of my mother braiding my hair in the early mornings before school. Those days were sweet, and identity was a concept untouched by my carefree mind.

Like most, identity became my subconscious’ quest during teenage years. There was not a music genre un-listened- to, or an emotional breakdown un-had by 15 year old me. Amidst the angst-ridden teen novels, loud music, and secret filled sleepovers, an identity was forming.

Alas, I felt as though I had finally shed my human exterior to reveal the unicorn that hidden beneath.

Unicorn

Except….this is not where the story (or this blog) ends.

Culturally confused, I paraded through my teenage life as an ignorant schoolgirl.

I was 1/2 Cuban Coffee & 1/2 Sweet tea, but I didn’t pay attention to the former.

I didn’t want to learn the spanish my mother tried to teach me, and ignored the part of me that was a full half of my identity: my culture.

When I started to understand the concept of a person’s ‘cultural identity’, I began to understand the source of my confusion and the purpose behind my searching heart.

I am (still) on the quest to understand myself, and in order to do that I have created this blog. Through this blog, I will take you on a journey throughout some unique life experiences in a way only a ghostly pale, second generation Cuban American/White Girl can.

Let the quest commence!