Arts and Culture

Rochester students put a new spin on quinceañera celebration

Two students check each other's hair and tiara.
Mayo students Rachael Trinidad Marin helps Ariana Becerra Rosas with her tiara before the event Saturday at John Marshall High school. Students from John Marshall and Mayo High Schools in Rochester combined their Latino clubs to host a quinceañera-inspired dance.
Ken Klotzbach for MPR News

Updated May 6, 5:14 a.m. | Posted May 5, 4:35 p.m.

On Saturday, a group of high school students in Rochester celebrated a traditional Mexican rite of passage — but in a non-traditional way. The student group Latines Unides at Mayo High School joined forces with neighboring John Marshall High School to host a “community quinceañera.”

Latines Unides club was having one of its regular meetings — just coming together and eating snacks — when their adviser gave them a push to do something big, said Rebecca Guerra Velásquez, a senior at Mayo High School and the club’s co-president.

The idea for a community quinceañera was born. Quinceañeras are traditionally done when a girl turns 15, but not everyone can afford one of these elaborate birthday parties.

“For a family to host one individually, you really have to have a big budget to create a party,” Guerra Velásquez said. The cost of food, band, drinks and dresses adds up.

Guerra Velásquez herself did not have one. But on Saturday she and other girls in Rochester celebrated together — with a big fiesta that had all the elements of a quinceañera party: fancy dresses, food, a traditional “surprise dance” and portraits taken by members of the school photography club.

When they first started talking about the idea, fellow students were skeptical. “They didn't think we would actually end up doing one,” said Guerra Velásquez said.

But late last week, the mood had changed. “Now everybody's wanting to get the tickets to come to the party this Saturday,” she said. “Everybody's just hyped up for it.”

Correction (May 6, 2024): An earlier version of this story misidentified Ariana Becerra Rosas in photo captions, and misspelled Latines Unides club name. The story has been updated.

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