Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers
Noelle Sigala celebrated her 15th birthday on Saturday with a quinceañera, an elaborate formal affair often confused as a “coming out party,” in which a young girl reaffirms her faith in Jesus Christ.
Just as many girls dream of their wedding day since childhood, many Hispanic girls also dream about being princess for a day during her quinceañera. A young girl is the center of attention as she dresses in a spectacular gown. She is given a diamond ring by her parents or padrinos (sponsors) and is honored with a church mass or blessing ceremony as she is surrounding by a quinceañera party made up of 14 damas (maids of honor) and chamberlains (escorts). Counting her, that makes 15 sets of people, one for each year of her life. The quinceañera girl is also honored with a reception, dinner and dance.
Dressed in a beautiful pink dress with black accents, which she had made in Juarez, Noelle, who is a New Year’s Day baby, born on Jan. 1, 1990, celebrated the day with family and friends at the Jake Lopez Community Center. Her family spent $6,000 to $7,000 for this special day which Noelle, a freshman at Portales High School, started planning in sixth grade.
“I’m very excited. I’ve always wanted to have a quinceañera because my older sisters and cousins all had quinceañeras,” said Noelle who is the third of four girls in her family. “This quinceañera means that I’m becoming a young lady. It’s a birthday party, like a sweet 16, but nothing will change a lot because I’ll still be a teenager.”
While the quinceañera is often compared to a coming out party and has historically signified a young girl’s passage from childhood to adulthood, Noelle’s mom Alfreda (Raffie) Sigala, prefers to focus on the religious aspect.
“The main focus of a quinceañera is the reaffirmation of faith; it’s committing yourself to God and Our Blessed Mother,” Raffie said. “I believe that some people lose sight of that and get more involved in the dance part.”
While quinceañeras have also traditionally meant that a young girl has her parent’s permission to officially date, Raffie said that her daughters aren’t permitted to date until age 16, and only with her and her husband’s permission.
Raffie said she has been to elaborate quinceañeras which went on for days and said the attitude was like, “Here’s my daughter, take her and do what you want.”
In keeping the event family-oriented, she said there was no champagne, but rather sparkling juice, served at midnight during the New Year’s Eve affair.
Raffie had a quinceañera herself when she was 15, saying that it is a tradition which dates back to the Native Americans and actually started as a tradition amongst males during their first hunts, signifying that they had become warriors.
“As the years went, the tradition evolved to include the young ladies in the tribes,” Raffie said. “The Aztecs also had similar celebrations as well as the Incas. It was like a rite of passage into adulthood because back then, they had shorter life spans.”
While most girls wear a white dress on their quinceañera, Noelle chose pink so she can maximize the use of the dress and wear it when she winds Maypole at PHS her senior year.
Noelle said the hardest part about planning the quinceañera was getting enough couples to participate.
“I had a lot of people who had to drop out, that was the stressful part,” Noelle said.
When Noelle began asking her friends to be in her quinceañera last year, some of them didn’t even know what a quinceañera was, since they come from Anglo or African-American backgrounds, but once she explained, they were eager to.
Her mom, Raffie, was responsible for getting the padrinos. Padrinos are often part of the extended quinceañera party and help finance the affair by serving as sponsors. They contribute money to help pay for everything from the girl’s ring, (Noelle’s ring was purchased by her aunt Sharon Duran), to paying for the music. Raffie said she got 30 padrinos alone to help pay for the Spanish band, Calope, of Roswell.
During her quinceañera, Noelle received a special blessing from her parents and grandparents. Some specially selected spiritual readings pertaining to youth were also read. Later on that night, Noelle and her father danced the first dance of the evening together, El Valz or The Waltz.
Noelle is an honor student and plays the clarinet with the PHS Ram Band. She’s also involved with ASTRO, a junior Altrusa organization. Following graduation, Noelle plans to go to college and become a pediatric dentist.