An important Mexican tradition. Part birthday, part rite of passage.

By James Rose
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Luz Hernandez Munoz worked three full days and nights the week before she drove herself and her two daughters Emily and Madeline sixteen hours to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. She worked those three days and nights to take three days off from running her new restaurant, Su Casa Authentic Mexican Kitchen. In Portage la Prairie for three days among a mix of fifty people, family and friends, Emily turned fifteen and celebrated her quinceañera. Emily’s father and Luz’s husband Eric joined later with her two brothers Adi, 9, and Das, 7.

“It was a challenge keeping the restaurant open while putting our family as a priority,” Luz says. “We love our customers so much. It was a hard sacrifice to make Emily’s quinceañera work. But all our customers were very receptive.”

“A quinceañera is a tradition where we as a family present Emily to society,” Luz says. “She went from girl to young woman. She switched her flat shoes to high heels and was gifted things like make-up.” At Emily Alicia Rangel’s quinceañera, she went from little girl to grown-up.

Part birthday party, part rite of passage, it symbolizes a girl’s entrance into womanhood when turning 15, showcasing her purity and readiness for marriage.

The assembled group of family and close friends gave their blessings to Emily. Everyone was dressed their Sunday best. “We made her understand that anything we know she wishes for in her heart, we support her,” Luz says. Emily wants to be a doctor. “We all agreed in that reunion that we hope her dream comes true.”

Emily’s family observes the Christian faith. Emily was given from her family Christian blessings. Luke 1:45: Blessed is she who believed the Lord would fulfill His promises to her. And then a feast was prepared and devoured. “We catered our own event,” Luz says. 

The meal: homemade Mexican tostadas for appetizers. For the main, Emily’s grandmother chose an Italian-Mexican infusion dish. From scratch, she made fettuccine alfredo adding lobster tails and shrimp made a la Diabla (adding spice, put simply). French Macarons her favourite chocolates and donuts for dessert. They drank Cipes Brut champagne from the Okanagan Valley. “We choose it from one of the wine tours we did this summer,” Luz says.

“Emily was crowned princess,” Luz says proudly of her daughter, who attends David Thompson Secondary School. Emily works full-time during the summer months and part-time as co-manager of Su Casa’s front-of-house during the school year. She shares those duties with her older sister Madeline, 16.

“A quinceañera is about getting family together,” Luz says, smiling.