1 / 23

Travel Cuba Photofeature A Cuban Quinceañera

Carmen Gonzalez (near C) sits in her classroom a few days before her quinceanera (coming-out for 15-year-olds) celebration, in Havana, Cuba. As nearly all Cuban girls dream of having a quinceanera, the industry that moves around that dream is large, with clients ranging from wealthy Cuban-Americans who travel back to the island to sponsor lavish parties, to regular Cubans who save a few hundred dollars over several years from their monthly $18 state wage.

Girl, you'll be a woman soon

Yahoo Lifestyle

Quinceañera is, quite literally, the celebration of a girl's fifteenth birthday. Though it is celebrated with aplomb in several Latin American countries, the quinceañera is a much-awaited dream for young girls in Cuba. A large industry, involving make-up artists, car rentals, photo studios, dress-making and catering has been built around it. Parents of girl-children begin to save for the big day well in advance. The quinceañera signifies a young girl's foray into adulthood. The dress, very like a bridal gown, is white (often pink, too) to signify purity. The girl, now known as a quince, receives several gifts and the ceremony has all the pomp of a wedding, but for the groom. Feasting and partying mark the end of the celebration enjoyed by the quince and a select band of friends. The quince may dance the first dance as an adult with her father. Quinceañera celebrations were popular in Cuba until the 1970s and are now making a grand comeback.