Queering Quinces for Latinx Heritage month

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Jessica Lopez

AJ Chavez (the person knelt on the ground) replacing Deangelo Ramirez’s shoe during the ceremony of turning into a new person.

Jessica Lopez, Multimedia Reporter

An inclusive queer reimagining of quinceañeras marked the start of Latinx Heritage month at Cal State LA on Sept. 15 at the student union center. 

The “Quiero mis quinces; Queering Traditions” event was organized by the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. The event, along with showcasing traditional ceremonies, included games and activities that attendees could participate in, such as spinning the wheel for a prize, writing a letter to your younger self, and a photo booth. Student coordinator AJ Chavez, who uses they/them/theirs pronouns, hosted while also providing background on quinceanera history. 

“A quinceanera is a celebration by the family and communities for a young girl in the lineage to symbolize the transition from adolescence into adulthood,” said Chavez. “I wanted to create an event for people who may not have had a quince or couldn’t participate…to have chances to either celebrate and/or just be with people that they love to be around.” 

Three participants underwent different ceremonies tied to quinceanera tradition. These events included a shoe exchange, a memento exchange, and a mentor/mentee dance. 

Deangelo Ramirez, who uses they/them/theirs pronouns, acted as the first participant in the shoe exchange ceremony. 

“The changing of the shoe…traditionally is a change from a flat into a heel by the father of the girl,” said Chavez. “In the queer tradition of camp, they will be changing from an old shoe into a new shoe to represent the change of a journey.” 

When asked about why they wanted to participate in the ceremony, Ramirez reflected on their experiences as a queer teen and discussed revisiting the past with a new perspective. 

“As an Afro Latino, you don’t really get many traditions. Especially when you’re queer; there’s more pressure to conform. This is a nice way to say, ‘Hey, stereotypes don’t matter. You should celebrate the way you want to be celebrated,’” said Ramirez. 

The memento exchange saw Nic Rozo, who uses they/them/theirs pronouns, exchange a care bear doll with the person they chose. 

Nic discussed their mindset as 15-year-old when they originally chose not to have a quinceanera. 

“Identity always changes; you’re just figuring yourself out, especially around 15. While worrying about responsibilities like going to college and getting my life together within four years of high school, I also had to deal with finding my identity,” said Rozo. 

What Rozo wasn’t expecting was a sudden loss in the family. 

“Around that time, coming up to my 15th birthday, my great grandma on my mom’s side passed away. To me, it would feel disingenuous [to celebrate] during that time of grief. So this is kind of making up for that time, making it a better moment. Cherishing it with other people who would feel the same,” said Rozo. 

The final ceremony was the mentor/mentee dance that took place with Leo Tobar Jurado, who uses they/he pronouns. 

“One of our students will waltz with the person of their choosing,” said Chavez. “ For those who have not heard the term ‘chosen family’ yet, I would like to recall a quote that has been mentioned to me a lot. Sometimes you cannot choose the family you are born into, but you can choose the family that you can create.”