When you hear quinceañera, the first word that comes to mind may be an opulent party for a young girl on the cusp of turning 15. But all quinces, just like all Latinas, are not the same. Yes, it’s a rite of passage for a teen girl transitioning into womanhood, but there are a growing number of young Latinas who are far from traditional.
Proof of that is seen in 15: A Quinceañera Story. It’s compilation of four 30-minute documentary films airing on HBO (and HBO Latino simultaneously) on December 19 to December 22. At the helm of this project is Latin Grammy-winning Thalía Sodi, her husband and music industry vet Tommy Mottola and Emmy winning director Matthew O’Neil. “As a Latina, I’m proud to share our culture and shine a spotlight on these dynamic, talented and beautiful young women featured in these four films,” Sodi, the film’s creator, said in a statement.
The film follows five girls—Zoey, Ashley, Rosi, Jackie, and Nina—who represent the diversity of the Latina experience and what it is like growing up in America today with immigration and gender issues.
One of the most moving stories follows Zoey, a Mexican-American teen who was assigned a male gender at birth. Zoey celebrates this milestone birthday with her mom—who supported Zoey’s transition from the beginning and stood up to school administrators when they suggested that another school would be a better fit—and several madrinas who are also transgender. Zoey’s godmothers support Zoey emotionally and financially on her big day; one of them pays for Zoey’s gown and admits that she’s living vicariously through her goddaughter. Zoey's film airs Dec. 19.
Then there’s Rosi who decides to celebrate in Cuba so that her grandfather can participate in the festivities. Leading up to the big day she does a photoshoot (with more cute outfit changes than a model in an Express catalog) and hits the beach with Cuban and Guatemalan flags to show loyalty to both of her parent’s native countries. Often, there’s this pressure to choose just one side of her heritage and she refuses to do that. Her mother didn’t have a quince, and she came to America from Guatemala by herself when she was 16. Rosi's film airs Dec. 20.
Another one of the film’s stars is Ashley a newbie East L.A. boxer who’s equally nervous about her quince and her first official fight. If that isn’t enough, her father was deported, her coach faces deportation too and her mother is a Dreamer. With all that’s going on in her personal life. It’s hard to see how Ashley can get into fight mode and celebrate her b’day. Ashley's film airs Dec. 21.
The last set of young women to be featured are San Antonio besties, Jackie and Nina. These two are all about the joint quince and pair it with their love of Escaramuza Charra, a Mexican sport featuring 10 to 16 women mounted on horseback as they make their horses move to choreographed dances.
15: A Quinceañera Story begins tonight December 19 and runs through December 22 on HBO and HBO Latino.