Cuba is becoming a destination for lavish quinceañera parties

A part of Latin America tradition for centuries

Here's what they're like
Quinceañeras, which celebrate a girl's 15th birthday and her official transition into adulthood, have been a part of Latin America tradition for centuries.

Now, thanks to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, in addition to reforms that have permitted small-scale private businesses, trips to Cuba are becoming more and more common among girls who are finding that lavish parties can be had at a cheaper cost on the island.

Quinceañera celebrations in Cuba typically include photo sessions with dozens of elaborate ensembles and the chance to ride to their party in gorgeous classic cars.

A photographer with the Associated Press recently documented what the world of quinceañeras is like on the island, revealing the age-old traditions that remain as well as those that have shifted over the years.

Here, Estefania Hernandez Perera, who lives in Cuba, has her photograph taken by FotoEcos, a studio specializing in quinceañera photography in Havana. According to AP, many studios are operated by former state sector professionals who were able to purchase cameras through the help of their US relatives.

Camila Lopez Rivas poses on a beach in Havana while an assistant lifts the train of her dress to make it seem as if it's moving with the wind. Currently living in Miami, Rivas left Cuba with her father at a young age. She wanted to return to get her photos taken, as is typical for 15th birthday celebrations in Cuba.

Gladys Barroso Quintana has her photo taken while tourists watch. While some of the older traditions — like the waltz — remain, the focus of quinceañeras in Cuba is the photographs.

She also had photos taken outside the Russian Orthodox Church in Havana. According to AP, Cuban reforms that permit small-scale private businesses and the re-establishment of US-Cuban diplomatic relations have led to an increase in new photo and event-planning businesses.

Quinceañera packages typically start at around $150 and come with professional hair and makeup services, Havana backdrops, and several wardrobe changes.

Quintana is seen changing from a traditional quinceañera dress into a more modern one. On the street is a mural of the Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

Backdrops for the photos often include scenic destinations like Havana's Malecon. Perera is the third member of her family to hire the same photography studio — FotoEcos — to conduct her quinceañera photo shoot.

The girls often wear elaborate ensembles. Here, Yuaniley Dopico Martinez, who lives in Cuba, takes part in a photo shoot at the National Hotel in Havana. More families have increased income to spend on quinceañeras due to recent economic reforms.

Amanda Teresa Betancur also lives in Cuba and can be seen here in a more traditional quinceañera outfit. Over the years, quinceañera photos have featured girls in puffy dresses and crowns.

Now, more and more studios have begun featuring a punk style that includes sneakers, miniskirts, high heels, and gowns.

Dresses often include ruffles, shimmering detail, and a variety of colors that range from bold red hues to rich blues. In this photo, Daniel Santos Torres, who left Cuba when she was three, picks out a dress. She returned in December just for her quinceañera party.

According to AP, Torres, who currently lives in Glendale, Arizona, said that returning to Cuba to be able to celebrate her quinceañera was "a dream," as she was also able to include her extended family and friends who live on the island.

Often, girls will head to their parties in classic American cars decorated in balloons.

For example, Betancur is pictured here riding in an American convertible to her party in Havana.

Torres also waits in a convertible with her father to head to the event in Punta Brava, which is located near Havana.

When she arrives, she will be greeted with decorations that include a look-alike doll and giant cakes.

Customs also include giving a candle to the most important members of her family during the party.

The father traditionally places heeled shoes on his daughter during the event. Here, Torres' father removes her sandals to carry out the tradition.


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