In Texas, Quinceañeras Remain a Recession-Proof Industry

Cecilia Gabriel of Dallas, Texas, is frantically looking for a place to hold her daughter Jacqueline's quinceañera. It isn’t easy. “It’s coming up in September. We waited too long,” says Gabriel. For many, the15th birthday rite of passage in Latino culture is an event that must be planned at least a year in advance, if not longer.

Marissa Luera of Grand Prairie, Texas, has thought about hers since she was five years old. "I would pick a quinceañera over a car!" says the excited 13-year-old.

According to vendors, the quince business seems to be booming right now, despite the recession.

“Even during a bad economy I haven’t seen a drop in business,” says event planner Raymond Macias of Unique Promotions of Dallas. He says, "There are so many quinces in one weekend that some churches hold mass for as many as ten young women at one time."

At a recent Latino Bridal & Quince Girl Expo in Dallas, about 6,500 people attended the annual event. It’s one stop shopping for families. Here they can find dresses, limos, DJ’s, photographers, caterers; even tiaras and horse drawn carriages. They also find out about the latest trends, trends that often become elaborate and pricey.

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“The big thing right now is inserting digital picture frames right into the cake,” says Sergio Mendoza of Tango Catering of Garland, Texas. He says waterfalls and lights on cakes are popular, too. “Decorators and party planners try to outdo each other every year,” says Mendoza. Cakes can range anywhere from $250 to as much as $1,500.

Families have no problem paying, thanks to the help of padrinos, or sponsors. Sometimes the grandparents will pay for the dress, or an uncle will cover the limo. They can easily spend anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 dollars at the low end. “Sometimes quinces cost more than a wedding,” says Macias. He has seen some families spend as much as $60,000. “This one quince was held at the Fort Worth Convention Center for 500 people. They had two live bands from out of town as well as a DJ. They spent $10,000 on a sit-down dinner alone.”

Brandy Martínez of Rockwall, Texas, says so far she's spent about $12,000 on her daughter Lyssia’s quince. “Daddy’s paying for it,” she says. At first, Lyssia says, she didn’t want one, but “then I figured I would never get a chance to have another one, so I said yes.” Mom was thrilled. “We were so excited when she told us. We now have about six months to plan one,” says Brandy.

Lyssia plans to break tradition, though. She’s having a Japanese-themed quince, which is not unusual these days. “Girls are also having masquerade and ballerina-themed quinces,” says Marta Gutierrez of Martha’s Bridal Boutique of Dallas. “We’ve had zebra themes where the dresses and decorations are black and white”.

Another trend: hiring a group of nicely dressed guys to perform choreographed dances with the birthday girl. Daniel Sepulveda of Coreografia Quality of Monterrey, Mexico is in such high demand that his company just opened offices in Dallas. “We’re not cheap. We demand anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 per night.” Sepulveda says he has as many as five groups in Mexico that perform up to ten shows on any given Saturday night.

According to the latest census numbers, Latinos account for 65 percent of Texas' population growth. That means the quinceañera craze isn't slowing down anytime soon. In fact, it's opening new doors for people like Oscar Mendoza, who's decided to get a piece of the pie. Five months ago, he opened Elegancia Formal Wear in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton.

“There aren’t any other stores that cater to Latinos and quinceañeras in this area, so might as well take a chance,” he says.

Mendoza says business is booming, thanks to Latino tradition and families like Cecilia Gabriel’s, who eventually found a ballroom for her soon-to-be quinceañera.

Saul Garza is a bilingual reporter for Fox 4 in Dallas-Fort Worth.

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