In Mexico, a community gathers to celebrate a quinceañera — for the elderly

Mexico City, Mexico – It was the eve of Lupita Rivera’s 84th birthday, but she had chosen instead to go back in time and celebrate her 15th.

Hard of hearing and reliant on a wheelchair most of the time, Rivera was decked out in a bronze-coloured ballgown, sparkly nail polish and baby pink lipstick as she attended her “Quinceañera de Oro”, a twist on a centuries-old coming-of-age tradition in Mexico.

Normally, a quinceañera party is held on a girl’s 15th birthday, to mark her entry into adulthood. But the organisers behind the annual “Quinceañera de Oro” event want to offer the opulence of a quinceañera to elderly, blue-collar women who never had the opportunity to participate.

Rivera, for instance, grew up on a ranch in the southern state of Oaxaca. She remembers watching as the girls from town held quinceañera bashes, complete with traditional folk dances. It was a custom her rural family did not subscribe to, nor could afford.

“I made little sacrifices, lots of little sacrifices, and worked and worked, and then when I was able to give my own daughters quinceañera parties, I felt enormous pride,” Rivera said. “Now I can’t believe I’m here doing it myself.”