Blog Demographics and Culture

Latina Moms and the Quinceañera Tradition

By Graciela Eleta

The thriving quinceañera tradition marks a milestone in a young woman’s life and in her beauty routine.

A quinceañera is one of the most important customs in Latin America and in the Caribbean — the festive day a 15-year-old girl takes age-specific steps into womanhood. Think of a Sweet 16, Bat Mitzvah or cotillion ball with Latin flavor. It is a special rite of passage for Latinas around the world and today shares its traditions for many young women in the U.S. who are proud of their culture, or biculturalism, as the case may be.

The introduction into womanhood is not only a milestone for the young lady, but a proud day for Latina moms, who often lead in carrying on the tradition from the previous generation. This celebratory ritual has taken root in the United States: More than 400,000 Hispanic girls celebrate their sweet 15 each year. Hispanic families spend an average of $5,000 to $10,000 for each of these celebrations, adding up to a $2 million- to $4 million-dollar industry.

Each young woman’s special day will be unique and her own, but the showcase is typically the same: A 15-year-old girl dressed to the nines in a flowing, festive dress, stands among a court of girls and boys — oftentimes up to seven on both sides — before a proud papa takes his daughter’s hand. They share a waltz and he recognizes her introduction to adulthood in front of a roomful of admiring family and friends.

That event day may be celebrated differently among those of varying Latin American heritage, but the symbolic transition from childhood to adulthood will have a lifelong significance in a Hispanic woman’s life. And the important day often marks the teen’s introduction to a new beauty routine, the first time she is allowed to wear makeup, for example.

As I like to say, “Vanidad no es un pecado.” Or in English, “Vanity is not a sin.”

Where does she learn her beauty secrets? Oftentimes, Latina mothers pass them down from one generation to another. That means that the makeup she applies today might be the same her daughter wears. It is well known that Latinas take much consideration for their well being and that of their families.

Personal care is a priority, and a Hispanic mom knows what she wants to buy and where to buy it, and she certainly doesn’t only think of bodegas or discount stores. Advertising in Spanish, and in-language signage are effective vehicles used by retailers to attract Latina consumers at high-end retailers. Advertising in Spanish is a premium, according to Roslow Research, and marketers can grow sales by reaching out to this group of women.

What might the Latina mom be passing down right now?
• Research shows that Hispanic women prefer shampoos and conditioners that contain natural ingredients reminiscent of smells and ingredients of her culture, such as aloe, coconut, mint and avocado.
• Latina women also take extra care to even out their skin tone. According to a Simmons/Univision study, 69 percent of Hispanic women take active steps to remove or lessen spots and blotches on her face, hands and décolletage, compared with 36 percent of non-Hispanics.
• Prestige brands are part of a Latina mother’s beauty regimen and that of her daughter’s. She is mindful of household financial concerns, but she is willing to spend more on treating herself to these small luxuries in order to feel good about herself.

While a quinceañera may be a rite of passage for a young Latina woman, for marketers it’s an opportunity to get in touch with the woman she will become.

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