A trade show geared specifically toward 14-year-olds and their parents, replete with landmark-themed cakes, elaborate floral centerpieces, makeup tutorials, and runway exhibits showing off lavish gowns? Chavie Lieber's story for Racked documents the big business of selling for the quinceanera, a Latino rite of passage that celebrates a young girl's 15th birthday that, some say, is becoming increasingly commercial. Per Lieber, about 400,000 US girls throw these bashes each year, with the average price tag coming to as much as a small wedding ($15,000 or so). But vendors aren't complaining, with DJs, caterers, florists, dressmakers, and event planners all cashing in on the boom that "quinceanera guru" Hilda-Gabriela Hernandez says started three or four years ago.
"The quinceanera market is now monstrous," she says, noting if you do your homework, you can bring in the big bucks by specializing in just this niche. And it's one that most other Americans traditionally haven't paid attention to, giving Latino business owners a chance to shine. Lieber also talks about how the current political climate is affecting the quinceanera's fate—Hernandez thinks people feeling insecure about their futures may start scaling back. But while some families actually go into debt to pay for the party, it's so important as a bonding experience that "patrons" will often chip in and split up paying for the big day. "You have to look at the ways in which the quinceanera is not just a ritual, but brings together more than a nuclear family—it's vital to people's survival," a University of Minnesota professor says. Read more about the behind-the-scenes of the quinceanera here. (Read more Longform stories.)