On Dec. 13, Eileen Jacinto Lopez was surprised with a Quinceañera hosted by her Spanish class and family. After waiting almost two years, Jacinto Lopez was finally able to celebrate her fifteenth birthday.
Quinceañeras are widely celebrated among Latino families. They mark an important milestone of entrance into womanhood when a girl turns 15.
Jacinto Lopez’s mom began planning her surprise quince when Jacinto Lopez was 14. The Quinceañera was supposed to take place sometime in April 2020. However, due to COVID, it had to be canceled. “When I spent my birthday alone in quarantine, it felt lonely. Almost every girl cousin of mine had a quince and growing up around that made me want to have one of my own even more. So when I didn’t have the chance to have my own quince, I was heartbroken,” Jacinto Lopez said.
Jacinto Lopez and her family tried planning a sweet 16 however, due to family issues that was not possible either. After her sweet 16 was canceled, Jacinto Lopez didn’t have any hope left.
Early into the first semester AP Spanish V students studied Quinceañeras. During this time Jacinto Lopez shared with the class that her quince had to be canceled and she wouldn’t be able to celebrate her special day. Mrs. Amanda Pritchard, Jacinto Lopez’s Spanish teacher, decided to throw a quince for her after hearing the sad news.
“I figured I would call her mom to make sure it was a good idea, and then things took off! Mom was thrilled, and wanted to help. She had already purchased a lot of the decor, and wanted to invite family and friends, too,” Pritchard said. Jacinto Lopez’s class planned for the surprise during days that she was absent from school. “Once [Principal] Mrs. [Susie] Sullivan got involved, we got the PAC lobby reserved, and Mrs. [Michelle] Delisi helped with a lot of the set-up, too,” Pritchard said.
Since this was a surprise for Jacinto Lopez, she was unable to pick out her dress. “I always told my mom that I wanted my dress to be gold or rose gold, so my mom chose it for me,” Jacinto Lopez said.
At a traditional Quinceañera there is a grand entrance, waltz, surprise dance, coronation, father and daughter dance, family dance, and a baile [dance] afterwards. Jacinto Lopez’s father was unable to attend so they chose to do a mother-daughter dance instead. “Obviously we couldn’t do what is traditionally done, but the mother and daughter dance did happen,” Jacinto Lopez said. She also danced with her siblings and had the coronation.
Cupcakes and agua de horchata, a drink consisting of water, rice, cinnamon and vanilla, was served at the quince. “There isn’t a specific dish that is special to a Quinceañera, but a typical plate would be birria [beef], orange rice, beans, and tortillas with any type of beverage,” Jacinto Lopez said.
“I was very surprised when I walked into the PAC lobby. I was not expecting my Spanish class, friends, and family to be there. I felt very loved and thankful,” Jacinto Lopez said.
“It was such a pleasure to be able to put this together for Eileen! I loved that we could do this for her,” Pritchard said. Putting this small surprise together for Jacinto Lopez was an opportunity for Spanish students to learn more about a quince and attend an event with similar symbolism. “It was a win-win for everyone,” Pritchard said.