More than a fiesta

McCallum’s Quiñceanera offers cultural celebration among friends, broader Austin community


Gergő Major

Junior Isabella Hernandez Scott dances with her mother at the quinceañera on Saturday. For Scott, the event made up for her own quince, which was affected by the pandemic. ” I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate in something I thought I lost out on,” Scott said.

McCallum’s Quiñceanera is back and better than ever. For those who don’t know, this long-standing school event is a spin on the traditional Hispanic celebration. A quiñceanera is a commemoration of a girl’s coming of age on her 15th birthday. The event is traditionally very extravagant and often takes months to plan for one girl. Spanish teacher Juana Gun pulls it off for 17.

April 8 was the return of the McCallum Quiñceanera for the first time since 2019, yet another consequence of the pandemic. But the pandemic didn’t just stop the celebration. It also forced countless girls to give up their lifelong dream of having their own party. For junior Isabella Scott, this rings true. 

“I initially chose to be involved because I never got a chance to participate in a quince due to Covid,” Isabella said. “ I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate in something I thought I lost out on.” 

Though Gun’s quiñceanera isn’t the most traditional, that wasn’t the true purpose of the event. Her mission in opening the event up to all is to give opportunities to those without the resources to experience it for themselves and to open up a piece of her culture she finds beautiful.

SCOTTS FREE: At the Fourth Annual McCallum Quinceañera on Saturday in the cafeteria, freshman Adrina Scott dances with her family and friends. “At quinceañeras they have a dance for you with your dad, and then a dance for you and your mom,” Scott said. With two daughters participating, Scott’s parents had to figure out how to split their time between their daughters. “My friend’s parents also have two girls,” Scott said. “Obviously you can’t dance with your dad at the same time as your sister. So, we all kind of just got together and all danced together.” For Scott, the quinceañera was a result of lots of preparation at hard work. “There was a lot of practice that we had to do during lunches and during fit,” Scott said. “Sometimes that would get a little stressful because you know, it’s lunch. You kind of want to hand with friends, but I think it all worked out really well.” Part of the preparations that Scott loved was getting to try on the dresses. “Basically all the dresses that we had were rentals,” Scott said. “We had to go try on the dresses, and it was fun to have that experience to go get the dress and try it on. You just felt so special.” The McCallum Quinceañera is an important memory of Scott’s life. “I think it’s just such a fun tradition in the Hispanic culture,” Scott said. “I got to dance with my family which was special.” Caption by Kate Boyle. (Gergő Major)

“I myself never got one when I was a kid because it was so expensive and I always wanted one and had fun attending them,” Gun said. “All the pieces of a traditional quinceanera are in the event it’s just a different format that can be shared with everybody.”

Freshman and sister of Isabella, Adrina Scott prefers the communal aspect of McCallum’s community because of the people she has been introduced to and gets to interact with.

 “I like this more because it’s always fun with more people, and I have a bunch of girls I can share the experiences with,” Adrina said. “I think it has also helped others who don’t really know much about Hispanic cultures to get involved and learn something new.”

Quinces are not just extravagant parties, these celebrations are also useful in helping girls reconnect to their heritage. Both a birthday party as well as a rite of passage, quinces symbolize a girl’s entrance into womanhood in Latin American culture. For Adrina, this has been a very important aspect for her.

It’s not just me or the teachers here that love the kids. It’s the whole community that is behind it.

— Juana Gun

“I chose to be involved because quinces are a huge part of my heritage,” said Adrina. “The party is one of the most fun parts of the Latin experience, so it’s been really Adrina to participate in it with all of my friends.” 

But you don’t need to be a part of the culture to participate. Gun’s quince is open to girls of all ages and heritages. 

“It’s been really cool to see people that don’t know a lot about the history join the group,” Isabella said. “It brings people together and has helped teach people about Latin culture. Now new people have learned about the dance, the food, and why a quince is a quince, and it has been really cool to watch.” 

Organizing and hosting a quinceanera for such a large group of people is no easy feat. To put on such an event, the Austin community offered assistance, and Gun had help from local restaurants, other teachers, and even formal-wear companies. 

“It’s not just me or the teachers here that love the kids,” said Gun. “It’s the whole community that is behind it.”

 Lucky for the participants though, McCallum as well as the broader Austin community was able to make the quinceanera an unforgettable night.