"Exhibiting You" - Story

My New Identity

By: Arduizur Richie-Zavaleta
Submitted: 07/24/2008

In the Mexican traditions when a girl turns 15, it is one of her most crucial “rite of passage”. The Mexican tradition has created this moment a significant one. It is the time of transformation from childhood into womanhood.

In this celebration, the social institutions of the Family and Religion come together to redefine who this girl becomes. She no longer identifies herself with being a little girl, she is now a woman. The Catholic Church provides her with also a new opportunity to recommit herself to God through professing her beliefs in front of the congregation. Her religion and her new identity before society, have transformed her into an active member of society -- a member who is now able to enter womanhood and perhaps motherhood in a near future.

Turning fifteen is a very crucial point for a Mexican girl. It allows the “Quinceañera” to think of who she is before God, family and society. This could lead her to succeed in other areas of her life by embracing the power and the beauty of being a woman, or can deter her from fulfilling her dreams. In the case of the latter, the deterrence would be part of the effects of being a woman in a culture in which women are suppressed and their voices not heard.

Yet, this celebration could be also an empowering experience for her future. It is a moment in her life time when people stop to celebrate this transformation, but most importantly they celebrate her. Perhaps this may be one of the few times when many family members and friends acknowledge her as an important member in society.

This picture reflects the important moment of her celebration. The drinking of the calyx is the moment of her transformation. The church has given her a new identity and has reaffirmed that she has established a relationship and a connection with God. This is important in the Catholic faith, which holds this relationship very important. She represents purity and beauty just like the Virgin Mary represents in the eyes of her followers.

Being a professional photographer whose clients are almost all of Mexican descent, I find myself over and over again photographing Quinceañeras. Being a sociologist and a researcher, I cannot seem to stop observing all the symbols and rituals that a Quinceañera goes through even months before her big celebration date.

It is a period in her life that has a very special meaning. Yet, this meaning is created through a combination of values and social institutions. The social institution of the family and religion unite themselves to pass on the ideologies, traditions and belief systems throughout generations.

The celebrations may look different -- always depending on the socioeconomic status of the family -- but all celebrate their metamorphosis of becoming a woman. This is one of my favorite pictures, the act of drinking the “blood of Jesus.” This act again backs up the rite of passage.

According to the Catholic faith it allows her to be in good terms with God. Thus, she is right with her family and society as a woman, and an active member of society. The latter results on becoming a woman, who will soon carry out with the traditions of her family, her Church and her society at large.

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