quinceañera : a reminder of injustice

by Gloria Guzman

I have grown up in the suburbs, and lived in the same house my entire life. My parents worked extremely hard so that I could have this life, and I have been fortunate enough to only experience discrimination due to my ethnicity, once in my life.

My Puerto Rican mother was born here shortly after my grandmother moved to the United States from Puerto Rico. Since my Mom grew up in the United States, she grew up speaking only Spanish to her parents, but English with her friends at school. She has worked in an office environment for most of her career, which taught her how to speak "proper" English. If someone were to speak to my Mom over the phone, it is highly unlikely that they would be able to tell she is Puerto Rican - this was the case when she called to book a venue for my quinceañera.

At the time I was about 13 years old and had been looking forward to my quinceañera as long as I remember. My father is Mexican, and he had instilled the idea of this beautiful coming of age party since I was a little girl. My mom called a venue year and a half in advance to book the date for my party, and the woman gladly accepted the reservation, knowing it was for a sweet fifteen. As time passed and my quinceñera approached, I was filled with excitement and anticipation for the big day. I had recently ordered my dress and all the plans were coming together; a crucial piece of my quinceañera was the venue, so my Mom and I made an appointment to speak with the woman about finalizing the details that they had talked about on the phone beforehand.

Nine months before the scheduled date of my quinceanera, the day of the appointment arrived and we met with the woman. Almost as soon as she saw us, my mother later told me, her demeanor changed. All of a sudden, the women supposedly forgot that the event was a sweet fifteen, and she claimed that neither a sweet fifteen or sixteen had been held there in six to eight years. Both my Mom and I knew this was false because my cousin had her sweet sixteen there three or four years earlier. Despite being my cousin, that is where the similarities ended; she looked nothing like me, donning blond hair and blue eyes. The woman then went on to say that hispanics let their kids run around, destroy property, start fights, invite too many guests, drink too much - she prattled on and on.

My Mom and I stayed considerate about her concerns, so we addressed her concerns and provided solutions. We explained that many of the small children that would be attending are not from here, and therefore would not run around since they are unfamiliar with the area; we explained that my Mom would be hiring additional security for the party, resolving the problem of fights; we explained that the large hall had more than enough room for our guest list, and we would not have more than the maximum capacity; we explained that guests would not get out of hand since we knew everyone invited and trusted their judgement when acting under the influence. Despite our assurances, the woman did not budge - by the end of our discussion, it was very clear the woman did not want my quinceañera held there. My Mom agreed to look for another venue, but the woman told us that if we were unable to find another hall to hold the event at, we could have it there. My mother attempted to contact the women several times after this meeting, but received no response. One month passed by, we were still unable to find a location, and the women finally responded. She messaged my mom and told her to call another person; after several attempts of contacting that individual, there was no response either.

During the meeting, I did not realize that what the woman was saying to us was discriminatory, but I eventually understood. Although the women made our planning difficult, it ended up all working out. In the end, we found another hall to hold my quinceañera, who gladly took our reservation. My party was everything I imagined it to be, and I loved every second of it. I realize that my experience is very minuscule compared to what many others go through, but it gave me new insight. It put into perspective that discrimination and racism is not only something that happens in other places on the news, but that it can happen at anytime and anywhere.