Childhood’s End: Quinceañera Parties Are A Major Milestone in Young Latinas’ Lives

Childhood’s End: Quinceañera Parties Are A Major Milestone in Young Latinas’ Lives

It’s one of the most important celebrations for millions of Latin American girls.

Various versions of the quinceañera celebration’s origin exist, but the most likely one comes from the Aztecs’ pre-Colombian traditions.

This ancient culture marked the entry to womanhood and the new responsibilities of adult life. When young women turned 15, they left their families for the Telpochcalli schools, where they learned history, traditions and other subjects to help ready them for marriage. When they returned home, they celebrated their quinceañera party.

The Aztecs lost many of their traditions when the Spanish conquered them, as they changed their beliefs to Catholic ones.

How has the tradition changed?

“The celebration that we see today, with the large dresses, makeup and slippers, differs greatly from the origin that this celebration had,” said Gilberto Pérez Argüello, a professor of history and graduate of the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla. “According to some historians, cultures such as the Aztecs and the Mayans performed various rituals to indicate that girls were entering adulthood, so when they turned 15, they had to be stopped being treated as girls, and they were ready to be married.”

“When girls turned 13, they were taken to different schools to be prepared for marriage. However, the violent arrival of the Spanish brought with them an imposition of Christianity, which was not able to eliminate the cultural practice of this solemn event,” said the professor. “It later mutated, becoming a matrimonial agreement between families.”

By the 19th century, Emperor Maximillian, and his wife Carlotta, introduced the waltz and elegant dresses in Mexico. The dresses became part of the celebration, as the first dress that a girl uses when stepping into womanhood.

Many times the girls look for beautiful settings to take pictures. *** Muchas veces las jóvenes buscan sitios hermosos para sacarse fotos. (Diego Caceres/Unsplash)

The ceremony begins with a Mass, where the young woman receives blessings from the priest and God. The celebrant then expresses gratitude for her childhood experiences and asks for spiritual guidance for the future.

In 2007, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a specific liturgy for the quinceañera celebration. Moreover, they started to consider girls who reached the age “adult person, entitled to receive a blessing that includes: the commitment of the quinceañera with God and the Virgin Mary, living a life according to the teachings of Christ.”

After the Mass ends, attendees go to a party, which begins when the birthday girl dances a waltz with her family and friends.

The innocence of girlhood is left behind, making way for the woman. *** La inocencia de la niña queda atrás, dejando lugar a la mujer. (Lala Abdinova/Unsplash)

Later she does one or more dances alongside a group from 1 to 15 people of her choosing. Many times, she changes dresses for each dance. Afterward, she typically gives an emotional speech, and all then enjoy lunch or dinner and more dancing.

Upon reaching the age of 15, an adolescent has more responsibilities and privileges than before. These celebrations are usually expensive and, in many cases, exceed the budgets of the families involved. However, to prepare for those costs, many decide to save up for it one or two years in advance.

Many Latin American girls look forward to turning 15 and having their party. However, in recent times, more and more young women are opting to take a trip instead, which represents another cultural twist in this Latin American tradition’s long history.

(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez. Edited by Matthew B. Hall)


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Catholic Rite For 3-Year-Olds Popular in Mexico

Catholic Rite For 3-Year-Olds Popular in Mexico

What happens when a child turns 3 years old?

In Mexico, tradition holds that when children achieve that age, their parents present him or her before a priest. The origin of this custom dates back to the Reformation, as, during that time, infant mortality rates were high. It was believed that 3-year-olds had passed that dangerous life stage.

Although the passage of time has obscured the exact origins of the practice, it is still an integral part of Mexican culture.

The tradition’s religious origin

One of the many versions of why people celebrate such presentations has roots with Ancient Rome’s first Christians. They believe that the rite was a reference to the Virgin Mary’s presentation in the temple.

This story is part of the Protoevangelium of James, where Mary, accompanied by her parents (Saint Anne and Saint Joachim) went to the temple to initiate herself into its faith and service. She stayed there for several years, until Saint Joseph requested her hand in marriage. Although there is no historical record of this event, people wish to show their appreciation by imitating the Virgin Mary’s parents’ action.

A second version relates the tradition with the Candlemas, which originated from the presentation of Jesus in the temple. According to the Gospels, after Jesus’ birth, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph took their first-born to consecrate him in the temple and make offerings to purify his mother. Thus, the first Christians began to do the same as them. However, the presentation of Jesus happened 40 days after his birth, while modern-day ones happen three years after the child’s birth.

Yet another version comes from the biblical moment in which Jesus was “lost and found at the temple” during his first Passover.

According to the Gospel of Saint Luke, when Jesus was 12, he went to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. However, after the Holy Family arrived in town, Jesus went missing. His parents sought him all around town, finally finding him in the temple, surrounded and speaking with priests and scribes.

Over time these social and religious meanings intermingled, giving shape to a deeply rooted and accepted tradition in Mexico. Today, the rite serves as a reminder of parents’ responsibilities for their children and godchildren, with Candlemas celebrated annually on Feb. 2.

Mexican Catholic children learn about the Gospel as soon as they are able to read. The presentation when they are 3 prepares them for a life following God. *** Los niños católicos mexicanos aprenden sobre los Evangelios desde el momento en que aprenden a leer. La presentación a los tres años los prepara para una vida al servicio de Dios. (Josh Applegate/Unsplash)

“The presentation of children is not exactly for children,” said Orlando Segura, pastor of the Bautista Berea Church, in Veracruz, Mexico. “We always present the child unto God, so that He takes care of him. However, the child’s presentation is the responsibility of his parents and godparents to guide the child’s religious path under the Lord. When I present a child before God, I say, ‘Lord, here I present this child to you, but I take full responsibility for the rest of my life, to guide them on the correct path, to always be involved in the Lord’s word.’”

Although it can occur during a standard liturgy, many families opt for a planned Mass to present their children. At such services, it is held that God imprints His blessing upon the youngster and, besides his parents and godparents, will always take care and protect the child.

(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez. Edited by Melanie Slone and Matthew B Hall)


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Argentine pastor shot, killed in front of his family

Argentine pastor shot, killed in front of his family

A pastor and former politician whose two teenage sons were killed in drug-gang attacks was shot in the head and killed in front of his family.

Eduardo Trasante was killed at his home on San Nicolas Street on July 14 in the city of Rosario in the central Argentine province of Santa Fe.

No suspects have been identified, the spokesman for the public prosecutor in charge of the investigation, Sebastian Carranza, said during a press conference.

Two armed suspects knocked on the front door and Trasante’s wife answered.

“The two men pushed her through the long corridor” and called Trasante, then shot him twice in the head, Carranza said.

A 9mm bullet was found at the scene, Carranza said. No information has been released on what kind of gun was used.

Within the last decade, Trasante’s sons were killed in violent encounters.

In January 2012, Trasante’s son Jeremias Trasante, 17, and two friends were killed by drug traffickers while playing on a football pitch in January 2012. He was one of the victims of what became known as the Triple Crime of Rosario that night.

Jairo Natanel Trasante was shot and killed, also at age 17, in the city center in February 2014. At the time, the evangelical pastor protested for justice for both his sons.

Trasante was elected to the city council in 2017 but stepped down a year later due to harassment. Specifics of the harassment were not revealed.

According to the Ministry of Security of Santa Fe, there have been 189 homicides in the state in the first six months of this year.

(Edited by Judy Isacoff.)

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Actress Faces Jail over Music Video Shot in Historic Pakistan Mosque

Actress Faces Jail over Music Video Shot in Historic Pakistan Mosque

Pakistan actress Saba Qamar and singer Bilal Saeed are facing the country’s formidable blasphemy laws and heat from Islamic clerics for shooting a music video in a historic mosque.

Qamar, who had a leading role in the film “Hindi Medium” and several TV sitcoms, posted a picture on Instagram with Saeed on Aug. 1 taken at the 17th-century Wazir Khan Mosque, in Lahore, about 230 miles south of Islamabad.

The picture’s caption: “Qabool hai” — the Islamic “I do” in wedding rituals.

Social media was abuzz with speculation of the actress and the singer tying the knot, only to learn later this was part of Saeed’s new song “Qabool.”

There was an immediate backlash, with many demanding the duo be punished for offending religious sentiments.

Lahore police lodged a case against them on Aug. 13 under section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which aims to punish a “deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious belief.”

If convicted, Qamar and Saeed could face prison time.


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Qubool hai @bilalsaeed_music

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“The maximum punishment under this subsection of the law is imprisonment for two years or fine or both,” lawyer Zain Naqvi said. “This is different from sub-section 295C for which punishment is death.”

Worse, Qamar’s life could be at risk after radical cleric and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan Chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi in a public meeting on Aug. 14 demanded action against her and Saeed.

“Don’t you know the protocols of mosques?” asked Rizvi in the meeting. “Register a case against those responsible for what happened.”

Rizvi was among the clerics who justified the assassination of Salman Taseer, former Punjab governor.

A police officer on to the governor’s security detail opened fire and killed him in Islamabad on January 4, 2011. Rizvi had then said that since the governor had called the blasphemy law a “black law” his killing was justified.

Blasphemy laws in Pakistan were introduced in the colonial era in British India – which included the territory that is now Pakistan – with the justification of preventing and curbing religious violence between Hindus and Muslims.

Under the military government of General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988), additional laws were introduced against blasphemy specific to Islam. Today, the most frequently invoked blasphemy laws in Pakistan’s Penal Code are those against outraging religious feelings, desecrating the Quran, defiling the name of the Prophet Muhammad and defiling the names of the family of the Prophet Muhammad, his companion or any of the caliphs.

Blasphemy laws in Pakistan — a Muslim-majority nation — have been criticized internationally for being used to target religious and social minorities.

“The systematic enforcement of blasphemy laws …  severely restricted freedom of religion or belief,” claims a recent report on Pakistan by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Amendments to the code in 1986 under the rule of military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq are an “elaborate facade for the ongoing persecution of vulnerable individuals and the reign of the violent extremist idea,” according to a paper published earlier this year by the European Foundation for South Asia Studies.

The report also identifies vigilante justice against religious minorities as one of the major outcomes of the blasphemy laws.

After the outrage, Qamar and Saeed took to social media to explain what had happened and apologized for hurting religious sentiments.

“The impression was created that we danced … inside the mosque and desecrated the holy place,” Saeed said later in an Instagram video. “I am a Muslim and raised in a Muslim household. I swear to God that we did not dance and play music inside the mosque.”

“We realize that we committed a mistake unintentionally. We ask God for forgiveness,” he added. “We apologize to you also and request you to let it go.”

Qamar also took to Twitter to explain what had happened.

“There is only one sequence that was shot at the historic Wazir Khan Mosque,” Qamar said. “It’s a prologue to the music video featuring a nikah (wedding) scene. Despite this if we have unknowingly hurt anyone’s sentiments we apologize to you all with all our heart.”

The song went viral on social media after being uploaded to YouTube on Aug. 12. Since then it has had 4 million views. The scene shot at the mosque is missing from the video.

Saeed had claimed, in his Instagram video, they had sought official permission from the Auqaf and Religious Affairs Department of the Punjab province. A letter has also emerged, which shows that they were given permission to shoot at the mosque for a fee of $177.

“The letter is genuine,” said Syed Peer Saeed ul Hassan, provincial minister for Auqaf and Religious Affairs.

He added that one official of the department had been sacked for granting permission and an inquiry had been ordered.

“Such shoots or any kind of recording within mosques premises is prohibited,” said ul Hassan. “Only shooting for documentaries is allowed. Sanctity of mosques is the priority.”

The Wazir Khan Mosque was constructed in 1634 under Shah Jahan, the fifth ruler of the Mughal dynasty, which ruled major parts of South Asia from the 16th to the mid-19th century. Shah Jahan also funded the construction of the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

The controversy over the shoot could also adversely affect Qamar’s career, said sources in the film industry.

“The shooting of a film in which she stars was supposed to start in March but was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said film critic Hassan Kazmi. “The producer of the film is now not very sure if the shooting will start on schedule after the recent controversy.”

(Edited by Siddharthya Roy and Matt Rasnic.)

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The Room Where It Could Happen: State Senator Is Reviving Hamilton’s Plan for Christian Lawmakers

The Room Where It Could Happen: State Senator Is Reviving Hamilton’s Plan for Christian Lawmakers

An Arkansas senator is trying to bring Alexander Hamilton’s proposition to fruition.

Republican state Sen. Jason Rapert leads a newly formed organization, the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, that invokes many elements of Hamilton’s proposal of a Christian Constitutional Society in 1802.

Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers and George Washington’s Treasury secretary, wrote in a letter to his friend and fellow Founding Father James Bayard that he wanted an association whose goals were “the support of the Christian religion” and “the support of the Constitution of the United States,” as well as backing candidates for elected office.

Alexander Hamilton’s statue in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. (Architect of the Capitol)

Hamilton died in 1804 and his dream was never realized.

“I had never read the letter when we first started talking about this,” Rapert said. “What we found ourselves doing, in many ways, is fulfilling a vision of a Founding Father that never had come to fruition.”

Plans for the National Association of Christian Lawmakers formed in 2017 with goals to bring together Christian lawmakers to propose religion-based solutions to issues.

“What’s missing in the space in the country is an organized effort of Christian lawmakers that are addressing the issues and the major policy concerns of the country and overtly discussing a Biblical world view as we discuss how we might approach that and solutions,” Rapert said.

The U.S. has long affirmed the separation of church and state through its Constitution. The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Article VI prohibits a religious test as a requirement for holding a government position.

The country’s leftward shift, according to Rapert, is to blame for many of its issues.

“We’ve had ungodly leaders in our positions of power that’s led to ungodly results. The worst national debt in the entire history of the United States of America. We’ve got riots on our streets. They’re burning buildings. We have people that are literally arming themselves as paramilitary groups. This is not the America that our Founding Fathers wanted to give us. It’s not even the America I was born with,” he said.

The group had plans for a formal launch at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., this year but the coronavirus pandemic changed that. The group had its first charter meeting in early August in Florida, with 33 state lawmakers from around the U.S. attending in person and 44 virtually, Rapert said. The group has representatives from 23 states.

The National Association of Christian Lawmakers meets as a group in Florida. (Courtesy: NACL)

It was at the meeting that Tim Barton, a member of the group’s board of advisers, spoke about Hamilton’s letter, the first time Rapert said he had heard of it.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister who hosts a television show on Christian network Trinity Broadcasting, and Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, also serve on the board.

“In the near future,” Rapert said, “I hope to have Christians running for every single elected office in this country.”

(Marcus DiPaola contributed to this report. Edited by Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)

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