July 13, 2013 – This afternoon, Mark was busy in our sailboat Groovy‘s cockpit here at the marina in Ensenada, Mexico, when he noticed a well dressed man in an elegant suit walking on the docks.
The man seemed to be eyeing up our boat Groovy, and he walked back and forth in front of it a few times. Mark called out a greeting, and suddenly the man stopped and said in English, “My daughter is celebrating her 15th birthday today. Do you think we could take some photos of her on your boat?”
Mark looked around and thought for a moment. But of course!
Within a few minutes a crowd of young teenagers showed up, all dressed to the nines in suits and fancy dresses and stiletto heels. They were giggling and chatting among themselves as they shuffled down the dock. Mark flew into the cabin and told me to grab my camera, quick!
As I came into the cockpit, the birthday girl appeared at the top of the dock ramp. She was wearing a beautiful fluffy white dress and had pearls around her neck.
For girls in Mexico, the quniceañera — 15th birthday — is a very special day. The celebration is something like a coming out party, and it is an occasion for donning a prom dress, wearing makeup, posing for lots of photos, and having a big party with a live band that lasts long into the night.
This birthday girl was obviously relishing every second of her moment in the spotlight.
Her proud dad, Carlos, hung back while a professional photographer and videographer posed her all around the boat. What total fun!
Mark and I ran around behind the scenes, trying to catch her poses as best we could.
Meanwhile her friends all giggled and fidgeted as they stood on the finger pier next to us, jumping up and down, and looking very cute in their dressy clothes.
Suddenly a few boxes of pizza appeared out of nowhere, and the teenagers got busy scarfing the slices down in an instant.
Once the photo shoot was finished and the sun had set, Carlos invited us to come up and join the party that was in full swing under the tents next to the office. What an invitation!!
When we got up there, we walked through a few lighted arches onto a dance floor that was surrounded by tables and chars. Everything was decorated in pink.
Carlos showed us to the family’s head table and introduced us to everyone sitting there — grandma, aunts, godparents and little brothers and sisters.
Several family members had flown in from far-flung parts of Mexico to take part in the celebration.
We’ve been lucky enough to see several quinceañera photo shoots from a distance — the girls are always so lovely in their big bouffant dresses — but this was the first time we had been invited to be a part of the action at the party itself. We were loving it!
As we sat chatting with the family at the head table, explaining to everyone who we were, where we had sailed from, and how we had unintentionally crashed their party after the impromptu photo shoot aboard Groovy, they happily swept us up in the festivities.
The man on my left, Alfredo, fondly told us how he had held the birthday girl at her baptism fourteen years earlier when she was just a baby, and we could feel his pride at being her godfather.
Everyone whipped out pocket cameras, cell phone cameras and iPads to get pics of the party, and suddenly we found ourselves being posed into the group shots too. We were just the boat people from down on the docks, but that didn’t seem to matter — we were welcomed right into the heart of the family!
When we finally stood up to go — wanting to let this jovial group enjoy their special moment together — the grandma didn’t want to let us go. “Sit down, sit down!” she insisted, patting the chair next to her where Mark had been sitting. “No, no… thank you, thank you!” Mark said as we tip-toed out backward and bid them all goodbye. This was their party, but they had been so kind to invite us to join them so we could get a glimpse of a true quinceañera celebration.
Back on the boat, we crawled into bed and listened for a long time as the band got rowdier and rowdier and the heavy bass thumped a steady beat through the hull of the boat. What a fantastic tradition this 15th birthday party is, and what a great way to bring together the whole family to celebrate the arrival of a young girl on the threshold of adulthood. Most of all, what a lucky day it had been for us!