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Day 19

Last night Soledad (co-coordinator at Food for Thought) and I went to the 15th birthday party of a girl who used to come to Food for Thought. It was in a sports club not far from where the family lives in Monte Chingolo. Here in Argentina, the girl's 15th birthday is an important one. There is a big tradition around it with many customs attached. The father brings in the girl on his arm (literally like an occidental wedding) and gives her away to the crowd of people who are waiting with roses in hand.

There is a traditional waltz where the father, close family members, and friends get to dance with the birthday girl. There is also the lighting of 15 candles dedicated to 15 special people who have been part of her life up until now. Every girl in Argentina is awaiting her 15th birthday. It is the day that she transitions from being a little girl into a woman!

It is also a big deal for the mother because she is the one that organises it all! I was talking to her leading up to the event. This party has been months in the planning. This tradition is so important that she had taken out a hefty loan to pay for it all. Food, alcohol, venue hire, DJ, photographer, decorations, and let’s not forget the dress, makeup, and hairdo! For a mother of 9 living in difficult circumstances, it is going to take a good while to pay off.

Soledad and I left just as the music began to pick up speed, the strobe lights flashed, and the dance floor filled. Younger Ben would have stuck around to bust some moves on the D floor, but the older Ben enjoys his sleep too much so we called it quits for the night. Parties here in Argentina tend to kick on till the early hours, so we made a sly exit stage left. The mother was trying to convince us to stay for the lighting of the candles but I could hear my bed calling me from a distance.

The whole family contributed to making the night a success. The little brothers were carting plates of food and beer to all those who were interested. Mum made sure that everything ran smoothly, dad played his supporting role nicely, and it looked as though the birthday girl enjoyed herself. I definitely made a few assumptions before arriving. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of chaos and drunkenness, although there were a few young lads giving it a good shot before we left. Nothing unlike what I was doing at their age! All in all, a good night out and I can now say that I have attended the famous Quinceañera, traditional 15th birthday party.