They had it all planned out. For her quinceañera, Marlena Modica would wear the white gown her grandmother had gifted her oldest sister — one of many family traditions. The day would start with a religious ceremony followed by a large party with friends and family. Modica’s parents would proudly show off their little girl becoming a young lady.

courtesy of Rodrigo Dorfman

Many cultures mark the end of childhood with a rite of passage. And for many Latinas, the transition from girlhood to womanhood often includes a giant party – the quinceanera. A growing number of Mexican families in the Triangle are keeping that tradition alive despite how costly these lavish events can be for low-wage workers. And for the teenagers being feted, the whole experience can make them feel both connected to their heritage and extended family, and like helpless victims of their mothers’ projections.