Las Marthas: Mexican-American debutantes and the coming-of-age industry

This event took place on:
Wednesday, January 15, 7 - 9pm
Las Marthas


The annual debutante ball in Laredo, Texas, is unlike any other.

Part of the world's largest celebration of George Washington’s birthday, this 114-year tradition features a select group of mostly Mexican-American girls chosen each year to dress in elaborate gowns representing iconic figures from America’s colonial history. The festival — dating from the aftermath of the US-Mexico War and shaped by the North-South tensions following the Civil War — resonates anew in a time of economic uncertainty and political tension over immigration. Las Marthas follows two girls as they prepare for this extraordinary rite of passage. 

RELATED: The cost of tradition: Holding on to quinceañeras in the US

KPCC business and economics reporter Wendy Lee sat down with the filmmaker and other local experts on coming-of-age celebrations at KPCC's Crawford Family Forum Wednesday night. We explored the dollars and sense involved in three rites of passage celebrated here in Southern California: the Quinceañera, the Filipino debut, and the Jewish bat mitzvah.

Erin Ploss-Campoamor: Las Marthas producer, and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. 

Martha Navarro: Daughter of the owners of Lupita’s Bakery (est. 1985). In addition to Quinceañera cakes, Lupita’s provides catering and space for Quince (and other) celebrations. 

Joe Arciaga: Active member of L.A.’s Filipino American community, and father to three daughters – the third of whom will celebrate her Debut in June 2014.

Tannaz Sasooni: Animation technical director who still looks back fondly on her big fat Persian Bat Mitzvah, held in 1990’s Encino, CA.





Did you have a quince, bat mitzvah, debut, or other coming-of-age ceremony?

We'd like to hear from you!

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