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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
The Crawford Family Forum 474 S. Raymond Ave. Pasadena, CA 91105 Map and directions

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!