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How Barbie Is Getting Into the Quinceañera Business

Shelly Brisbin

From Texas Standard:

About 2 million American girls were born in 2002. That means they’re turning 15 this year. And many are celebrating with a quinceañera. It’s the rite of passage party usually celebrated by Hispanic girls. It’s similar to a “Sweet 16,” but celebrations are often much more extravagant.


In fact, thequinceañeraindustry in the U.S. is a billion-dollar business. And now,toymaker Mattel is trying to get a piece of the action.Betzayda Esquivel just turned 15. She’s planning her quinceañera and says that whether you only spend a couple thousand dollars on your party or $20,000 or $30,000 like most families do, almost all parties have a few key elements:

“Dress – big, sparkly, like a princess – shoes, doll,” Esquivel says.

The doll is very important. Traditionally, during the father/daughter dance, the dad will present his birthday girl with her “last doll” or ultima muñeca.

Mattel, the toy manufacturer, wants that doll to be a Barbie.

In a promotional video, Mattel Designer Carlyle Nuera describes the dress on Mattel’s latest release, Quinceañera Barbie.

“Her bodice has a sheer overlay with a beautiful silver holographic glitter print. Her skirt also features purple taffeta,” Nuera says in the video.

Quinceañera Barbie actually looks a lot like Betzayda Esquivel. But that purple dress is bothering Yesenia Esquivel, Betzayda’s mother, because her daughter’s theme color is coral.

“They need to put up a website: ‘Personalize your Quinceañera Barbie. ’The girls would go wild. If they can choose the skin and hair color and the color of the dress,” Yesenia Esquivel says in Spanish.

“Mattel and a lot of other places are just sort of scratching the surface on it,” says Aliya Ghows with Latin Works, an Austin advertising agency. But, she says, some companies are evolving and becoming more culturally sensitive.

“In the past, there were a lot of sort of stereotypical Hispanic ads. These days, consumers will call that out immediately,” Ghows says.

There are multiple examples of the quinceañera tradition becoming more mainstream. There’s  Coca-Cola’s "share a coke" campaign featuring a quinceañera in one of its ads. And  Disney is marketing its princess-themed cruises to those celebrating a quinceañera.

But whether quinceañeras are taking place in the home or on the high seas, you can bet that there will probably be a “last doll” or ultima muñeca. Whether that doll is a Barbie may just depend on theme colors.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.