The damas (maids of honor)
Artist: Lauren Greenfield
Citation: Lauren Greenfield, The damas (maids of honor) go from the church to the reception in a Ford Explorer limousine at Ruby’s Quinceañera, Huntington Park, California, 2001.
Rights Holder: not available
Engage! Theme: Community
The damas, or maids of honor, riding in this limousine are the attendants for Ruby, not shown, on the occasion of her Quinceañera, the coming of age celebration held on her fifteenth birthday.
The damas wear shiny lavender dresses and tiaras because, as Ruby explained, “I wanted my damas to look like little princesses, Cinderella-style … Every girl dreams about being a princess and being pampered. You want to grow into being pretty and loved.”
The Quinceañera is a traditional Latin American event, often compared to the sweet sixteen, bat mitzvah, or debutante ball as the mark of a girl’s transition into womanhood and coming out into society, just as her wedding will mark her transition into society as a married woman. With or without religious affiliation, such affairs can be elaborate and costly. For example, Ruby’s parents had saved for five years to pay the $16,000 price tag for her Quinceañera.
Photographer Lauren Greenfield is interested in youth culture and its habits, especially related to money and self-image. She has taken countless photographs of young girls, capturing their fascination with their appearance, one another, and consumer culture.
The image of the damas in this photograph is reflected in the roof of the limousine, as if to suggest there are twice as many of them, highlighting the importance of the perception of abundance in this celebration.
Who are these girls, all dressed the same? What do you notice about them?
Where do you think they are going in this limousine? Are they enjoying themselves?
They are attendants, or maids of honor, for 15-year-old Ruby on the occasion of her Quinceañera celebration. Ruby is not included in the photograph, but what do you know about her from this image? Who are her attendants and how do they reflect her identity? Why do you think the photographer decided not to include Ruby in the photo?
Further Discussion Questions and Activities:
What kinds of coming-of-age celebrations take place in your community? Have you ever been a part of them? How? How does such an event change someone’s role in the community?
Ruby, the Quinceañera celebrant, wanted all her maids of honor to look like princesses, “Cinderella-style.” However, she also said, “I have really mixed feelings about the story of Cinderella. Of course, it’s every girl’s dream to find Prince Charming and marry and have a nice life. But Cinderella can’t do anything for herself. She’s dependent on the fact that Prince Charming’s gonna come and take her, and if it weren’t for him, she would probably stay there.” Are there traditions or expectations in your community that have changed? Interview women and girls in your community or family about what it means to them to “come of age” and what their expectations are for being a grown woman in the community. Share and discuss as a group what, if any, changes have taken place in perceptions from one generation to the next, and speculate as to why things have changed (or not).