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‘Quinceañera’ with Down Syndrome throws a party in Santa Rosa

Mayra Lopez
Written by Mayra Lopez

Emily Vega planned her quinceañera for two years. The Elsie Allen High School freshman counted down the days to her big celebration and got excited as time got closer. Finally the day came this past Saturday. What sets her quinceañera apart from others in Sonoma County is that she has Down Syndrome.

For her mother, Sonia Vega, it was important that Emily had a quinceañera celebration just like other young Latina. She didn’t want her daughter’s condition to prevent her from having the experience of having a dress, a mass and a fiesta with cake and dance included. 

Sonia wanted the day to be only about Emily, and even rented out Resurrection Church in Santa Rosa, so that hers would be the only quinceañera ceremony that day. Her reception was held at the Steele Lane Community Center.

A quinceañera is a coming-of-age celebration common in Mexican communities. It traditionally begins with a church ceremony and ends with a large reception where friends and family come together to celebrate the young woman’s transition into adulthood. The quinceañera usually has damas and chambelanes (escorts), who are usually friends and will perform a waltz at the celebration with the young woman. Emily chose to have only one participant in her party, her chambelán Carlos Emmanuel Tienda, a junior at Windsor High School, who also has Down Syndrome.

Emily found her dress at a local boutique and it was a special experience for both mother and daughter. “Seeing her face when she was choosing her dress was an amazing thing,” shared Sonia Vega. “She was so excited, she wanted to wear it everywhere.” Her mother shared that Emily is not very verbal, but her excitement was contagious as she prepared for her “big, big birthday”.

Every September, Emily and her family participate in the Buddy Walk, which is organized to raise awareness of Down Syndrome in Santa Rosa. Sonia is so proud of her daughter that she had t-shirts made with Emily’s face on them, specifically for the walks.

Sonia hopes to lessen the stigma that she feels many Latino communities have around people living with disabilities. By throwing her daughter a big quinceañera, she hopes to show that Emily is like any other young Latina girl, excited about her big party and about  transitioning into adulthood.

[Versión en español]

Noticias y eventos desde la región vinícola del norte de California para la comunidad latina.

Posted by La Prensa Sonoma on Wednesday, February 7, 2018

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