COLUMBIA — Five white cakes and five teenage Latina women packed MU’s Stotler Lounge on Saturday night. The girls wore sparkly dresses — some long and some short — and stilettos. Their hair was curled.
The event, formally called the Missouri 4-H Dance, served as a peacock-themed quinceanera for five Columbia women — Paula Gudino-Herrera, Daniela Hoyos, Janeth Meza, Vanessa Nava and Laura Valencia — and their loved ones.
Herrera-Gudino brushed off the fact that the black strap on her dress had broken and tossed her flowers to her friends as she talked and greeted her friends and family.
For her, the night was a long time coming. Hispanic women typically have their quinceaneras when they turn 15 — it's a Hispanic tradition to symbolize a young girl's transition to becoming a woman — but Herrera-Gudino will turn 17 in March.
“It’s kind of like a right of passage,” Herrera-Gudino said.
During the formal ceremony at the beginning of the night, Herrera-Gudino spent the night beaming as her boyfriend, Ross Menefee, twirled her around the dance floor.
The young women later danced with some of the male influences in their lives and for Herrera-Gudino, that included family friend Ryan King.
“I’m really happy with everybody I have here,” she said.
The Missouri 4-H Center for Youth Development’s Latino Youth Futures group organized the event by soliciting money and party donations from the community. The MU student group Ladies Empowering and Advocating Diversity helped coordinate and set up for the event. Sponsors included MU Extension's Family Nutrition Education Program.
"I love seeing people celebrate their culture," said Amanpreet Shinger, MU senior and vice president of LEAD.
The group’s monthly meetings usually draw about 20 girls in the Columbia area from eighth grade to high school, said Kaycee Nail, Latino Youth Futures coordinator and an MU sophomore.
Nail said the five girls participating in the quinceanera celebration were the five members of the group who were old enough to have a quinceanera.
Alejandra Gudino, adviser to the Latino Youth Futures group and the mother of Paula Herrera-Gudino, also helped organize the event.
“When your kids want to do something that touches where you’re from, you do it,” Gudino said.
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