Turning Fifteen in Cuba

Yanelys Nunez Leyva

Following global trends for beauty the photo studios promote these types of images for young girls.

HAVANA TIMES — When a new baby girl comes into a family, the forthcoming arrival of her 15th birthday is reason for conversation and concerns.

Not only because this is a time of important physical and psychological changes for the teenager, but also because her “presentation to society” requires a full-blown celebration.

Some parents – those who can – open up a savings account when the baby girl still can’t even say her own name. Because, going beyond the party in a rented out hall, the dance choreography rehearsals, months before the celebration, buying a trousseau, a possible night out with her friends, etc, you have the 15th birthday photos and/or videos which need to be made as a culmination of the experience. And you need a fat bank account in order to be able to pay for all of this.

But, over and above the costs, which have always been high. I remember that my photos, taken on my 15th birthday, in 2004, cost approximately 75 USD. And that was a fortune for a modest family like my own, financially-speaking. However, this phenomenon has unveiled other characteristics which are a little more serious.

Responding to a “Repa culture” – a term which, according to a writer friend of mine, defines the spirit of contemporary Cuban society – the photos that come out of these forays are highly sexualized. Young girls are placed in positions that aren’t even adult poses but “playboy” girl poses, they need to exhibit all of their figure’s sexual attributes and voluptuousness.

With their parents and friends’ consent, girls are put out on the sex market by a group of photographic studios who don’t see anything unhealthy in this behavior.

This article isn’t about us needing to return to being absurd puritans, God no! It’s rather about reconsidering how we want young Cubans to develop and see themselves. And this responsibility lies upon all of our shoulders.

Capsula from havanatimes on Vimeo.

3 thoughts on “Turning Fifteen in Cuba

  • Right!

  • This is one of the hardest things for me to shut-up and be quiet about. The sexualization of kids – especially girls – is overwhelming sometimes. What goes on in the schools and kids parties gives lots of warning to what happens years later.

    In the last few years some of the quinceanera photos have gone from tacky/uncomfortable to outright embarrassing.

  • Sí estoy de acuerdo con usted. Las niñas se sexualizan a una edad muy temprana. Deben ser animados a ser niños, la vida es bastante dura.

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