In 2014, French photographer Delphine Blast photographed 15 young Colombian women in the ballgowns they wore for their quinceañeras. Now, two years later, some of their parents are still paying off the debt incurred from this important rite of passage. And the series of photos – titled Quinceañera – remain as a testament of how much parents are willing to sacrifice to make their children’s dreams come true.

Her images feature young women wearing their opulent gowns set against the backdrop of their neighborhoods. It’s a compelling juxtaposition of quinceañeras dressed in bright-colored dresses posing in front of their modest homes. As a French woman, Blast may not have grown up with the knowledge of how important quinceañeras are in many Latino and Latin American households. But by traveling to the suburbs of south Bogotá for this series, she wanted to learn from 15 young women what they mean to them. She asked questions about how much their parents spent and how many guests were invited. She found that in some cases, families spent upwards of $3,000.

“A number of families, especially those from more modest social backgrounds, don’t hesitate to spend large sums of money,” she wrote on her site. “For some families, this celebration is so important that they can sometimes go so far into debt over several years.”

Some may see the images and think these parents made unwise financial decisions, but Delphine gives them room to share their own stories. Check out part of the series below:

[H/T: feature shoot]

1

Karen

colombia quince 1_culture_Delphine Blast

Delphine Blast

“Karen lives with her mother, who is a secretary and saved money for more than a year and took out a loan to organize the party. It cost [$1,800] and 85 people were invited. Karen wants to become a doctor.”

2

Laura

colombia quince 2_culture_Delphine Blast

Delphine Blast

“Laura’s father is a fruit seller, and her mother is unemployed. Laura loves playing football and will join the female youth Colombian football team in 2015. Her parents saved money for six months to organize her quinceañera. 200 people were invited. Laura wants to become a criminologist.”

3

Luna

colombia quince 3_Delphine Blast

Delphine Blast

“Luna’s father is a shoemaker, and her mother is a recycler. They are very simple people and didn’t plan to celebrate her fifteenth birthday party until they finally gathered a enough money. It was a last-minute celebration with 80 people. Luna wants to become a soap opera actress.”

4

Brenda

colombia quince 4_culture_Delphine Blast

Delphine Blast

“Brenda’s parents are both recyclers. They saved money for more than 3.5 years and spent more than  [$3,000 USD] to organize the celebration. 150 people were invited. Brenda wants to become a surgeon.”

5

Maira

colombia quince 5_culture_Delphine Blast

Delphine Blast

“Maira’s parents wanted to organize an unforgettable party for their ‘princess.’ After three months of preparation, they organized a party in the village hall and invited more than 100 people. Maira chose the theme ‘sweet candy’ as the theme of the party, because – as she explains -­ sweets are sweet and delicate, just like she is.”

6

Natalia

colombia quince 6_culture_Delphine Blast

Delphine Blast

“Natalia spends most of her time alone. She was raised by her mother, who works every day at a shoe shop in the South of Bogota. Her fifteenth birthday party was very simple with family and friends. Natalia wants to study medicine.”

7

Natalia

colombia quince 7_culture_Delphine Blast

Delphine Blast

“Natalia’s mother didn’t have the chance to celebrate her own quinceañera. It was very important to her to organize an unforgettable party for her daughter. As she explains, ‘It happens only once in your life…’ 100 people attended the party.”


Check out more images here.