"Quinceanera," a portrait of a Mexican-American family in Los Angeles, is as smart and warmhearted an exploration of an upwardly mobile immigrant culture as American independent cinema has produced. Set in Echo Park, a working-class Latino neighborhood in the early throes of gentrification, it has a wonderfully organic feel for the fluid interaction of cultures and generations in the Southern California melting pot.
Without pinning smile buttons onto its characters, the film, a prize winner at this year`s Sundance festival, takes a benign look at the conflicts and crises of three generations of a resilient family whose principal breadwinner, Ernesto (Jesus Castanos-Chima), operates a storefront church. Illegal immigration is not an issue here, and the film optimistically assumes that newcomers to the country carry with them a surge of vitality.
The central character, Magdalena (Emily Rios), Ernesto`s ebullient 14-year-old daughter, is anticipating her Quinceanera, the traditional ceremony that celebrates a girl`s official passage into womanhood at 15. [...]
Magdalena`s future is thrown into disarray when she suddenly finds herself pregnant by her puppyish boyfriend, Herman (J. R. Cruz), and her father throws her out of the house in a rage. (Her pregnancy comes as a complete surprise because it is a rare instance of a girl`s conceiving while remaining technically intact during intense petting.) But when Magdalena insists that she is still a virgin, her father refuses to believe her. Herman`s mother, fiercely ambitious for her college-bound son, won`t listen to her story and keeps him out of her reach. [`Quinceanera`: Turning Sweet 15 in Los Angeles`s Immigrant Stew, 8/4/06]
Preggers without sex? That`s getting into Virgin Birth territory, as in Jesus and Mary — extreme immigrant worship even by normal Hollyweird standards. Apparently the characters are too precious to fornicate normally like Hispanic teens do all the time, as shown by Latino girls having the highest teen birth rate in America.
More importantly, there is no mention that Mexicans have imported their retrosexual peasant ideas about women to the United States. An American girl of 15 is looking at three more years of high school, followed by college in many cases, while even an "upwardly mobile" Mexigrant of that age is expected to marry and have lots of children ASAP. And they do.
As sociologists have often observed, children who have children are some of the surest prospects for a life of poverty. The New York Times` celebration of this self-destructive custom shows that the liberal blinders remain unmoved.