Whatever happened to this little sweetie who used to climb up to my roof- top apartment and play Snap, Snakes & Ladders and Kids Scrabble? This. She metamorphosed into a young woman, and then last September (the 5th, her birthday), got dressed up in over 16 different, rented garments and had more than 350 photographs taken. The chosen attire ranged from bridal to beachwear – her very favourite being this one, adorned with tiara and veil. ´´I looked like a princess,´´ she sighs, remembering.
Gaby dreamed of the big, traditional party with all the trimmings – attended by 14 young couples in matching evening wear, and accompanied by her father for the first dance of the evening. In the end she settled for another dream; a very privileged 19-day holiday in Varadero (the islands most popular beach resort) with her parents and younger brother. How come? ´´…Well, my father can´t dance and it all seemed like a lot of effort and money for just one night!´´
All this to-do is called Los Quinces. The Brits used to ´´come of age´´ at 21, though now its 18 and hardly celebrated at all. But here in Cuba growing up starts early on and traditions remain strong. Go into almost any home here, of any social class, and you´ll find – proudly hanging on the sitting room wall (and often looking more like a wedding photograph) – the big Quince, 15th birthday, portrait.
Gaby doesn´t climb up to my roof-top apartment that much nowadays, but when she does she´s still – like many Cuban adolescents – quite a kid at heart, and still very much a sweetie.