When Karla González Toro turned 15 on September 9, she knew the day would not be marked with a party. Havana, where she lives, was under lockdown after a spike in COVID cases, and Cuba’s food shortages were the worst in recent memory. The González family had meat to eat only because Karla’s parents had begun keeping pigs three years earlier to raise money for a special event: their only daughter’s quinceañera.
In Cuba and across Latin America, the quinceañera—a blowout celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday—is a monumental occasion. In a Cuban house, the framed photograph from that event is as cherished and proudly displayed as a bridal portrait: a teenager encased in a layered taffeta dress, hair piled into