Dulce Ramos’ carriage to the ball is a black Chevrolet Suburban.
The expansive space is needed to bring her to her quinceañera while wearing a dress whose width at the bottom is as wide as she’s tall.
The elaborately planned event celebrates her transition from childhood to womanhood.
“She’s like a princess, like Cinderella,” says her aunt Lolita Ramos.
There’s a definite structure to the eight hours playing out at the Marysville Masonic Center. Some guests have already arrived and are seated for a traditional Mexican dinner.
Accompanied by the chambelanes, male friends who escort her, Dulce is greeted by applause as she makes her way inside to greet family and friends.
Then it’s back outside so they can rehearse a dance they’ll perform later. They move to a side street and practice a lift by two main chambelanes, Jesus Ramos and Gary Monay.
The lift reveals that under her fluffy pink gown she’s wearing slip-on sneakers — red and white checked Vans.
Three hours later her father, Otilio, will bring forth golden high heels on a silken pillow. He’ll kneel and help her change out of her Vans, symbolically leaving behind the footwear of youth for that of a young lady.
She’s given a ring that a family friend brought from Guadalajara. It’s a jeweled heart encompassing the number “15.”
A tiara is placed on her head. “Now she’s a queen,” says cousin Thalia Castaneda.
A DJ plays mainly ranchera and Norteño music. It’s high-decibel and high-energy. Alternating spotlights evoke the atmosphere of a nightclub.
Then the Black Eyed Peas are singing “tonight’s gonna be a good night … tonight’s gonna be a good, good night.”
Dulce emerges from behind a silver curtain, backlit, silhouetted. Dad gets the first dance. For him, it’s “muy importante. She’s growing up to be a woman. This is a family tradition.”
One by one, the other men in Dulce’s life take turns with her on the dance floor. Then her mom, Mercedes Fernandez, dances with her.
But a surprise awaits all. Otilio, bouquet in hand, kneels again — this time before Mercedes.
He asks her to marry him.
Mercedes covers her face and delights in the moment. They’ve been together 17 years, raising Dulce and her three siblings. Now, they’ll formally be husband and wife.
There’s a long, close, warm family embrace.
Tonight’s gonna be a good, good night.