The Hispanic tradition of Quinceañera, the celebration of a young girl’s transition from childhood to maturity, is rich in religious customs, family values and the bonds of friendship, loyalty and responsibility. Young girls look forward to this celebration that often takes years of preparation and planning.
“I waited my entire life for this,” said Lucia Montez, 15, from the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. “But if I had to wait all over again, I would not do it,” she sobbed.
Rather than celebrating with family and friends, Lucia sits at the hospital bedside of her recuperating grandfather, 78-year-old Roberto “Tito” Montez. ‘Abuelo Tito,’ as he is lovingly referred to by Lucia, is recovering from a vicious beating at the hands of a group of children, apparently angered that they arrived late to the Montez family’s celebration.
“We decided to have the big party at The Grand Prospect Hall Ballroom,” said Lucia’s mother Alma. “’We make your dreams come true!’ is what the famous commercial says on television. It is now more like a terrible nightmare that none of us wanted to come true, but it did.”
According to Lucia, a group of six or seven children not originally invited to the Ballroom, crashed the party and were told that they would be welcome at the more informal gathering which was to take place at the Montez family home, later in the day.
“They weren’t even ever invited to come here!” said Lucia, angrily. “They barely know me! They started getting mad so then Abuelo Tito told them if they behaved themselves, they could stop by the house later.”
“He just wanted to get rid of them,” added Alma.
“They didn’t show up until late at night,” said Lucia, “and we were putting things away by then. Abuelo Tito was taking down the empty piñata that was broken already and hanging by a rope. It was a Dora The Explorer piñata and you had to hit her in the head to get the candy to come out. So the kids asked my Abuelo Tito for some candy and he told them to go home, the party was over. Then I heard the yelling and the screaming and then we …” Lucia could not continue.
“We ran outside,” continued Alma. “Those bad kids were beating my father with sticks saying ‘Where’s my candy, Papa Piñata? Can candy come out of you if we beat you now, viejo? More candy, more candy!’ It was a horrible thing to see, and we all pushed them away. Papa was lying there next to Dora, all covered with crepe paper and bruises. Then we came to the hospital.”
Abuelo Tito was able to speak and offer thanks to well-wishers.
“These bad kids, they were not from the neighborhood. They were outsiders and were bored, so they chose our family to cause trouble with. They don’t have enough to do except play games, then they get bored. I forgive them, but I will not forget. I’m a tough old bird, my family says.”
“I have a party ready for him when he gets home tomorrow or the next day,” said Lucia. “Inside for the party, please, Lucia” said Abuelo Tito, sending the room into laughter. “Look, everyone!” he said, “That’s the first time Lucia gives us all a smile!”
Abuelo Tito was treated for lacerations and a mild concussion, and a full recovery is expected. The children responsible for the assault remain at large.