From Liza Mundy's piece on the Quinceañera:

But the real worry is that the next generation isn't being tamed so much as unleashed, though not exactly liberated. These girls' post-quince lives will not be nearly so closely supervised as they might have been in their home countries, and they won't move toward anything like the same conclusion. Latina teens are among the most at-risk group of teenagers. Despite a high rate of religiosity, they are—like so many children of first-generation immigrants—often alienated from their parents' worldview. It doesn't help that more than 25 percent of Hispanic children live below the poverty line. They are also the fastest-growing teenage demographic: By 2020, one in five teens will be Hispanic. According to the National Campaign To Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Latinas have the highest teen birthrate of all major U.S. racial/ethnic groups: 51 percent of Latina teens get pregnant at least once before the age of 20, nearly twice the national average. Alvarez interviews one hairdresser who notes that of seven girls he styled for their quinces, four invited him, within the year, to a baby shower ...

It is notable that the quinceañera, which originated as a prelude to a wedding, in this country seems to have become a substitute for the wedding a girl may never have. One of Alvarez's central questions is why parents are willing to spend so much arduously earned money—the average price of a quince is $5,000; the colloquial phrase for giving a party you can't afford is "throwing the house out the window"—on a one-night blowout. The answer is that for many of these girls, a quince is the only blowout her parents can be sure of giving.



The Mundy piece calls to mind Heather Mac Donald's City Journal essay on Hispanic family values, which includes this passage:

As Mona’s family suggests, out-of-wedlock child rearing among Hispanics is by no means confined to the underclass. The St. Joseph’s parishioners are precisely the churchgoing, blue-collar workers whom open-borders conservatives celebrate. Yet this community is as susceptible as any other to illegitimacy. Fifty-year-old Irma and her husband, Rafael, came legally from Mexico in the early 1970s. Rafael works in a meatpacking plant in Brea; they have raised five husky boys who attend church with them. Yet Irma’s sister—a homemaker like herself, also married to a factory hand—is now the grandmother of two illegitimate children, one by each daughter. “I saw nothing in the way my sister and her husband raised her children to explain it,” Irma says. “She gave them everything.” One of the fathers of Irma’s young nieces has four other children by a variety of different mothers. His construction wages are being garnished for child support, but he is otherwise not involved in raising his children.



This suggests something that conservatives, in particular, need to be aware of - both in debates about immigration and the larger question of the American family - which is that immigrant "family values" can be a double-edged sword where illegitimacy is concerned. The same coming-of-age tradition that in an agrarian society segues naturally into marriage and family can, in a more permissive cultural context, function as a license for sexual activitity and unwed motherhood. The same network of extended families, churches, and stay-at-home mothers that sustains a traditional social order can provide a temporary cushion that makes second-generation family breakdown more socially acceptable than it should be. All of which suggests that it's not enough for social conservatives, or anyone concerned about the illegitimacy rate, to say "Hispanic immigrants have strong family values; we like strong family values; all's well that ends well." The kind of family values that sustains a middle class - rather than an underclass - in a society like the United States aren't necessarily the kind of family values that you find in socially-conservative societies at very different stages of socioeconomic development, and any transition from the latter to the former is likely to be bumpy.

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