Camila Lopez Rivas was raised in Miami. But when it came time to celebrate her 15th birthday, she headed 90 miles south to throw her "dream" quinceañera
in a place that has previously been mostly off-limits. And she isn't alone.
"Cuba is in style," her father, Eliecer Lopez Rufin, told the Associated Press
. "Everyone wants to come do their party here."
As relations and opportunities to travel between the United States and Cuba improve, the prospect of returning to the island for important milestones becomes more feasible for many Cuban Americans. Some business owners in Cuba told the AP that they've seen an uptick in families from overseas arriving for traditional quinceañera
photoshoots. The quinceañera
is an important celebration thrown for a young woman's 15th birthday.
And it isn't just ex-pat families who are feeling festive — changing economic conditions are leading some Cuban families to save for and spend on bigger celebrations at home, the AP reports.
While cultural heritage and the opportunity to celebrate with family and friends are key draws for those who choose to travel, there's also an economic incentive for families able to make the trip. The cost of arranging a party and photo shoot in Cuba is about one-tenth of what it can be in the United States, according to The AP.
While it's not clear how widespread the trend actually is (one South Florida-based quinceañera
expert told Refinery29 that she hasn't personally witnessed an uptick in interest in celebrating in Cuba), the recent move to officially restore commercial flights between the two countries is expected to increase the flow of people for a range of purposes, including parties.
A photographer for the AP documented Cuba's amazing quinceañera
tradition at the end of 2015. Ahead, those stunning photos and stories.