Heart and Heritage: Our Quinceañera debuts in RGV

The film’s next public screening will be held at the Cinesol film festival in South Padre Island on Nov. 23-24. For more information, visit cinesol.com.


“Let’s show the world how great it is to live in the Rio Grande Valley and San Benito,” says Veteran’s Memorial Academy Principal Gilbert Galvan at the beginning of the film Our Quinceñera, a documentary which details the preparation and experience of the 9th Grade Academy’s quinceñera program. The program allows an opportunity for students whose family could not otherwise afford a lavish celebration.

Now, the program unique to San Benito schools has hit the big screen.

The film was screened for the first time in the Valley last Thursday in Cinemark Harlingen for students, family, staff, and media, complete with a red carpet and Q&A session. The following day, it was screened at the VMA for faculty and students.

“It’s been amazing, we’ve been so pleased and so excited for it, we’re excited to be here sharing it with the people of San Benito and the valley on this premiere,” said producer Gilbert Galvan Jr.

The final product came together through the teamwork of Gilbert Galvan Jr. and Nelson and Fanny Grande.

Galvan is the son of Principal Galvan and has worked in the entertainment industry for the past 11 years. When he told his friend and producer Nelson Grande and his wife Fanny about what his father was doing in San Benito, the couple immediately fell in love with the idea and got to work.

The team began crowdfunding in March 2018 and within a month, the trio came down from Los Angeles to begin shooting in San Benito at the VMA’s 4th annual quinceñera gathering.

The documentary’s first screening was at the Bentonville Film Festival, co-founded by Thelma and Louise (1991) actress Geena Davis, where the film won the Audience Award for Best Documentary. Following another screening in San Francisco, last week’s showcase was only its third screening.

The girl on the poster
Raquel Vela, one of the quinceñeras featured in the film, poses with the film poster at the film’s screening in Harlingen.
(Photo by David Lopez)

“We’ve actually shown it to a lot of non-Latino audiences and they love it because it’s about family, and it’s also showcasing small town living, and how a community can come together to help the youth make a dream come true. A lot of cultures have this rite of passage, and it was so beautiful to see so many people of other races moved to tears,” said Fanny Grande.

Although Veliz is Venezuelan, she recognizes that every Latin American culture has a practice like the Quinceñera, and seeing it manifested in a border town in the United States, with a taste of both cultures, was something special.

“My purpose really was to tell a positive story about our community, and I also wanted to show that you can be an American but also be proud your roots and heritage. Lastly, I really wanted to celebrate teachers,” she said.

Ilse Veronica Bautista Martinez, one of the quinceñeras featured in the documentary, noted how the film touched her heart.

“Honestly, it brought back so many memories, something that can never be replaced. Both the party and the movie exceeded my expectations. I would honestly recreate something like this for my future daughter,” said Martinez.