- Associated Press - Friday, October 2, 2015

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Cesar Gonzalez and friends practiced almost every day for about three months, and it showed when they took to the dance floor.

His moves were crisp, and he didn’t bat an eye as his friends picked him up in the air several times during their dance number, The Hutchinson News (http://bit.ly/1OBm7HP ) reported.

It was all a little out of the ordinary: a quinceañero — celebrating a boy turning 15.

Father Ned Blick, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in South Hutchinson, said he attends several quinceañeras a year - for girls. But Gonzalez’s was only the second quinceañero that Blick had seen in more than a decade.

“Not that many guys want to have a party like this,” said Blanca Delgado, Gonzalez’s mother.

But Delgado said she really wanted to celebrate her son, born significantly premature, growing into a man. She said he spent several months in hospitals after he was born, his survival uncertain. She remembered reaching into his incubator at a hospital.

“I put my hands in there to touch him, and he reached out and grabbed my finger,” she said, and that gave her faith that he would make it.

Now, she wanted to celebrate his 15th birthday — actually two months earlier — both with a party and at church.

“I didn’t want to do it at first,” Cesar said.

Cesar, a quiet, shy teen, couldn’t say no to his insistent mother. She promised her son he’d be the center of attention for girls. That’s what convinced him, Delgado joked.

The day’s events started at noon on Sept. 6 with Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Cesar stood out in white and aqua outfits with matching aqua-colored suspenders, bow ties and shoes.

As part of the service, Cesar reaffirmed his baptismal vows along with his family and godparents.

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A couple of weeks before the quinceañero, Blick explained that the tradition originated as a coming-of-age ceremony among pre-Colombian cultures in Central and South America. When Europeans colonized the region, Catholics adapted the tradition to their faith.

Blick said the church ceremony emphasizes the teen is ready to contribute to his or her community and its spiritual well-being. With the reaffirmation of baptism, it has some similarities to confirmation, taking place at a later age. Blick tries to use the occasion to remind teenagers that they don’t have to wait until they’re adults to accomplish good things.

“Youths are doing good things and can do good things,” he said.

During his sermon at Mass, Blick recalled driving Cesar to the after-school program when the boy was maybe 5 or 6 years old. He said Delgado’s insistence that her son get religious education showed the family’s priorities.

Blick encouraged Cesar to continue embracing his values.

“For me, it was so special because Father was talking about memories with him (Cesar),” Delgado said.

Blick recalled driving the bus Cesar took to an after-school program. Blick said he was impressed with how Cesar has matured.

Friends agreed.

“He cares for others,” Erica Padila said.

“He has a good heart,” Alejandra Fernandez added.

After the dinner, while everyone was waiting for the dances to start, Cesar wrangled his little sister, 5-year-old Yanithzi, playing and sharing the spotlight with her. He had even given the “Frozen”-obsessed Yanithzi significant input on the decorations, so while the temperature climbed above 100 degrees outside, the church gym was decorated with a snowflake motif for Yanithzi’s de facto early 6th birthday party.

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Practicing for the dance, prepared by choreographer Miriam Gomez, started in June and was just one preparation beginning months before the event. The family spent long hours making invitations and decorations, setting arrangements for the church service, party site and music.

Delgado got some help from her niece, Ashley Delgado.

“She did my quince, so I’m helping her with this,” Ashley said.

Cesar’s friends acknowledged that a guy having a quinceañero is unusual, but they liked it and said they’d like to see more.

“It’s really nice to have a quinceañero and a quinceañera,” Fernandez said.

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Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, http://www.hutchnews.com

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