Coffee & Conversation: Las Marthas

Event Date and Time: 
Jan 19 2014 - 1:00pm
About this event

Coffee and Conversation is free and open to the public. Each film screening at Lincoln's Mary Riepma Ross Theatre is followed by a community discussion in UNL’s Van Brunt Visitors Center.

The annual debutante ball in Laredo, Texas, is unlike any other in the country. The festival lasts an entire month and coincides with George Washington's birthday. For more than a century the city's coming-out celebrations have involved intricate paeans to America's colonial past.

In 1939, the Society of Martha Washington was founded to usher each year's debutantes (called “Marthas”) into proper society at the Colonial Pageant and Ball. The girls' attendants also dress as figures from America's colonial history and participate in traditional ceremonies. The centerpiece of the festivities is the Martha Washington Pageant and Ball, when the girls are presented in elaborate dresses that take up to a year to create.

The festival — which dates from the aftermath of the Spanish-American War and was shaped by the North-South tensions following the Civil War, resonates anew in a time of economic uncertainty and political tension over immigration. Still, the Washington Celebration has managed to persevere and even flourish, thanks in large part to the Mexican American girls who carry this gilded tradition on their young shoulders.

Panelists for the post-film discussion are James Garza, UNL associate professor of history and ethnic studies, who has done research on the debutante ball as part of his studies of Mexican immigration to the United States; and Rita Rodriguez, regional co-director for “Quinceañera Magazine Nebraska,” a quarterly statewide publication for teenage Latinas and a founder of the Quinceañera Foundation, a non-profit organization that grants scholarships to Latina students. Joining her will be four “Miss Cover Girls” who model for the magazine. Jasel Cantu, public information officer for the Nebraska Latino American Commission, will moderate.

Event Location: 
The Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center
313 N. 13th Street
Lincoln, NE 68508
United States
Phone: 402-472-5353