, SAN LUIS POTOSí, Mexico, Dec 27 – A huge crowd turned out to celebrate the 15th birthday of Rubi Ibarra, a small-town Mexican girl — though fewer than the 1.3 million people who said they were coming after the invitation went viral online.
Girls’ 15th birthday parties are often a huge affair in Latin America, when families pull out all the stops to welcome them to womanhood.
But Rubi’s “quinceanera” party took the phenomenon to a whole new level, after the invite became an offbeat internet sensation.
“We found out through social media and we said ‘Let’s go. Everyone is invited? Let’s go,” said Tania Rodriguez, who traveled five hours by car to attend the party held in a large field in Villa de Guadalupe, in San Luis Potosi state.
“With all the coverage on her, Rubi felt like part of the family,” added her husband, Gonzalo Torres, before heading off in search of “more beer.”
About 10,000 partygoers of all ages came to see Rubi, who danced the night away in a flouncy, floral princess gown with a dramatic red skirt.
The teen was the center of attention on a large rock concert-style stage set up in the field. The evening featured fireworks, a huge banquet and a concert broadcast on a giant screen.
Rubi danced with friends, as well as the men of her family, receiving a rose from each, in keeping with tradition.
“We are patient, we are patient. And we are going to camp here until we see her close up,” guest Rosalina Conpian said.
– Viral invite –
“Hi, how’s it going? We would like to invite you this December 26 to our daughter Rubi Ibarra Garcia’s 15th birthday party in La Joya,” her dad, Crescencio, said in the video invitation.
Dressed in a cowboy hat typical of northern Mexico, he ticked off the names of the bands that would play at the party and announced a horse race with a 10,000-peso prize (about $500), as his wife and the now-famous Rubi stood at his side.
“Everyone” is invited, he said.
About 1.3 million Facebook users took the invitation to heart and replied that they would attend the party originally set to be in La Joya, a village of 200 people near the city of San Luis Potosi.
“This all got out of control,” Crescencio said in one of the many media interviews he has since been asked to give.
“That doesn’t mean we didn’t want to invite everyone, of course, but here our parties are regional… This is something we weren’t expecting.”
Rubi fielded numerous interviews herself, becoming something of a national sensation with her dark hair, cute smile and braces.
An airline turned the commotion into free publicity, offering discount tickets to get to the party. And a video game has emerged in which a teenage girl runs down a red carpet, tossing invitations to all and sundry.
The family said they were originally expecting around 800 people for the party. Local authorities moved it to a large open field and sent a security detail for what Mexican media were calling “the party of the year.”
Not everyone in Mexico finds it amusing, though.
“This has taken on completely scandalous proportions,” said Mercedes Poire, head of the Center for Public Opinion at the Universidad Del Valle de Mexico.
“We face the gigantic risk of falling into a society of the absurd.”