Monday 23 September 2019

Thousands attend Mexican girl's 15th birthday after invite goes viral, one man dies

One attendee says: ‘I came to see if they would give me a dress for my granddaughter’

Rubi Ibarra and her father Cresencio Ibarra dance during the celebration of her 15th birthday in Villa Guadalupe, San Luis Potosi State, on December 26, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / RONALDO SCHEMIDTRONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
Rubi Ibarra and her father Cresencio Ibarra dance during the celebration of her 15th birthday in Villa Guadalupe, San Luis Potosi State, on December 26, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / RONALDO SCHEMIDTRONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

Marco Ugarte

A man has been killed at the 15-year-old girl’s party that was attended by thousands after her father posted an invitation on Facebook that went viral.

Local media said the man died after he stepped in front of a horse that was taking part in a race organised as part of the event.

Pictures emerged from the party of Rubi Ibarra looking overwhelmed by the attention as she celebrated her 15th birthday in a rural Mexican village after the invitation to the event made her the toast of the country.

Family members had to open a path for the girl through reporters and photographers snapping her picture so she could reach the Mass for her in a field in central San Luis Potosi state. A large billboard saying “Welcome to my 15th birthday party” with Rubi’s picture towered over the tents and tables filled with food.

Thousands of people from across Mexico poured into the community of La Joya for the “quinceanera” celebration, a traditional coming-of-age party similar to American “sweet sixteen” parties in which Mexican families often throw big, costly bashes for their daughters.

“I came to see if they would give me a dress for my granddaughter for her 15th birthday in May,” said Victoriano Obregon, who came all the way from the northern state of Coahuila for an event which by Monday evening resembled a rock concert with music and large crowds. Rubi’s bash gained national and international notoriety in early December after a local event photographer posted on his Facebook page a video of the girl’s father describing a down-home birthday party complete with food, local bands and horse races. In the video, cowboy hat-wearing Crescencio Ibarra haltingly but proudly describes the party and prizes, before announcing that “everyone is cordially invited”.

Rubi Ibarra (C)dances during her 15th birthday celebrations in Villa Guadalupe, San Luis Potosi State, on December 26, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / RONALDO SCHEMIDTRONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
Rubi Ibarra (C)dances during her 15th birthday celebrations in Villa Guadalupe, San Luis Potosi State, on December 26, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / RONALDO SCHEMIDTRONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
People arrive for the 15th birthday party celebrations of Rubi Ibarra on December 26, 2016 in Villa Guadalupe, San Luis Potosi State, Mexico. AFP PHOTO / RONALDO SCHEMIDTRONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

Rubi’s mother later explained that Crescencio had only been referring to everyone in the neighbouring communities, not the world, but by then the video had been picked up dozens of times on YouTube and had been seen by millions, sparking tributes by musical stars, jokes and offers of sponsorships by companies.

Mexican airline Interjet published a promotion offering 30 per cent discounts on flights to San Luis Potosi, under the slogan “Are you going to Rubi’s party?”

Internet jokesters published photos of troops of turkeys, backhoes stirring giant caldrons of soup and massive crowds “heading for Rubi’s party.”

Actor Gael Garcia made a parody video of the invitation, and norteno singer Luis Antonio Lopez “El Mimoso” composed a “corrido” song especially for Rubi. The humble daughter of ranchers even got an offer to appear on the soap opera The Rose of Guadalupe.

“What happened with Rubi is an interesting example of how the internet amplifies and makes hyper-transparent people’s personal lives and how traditional media look for stories on social networks to bring in new audiences” who they have been losing, said Sergio Octavio Contreras, a communications professor at Mexico’s La Salle Bajio University.

Jose Antonio Sosa, an expert on social media at the Iberoamericana University, said the country’s obsession with Rubi’s birthday party reflected a need for lighter stories in a society weary of violence and economic problems.

All the attention seemed to take the poor communities near where Rubi’s family lived aback. The access roads were blocked with cars and state police and Red Cross workers monitored the situation.

Some locals said they hoped something good could come out of it for the communities, which have a mezcal distillery but where residents are pleading for cellphone coverage.

“More than anything, this can bring attention to us ... so people can see the unemployment,” said local resident Rutilio Ibarra.

Independent News Service

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