Quinceaneras are coming out balls for Latinas, held on their 15th birthday. They were some of the most elaborate parties I ever worked: 15 tiers of cake usually stair-stepped with seven tiers on each side leading up to a beautiful cake top and sometimes incorporating fountains or other props, 15 "bridesmaids" with 15 different colors of dresses, and the quince girl dressed in a white gown - just like a wedding gown - with a tiara. There would be a mariachi band and a rock 'n' roll dance band that alternated, with the mariachis roving around the room. And all the time, the Mexican Mafia in their black suits standing guard. Or at least we knew them as that, but also by another name I can't remember right now. I don't know if they were the Mexican Mafia. They were more like very solemn escorts that we knew carried guns, but not so they were showing. They stood at all the entrances to the room from the outside, the hallways and the kitchen and never ate, drank, talked or smiled. In a way, it was a comfort to have them there, but in the back of my mind I was always afraid I'd drop something or move wrong and wind up getting shot.
I wonder now at the expense that went into these parties, the wealth in those families, and all the kind of underworld stuff that was going on that we just ignored. The hotel where this took place was a kind of front for other properties and there were questionable details about who actually owned what. Sometimes there would be so much merchandise from another new property that had been acquired stored in our hallways and kitchen that we could barely move, and other times we'd be scrambling to find a teaspoon because all the equipment was needed "at another property." We were paid in cash, and we didn't ask questions. Even now, I'd be uncomfortable revealing too much about who, where and what was involved.