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Face mask fashion: Cuban quinceaneras in the coronavirus era

Cuba made face masks obligatory in public spaces early on in the outbreak and credits them with helping it contain the spread of the coronavirus on the island. On Monday it registered zero new cases nationwide.

As the country eases lockdown restrictions, face masks are even becoming part of the quinceanera celebrations – a rite of passage into womanhood common throughout Latin America – that typically includes photoshoots with many glamorous ensembles.

“I had to design my face masks to fit with my outfit and for all the colors to work,” said birthday girl Sofia Valenzuela, on the sidelines of a beach photoshoot in a floaty white dress.

“The face mask was really important because it marked an important stage of my life, these three months of pandemic.”

Valenzuela did some of her shoots without a mask – like the one on the beach – and others with, especially in urban spaces.

In one, for example, she poses in front of a Havana wall covered in colorful graffiti while wearing a black top, black and white checkered mini skirt, and matching face mask.

Her seamstress Migdalaixis Sanchez said she interlaced black and white stripes to create the material for the cloth mask. Some shops are still shut in the wake of the coronavirus-induced lockdown so creating matching masks is not always easy.

“I had to innovate,” she said. “You have to please those celebrating their quinceanera.”

Photographer Manuel Padron, who has been shooting quinceaneras for more than 10 years, says the girls find sporting a face mask – called “nasobuco” or “nose mouth” in Cuban Spanish – eye-catching “as if it was part of the whole show.”

Birthday girl Thaidelen Gonzalez said it was also simply about being careful.

“The photos will turn out well anyway so wearing a face mask and looking after oneself is not too onerous,” she said.

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