By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Teenage girls celebrate quinceaneras when they turn 15, so why can't restaurants?
Mama Mexico, the Mexican restaurant on West 102nd Street and Broadway, will celebrate its 15th anniversary with a week of quinceaneras, a traditional celebration for 15-year-old girls in Latin America.
The restaurant held a drawing to select seven winners who will get free quinceanera celebrations to be held nightly from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Mama Mexico from March 28 through April 3.
The party includes free food and drinks for winners and their friends and family. The restaurant will have a traditional white high-backed quinceanera chair on hand for winners to sit in, along with tiaras and crowns.
Each winner will have their photo taken and posted on Mama Mexico's Facebook page. People will vote for the best quinceanera, and the winner will receive a special surprise gift, said sales and marketing director Juan Rojas, Jr.
A live mariachi band will perform each night and the restaurant will offer special menu items like mole poblano, or chicken with mole sauce.
The Upper West Side location was the first of Mama Mexico's three locations to open, said Rojas, Jr., the son of restaurant founder Juan Rojas Campos.
Rojas Campos came to the U.S. from the Puebla state of Mexico as a 19 year old and got a job in a bread factory in Yonkers, said Rojas, Jr.
Then he worked his way up in the restaurant industry, starting as a dishwasher. He worked as a bus boy, waiter, bartender and manager, then started Mama Mexico, said Rojas, Jr.
The Upper West Side location has doubled in size since then, and the surrounding neighborhood has changed too, Rojas, Jr. said.
"The neighborhood has changed dramatically," Rojas, Jr. said. "It's become more of a tourist area."