It all started with a 45-second video. A girl stands between her parents, wearing a leopard print dress and a tiara on her head, as her father makes the seemingly nonchalant invitation.
“Hello, how are you? We invite you this 26th of December to the 15th birthday party of our daughter, Rubi Ibarra Garcia,” the father, Crescencio Ibarra, says, wearing a black cowboy hat. “All are cordially invited.”
The world’s Internet users seem to have taken the father’s appeal quite literally: 1.3 million people have submitted RSVPs for the quinceañera — the traditional Mexican coming-of-age party on a girl’s 15th birthday. The video was posted to Facebook and it went viral — spurring the newest meme craze, drawing sponsorship offers from companies and inspiring parodies from Hollywood celebrities.
Spotify Mexico has created a “Rubís XV” playlist with classic Mexican dance songs. One luggage company tweeted it would offer a 20 percent discount on all suitcases so that customers could “enjoy the party.” An airline, Interjet, announced it would be offering a 30 percent discount on all flights to the Mexican state, San Luis Potosí, urging clients to “attend the event of the year.”
In yet another illustration of the vast reach of social media, the video has catapulted a young girl’s birthday party — in a rural village in northwest Mexico — onto an international stage.
Rubi, with her braces and long, dark hair, has appeared on numerous talk shows aired in the U.S. and Mexico. In one, she wears an elaborate, glittering ball gown, dancing with her father under a balloon arch and receiving personal phone calls from celebrities, including the Norteño singer Luis Antonio López, also known as El Mimoso. She assured all of the celebrities that “they are invited.”
“This girl’s face is on the majority of cellphones, of computers,” one talk show host said. “All of Mexico wants to be at that celebration on Dec. 26.”
The father explained to one television station that the idea of making a video came from a photographer, while the family was at a photo session to prepare for the party. Rubi’s mother, Anaelda Garcia, said her husband intended to share the video with community members in the neighboring regions. But once the video was posted on Facebook, it was quickly picked up by local news outlets, followed by international media.
“I don’t know who copied it, but they posted it and it blew up, as if it were an invitation to the entire world,” Garcia said.
“It got out of control,” her husband said, but insisted, once more, that “everyone is invited. Everyone that wants to come is invited.”
In anticipation of the crowds of people potentially flocking to the village, local authorities are even preparing security measures for the party. A state lawmaker, Roberto Segovia, told local media outlets he wants to deploy the Red Cross and state civil defense personnel around the perimeter of the village of La Joya, which is home to only about 200 residents, El Universal reported, adding that “the party is going to happen.”
“This is a phenomenon the family was not expecting,” Segovia said. “We contacted them to help them manage the security and relief organizations so that the event comes out the best it can.”
In the original video invitation to the party, the father outlines the itinerary for the party: A Mass will be held at 1:30 p.m. A number of bands will be playing — before, after and during the meal. And a “chiva” — local slang for a horse race — will be held, with a top prize of 10,000 pesos, or about $500. “As for second and third places, we’ll work that out,” he added.
The video has become the topic of dozens of memes, jokes and skits — including one parody starring actor Gael García Bernal on a popular Mexican television show.
One meme pictures Donald Trump shaking hands with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, making a so-called agreement to allow undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to cross the border for the party and return back afterward. Another shows a fake tweet from Pope Francis, saying he’s thrilled to officiate the mass on Rubi’s 15th birthday. “Get the barrels of water ready, because if the wine runs out, we’ll manage,” it says.
Many of the memes focus on a point of confusion in the video in which the father says there will be a “chiva” at the party for 10,000 pesos. “Chiva” is also a Spanish word for goat.
— Dios Anunnaki (@eldictador007) December 3, 2016
On Rubi’s “official” Facebook account — not to be confused with the half-dozen impostor accounts — she made sure to clarify the question: “What is a chiva?”
“It is NOT an animal,” she wrote. “We do NOT kill it to eat it.”
Her father also clarified its meaning it an interview with Univision. “They’re traditions from the region. A lot of people don’t understand it,” he said. “But here, ranch folks immediately know what we’re talking about,” explaining that it is local slang describing a horse race for a monetary prize.
In other posts on Facebook, Rubi wrote at length about how she was feeling about all of the unexpected attention.
“At first I found this whole thing very funny, but I think it got out of control,” she wrote. “The thing is, I really don’t know why you all thought that all of Mexico was invited.”
She said it would be impossible for everyone to come, but, considering so many people offered to come with gifts, she said they could feel free to send anything they were planning on giving her.
“Can you imagine?” she wrote. “I would have many gifts for myself,” adding later that the bands — and the entire village — were thrilled and grateful to have the unanticipated exposure.
In one interview, Ibarra said that his daughter was “sad for two days” because of all of the memes and jokes made about her party. But that after a while, she calmed down, and seemed excited — a sentiment displayed in her Facebook posts, where she frequently writes to her more than 75,000 followers. She made sure to clarify that the images of Ticketmaster passes to her party were fake, and offered real VIP tickets to a few hundred lucky attendees. Some of the giveaways were competitions: Who can write the best poem about her? What birthday present would they buy for her?
In the interview with Univision, her mother described a few of the plans for the party — Rubi, for example, would likely be wearing a red dress. But with all of the media attention, the family hasn’t had much time to work on many of the preparations, she said.
And what about the unexpected overflow of hungry guests, the interviewer asked. What would they do for the food?
Rubi’s father didn’t seem too concerned. They’ll just give out the food until they run out, he said.
“And when there isn’t any left,” he said, chuckling and motioning out his hand, “People can go and buy enchiladas.”
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