LA JOYA, Mexico (AP) — Looking overwhelmed by the attention, yet resplendent in an elaborate fuchsia dress and gleaming tiara, Rubi Ibarra celebrated her 15th birthday on Monday on a ranch in central Mexico after the invitation to the event by her father went viral and made her the toast of the country.
Family members had to open a path for the girl through dozens of reporters and photographers snapping her picture so she could reach the Mass for her in a field in the state of San Luis Potosi. 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 came from across Mexico for the “quinceneara” celebration, a traditional coming-of-age party similar to American “sweet sixteen” parties in which Mexican families often throw big, costly bashes so their daughter can be princess for a day.
“I came to see if they would give me a dress for my granddaughter for her 15th birthday in May,” said Victoriano Obregon, who had come all the way from the northern state of Coahuila.
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, horse races and local bands. In the video, cowboy hat-wearing Crescencio Ibarra haltingly but proudly describes the party and prizes, before announcing that “everyone is cordially invited.”
Rubi’s mother later explained that Crescencio had only been referring to everyone in the neighboring 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-percent 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.”
Several hundred guests had arrived by Monday morning for the Mass, but the number swelled as the day progressed so that by evening there were thousands and the event resembled a rock concert. Cars blocked the access roads to the communities and state police and Red Cross workers monitored the situation.
“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.
Rubi’s neighbors say they hope all the attention will bring improvements to the poor community, where there is a mescal distillery but 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.
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