MEXICO CITY—Somewhere around the millionth laugh, the joke became real. The lines between life and the internet got blurred. Absurdity became possibility.
It started with a homemade video invite to a Mexican quinceañera party that went unexpectedly viral. As it did, more than 1 million Mexicans RSVPed. First as a joke, but then with earnestness. Now it appears this party is really happening, as a growing group of companies, celebrities and politicians all try to cash in on the overnight internet phenomenon.
Rubí Ibarra García's fifteenth birthday party on Dec. 26 is the biggest thing in Mexico right now. And if it happens, it'll be a fascinating case study of life imitating memes.
Mexican airline Interjet was one of the first companies to tap the excitement this week by announcing a 30% discount on all air travel to San Luis Potosí for Rubi's party.
“We speculated there was going to be an increase in demand because of this internet phenomenon,” Interjet marketing director Andres Martinez told me. “The promotion generated much more clicks to our site than paid publicity campaigns, and the purchases increased overall across our website.”
Spotify Mexico has also launched a “Rubís XV” playlist that includes Mexican dance classics like Payaso de rodeo and Baile del Perrito. The hipsters are naturally salivating.
Politicians also wiggling into the picture. San Luis Potosí Congressman Roberto Alejandro Segovia announced that he wants to be Rubí’s chambelan (escort of honor) and vowed to work with local authorities to make sure the event is safe and secure for partygoers visiting his home state and district.
"The party is going to happen. Nothing has been canceled,” Segovia told the local congressional TV channel. “We are going to try to talk to federal highway police, state police, civil protection, firemen, the Red Cross, so they provide security to anyone who comes to this party and the family so they have their quince as it should be.”
Celebrities are also joining the fun. Popular Mexican singers such as El Komander and Larry Hernandez have expressed their desire to attend and sing at Rubí’s quince.
Renowned Hollywood actor Gael García Bernal made his own parody of the famous video invite.
Mexican talkshows have been abuzz with the news, requesting the Ibarra García family for interviews and getting them to dance on camera with hot male models.
For Rubí, the whole thing must feel like an internet fairytale — hopefully one that won’t turn into a nightmare for the young teen.
The randomness of the internet phenomenon is one of those things that's hard to explain if you weren't there. But in Mexican internet culture, memes and viral jokes seem to have replaced reality TV shows as the fastest path to overnight celebrity—even for those who weren't looking for it.
“It’s an open video invitation that someone turned into a joke that spun out of control. Someone with a lot of followers probably picked it up first and then it took off,” Mexican marketing and social media expert Octavio Regalado told me.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. It reached traditional media. Then brands and politicians jumped on it,” he said. “It shows the power, the velocity and multimedia voracity of social networks.”
Rubí's internet fame could also be a sign of the times—a reaction to a news cycle dominated by doom and gloom.
Says Regalado, “There’s also a big appetite for light and funny news.”