Mexican women


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Mexican women the anatomy of a stereotype in a mestizo village.
Physical Description:
vi, 183 leaves. : ; 28 cm.
Arnold, Marigene, 1946-
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Women -- Mexico -- Cajititlán   ( lcsh )
Family -- Mexico -- Cajititlán   ( lcsh )
Peasants -- Mexico -- Jalisco   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis--University of Florida.
Bibliography: leaves 180-182.
Statement of Responsibility:
By Marigene Arnold.
General Note:
General Note:

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 000585114
notis - ADB3746
oclc - 14183850
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Full Text

Mexican Women: The Anatomy of a Stereotype in a Mestizo Village





Copyright by

Marigene Arnold



I would like to thank my chairman, Dr. Theron A. Nunez, who

has been a mentor, "Dutch Uncle," and friend, depending on my personal

needs, and has virtually devoted five years of his life to my academic

development. Sincere gratitude is also expressed to the other members

of my supervisory committee, Drs. G. Alexander Moore and Lyle N. McAlister,

and to Drs. Solon T. Kimball and Robert H. Heighton who have also served

in advisory positions; Dr. Kimball is to be particularly commended for

his patience in editorial comment.

Both research and writing time were supported by the Foreign

Area Fellowship Program. I would like to thank the Program and,

especially, Ms. Alison McClure who helped prove that bureaucracies

can be both efficient and personalistic.

In Mexico I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Fernando Camara

Barbachano of the Instituto Nacional de Antropologla e Historia for

providing me with important introductions. My colleagues at the

Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara, especially Srta. Teresa Enriquez,

Lic. Alfonso Magana Coss y Leon, and Dr. Lester Mallory, provided me

with research assistance and moral support. I owe my greatest gratitude

to the people of Cajititlan who were helpful and gracious hosts during

my residence there, particularly the family of don Benito Rodrfguez

Trujillo and dona Marfa Fransisca Sebastian Ramos, with whom I lived.

Finally, I must mention the fortitude of my parents and sister

who lived through many letterless weeks during the preparation of this



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................. iii

ABSTRACT ......................................................... v

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION........................................ 1

CHAPTER TWO: EARLY LIFE.......................................... 14




REALITIES.......................................... 160

EPILOGUE.......................................................... 176

GLOSSARY.......................................................... 178

REFERENCES CITED..... .......... .................................. 180

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH............................................... 183

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the
Graduate Council of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Marigene Arnold

August, 1973

Chairman: Dr. Theron A. Nunez
Major Department: Anthropology

This study focuses specifically on an area of Mexican culture

which has been largely of peripheral concern to anthropologists: the

status and roles of Mexican peasant women. While Mexico has been the

locus of more anthropological research than any other Latin American

country, there is a void in the literature regarding women. One

purpose of this research was to supplement and reinterpret the

literature regarding women, with an analysis of the feminine contribu-

tion to the social fabric. The research was conducted in a typical,

highland, mestizo village.

The roles of women are described with emphasis on socialization--

women as socializers and as the recipients of socialization. Maturation

is seen as a process encompassing a number of years and socialization

in the areas of religion, economics, and physiology is described in

terms of when the female receives cultural information and from whom.

It is demonstrated that marriage does not mark the achievement of adult

status; rather adulthood is truly ascribed when a woman is able to

achieve the position of mater families. Attention is also focused

upon women, such as spinsters, who do not follow the typical life cycle.

In addition, religious, economic, and political roles of women

are discussed,'with emphasis on the importance of the life cycle in

determining the type of participation available to, and practiced by,

women. It is seen that the roles which women play demand a degree

of cooperation not generally reported in the literature regarding


Finally, although rural mestizo women in Latin America have

been described largely in terms of passivity and self-denial (and it

has been argued that any divergence from these ideals can be explained

solely as deviance), this research indicates that not only is deviance

from ideal behavior common, but that the majority of such divergence

is patterned. Situations are discussed in which a woman is expected

to assume the characteristics of a gallona (female rooster; aggressive

woman) in order to protect her own honor, that of her husband, or that

of her family. Such behavior represents cultural responses to a variety

of situations, particularly the avoidance of face-to-face conflict

between males which may result in homicide. Since situational aggressive

behavior by women is expected, it can, therefore, not be termed "deviant."

Thus this study suggests contradictions and reinterpretations

of the ethnographic literature regarding rural Latin American women.



This study focuses specifically on an area of Mexican culture

which has been of only peripheral concern to anthropologists: the

status and roles of Mexican peasant women. The need for such investiga-

tions has been recognized as high priority research by several scholars,

including Melville Jacobs (1964:190-191) and June Nash (1970:637).

While Mexico has been the locus of more anthropological research

than any other country in Latin America, there is a void in the literature

regarding women. A perusal of the literature demonstrates the void.

Descriptions of compadrazgo (see, for example, Mintz and Wolf 1950),

machismo (any general ethnography), donship (Romano V. 1960), and the

mayordomfa-cargo system (Cancian 1965) give, at best, but brief mention

of the relation of women to the function and perpetuation of these

phenomena. Therefore, one purpose of this study is to supplement and

reinterpret the literature regarding mestizo women, with an analysis

of the feminine contribution to the social fabric.

In general, rural women in Latin America have been described

ethnographically in terms of passivity and self-denial. By far the

majority of the anthropological literature argues that the ideals

of women's behavior include self-abnegation and a submissive attitude

in relation to men. Women have been shown, by Diaz-Guerrero (1955)

and others, to have a great and enduring tie with their sons due to

the quality of husband-uife relationships. While both Foster (1967:59)

and Lewis (1951:319) have remarked that some women diverge from these

patterns, they have explained such divergence merely in terms of a

lack of correspondence between the ideals of passivity and real

behavior, implying that any dissonance can be understood solely as

a departure from ideal behavior.

It is hypothesized here that women's roles have been misunderstood.

While it will be shown that some women do depart from these so-called

ideals, often this can be understood in terms of varying ideals,

according to the situation. As Chapple (1970:272) has pointed out, by

defining behavior in terms of "role," the cultural and interactional

realities are often obscured and the realization must be made that

cultural situations require different patterns of interaction. Thus,

in considering women, we must also describe their movements in time

and space, showing how a variety of situations call for behavior which

does not correlate exactly with the ideal of passivity.

In order to understand the stereotype presented of women

heretofore, one must examine the reasons for its widespread acceptance.

Little attention has been focused specifically on women; as Pescatello

(1972:125) points out, "Despite analyses of political and military

elites, students, peasants, blacks, and immigrants, little scholarly

work has been undertaken on man's 'other,' the female." Hammond and

Jablow (1973:1) have suggested that the lack of data on females can

at least partially be explained by the preponderance of male writers,

arguing that, "the terms human and masculine came to be almost

synonymous...even with the advent of modern social science, the

masculine orientation persists."

One of the most obvious reasons for the lack of concentration

upon women has been the difficulty of obtaining such data by males.

The nature of Latin American social structure inhibits collection of

data regarding women, especially in terms of real behavior, and the

difficulty of researching "female culture" has been remarked upon by

various observers. Redfield and Villa Rojas (1964:68) also have

noted, "as in so many places, in Chan Kom a woman's sphere is about

the home and her activities are always private; whereas a man is

occupied in the field and forest and his activities are often public."

The typical male investigator is privy primarily to statements of

static ideal behavior and the perception of women's roles as seen

through the eyes of indigenous males and marginal females. It would

be difficult, if not impossible, for a male researcher to study the

real behavior of women.

Moreover, women anthropologists who have carried on field

research in Mexico have also neglected the role of women. June Nash

(1967) has analyzed witchcraft and homicide in an Indian village;

Claudia Madsen (1968), folk medicine; Laura Nader (1964), Indian

social organization and law; Lola Schwartz (1962), conflict and

violence; while Elsie Clews Parsons (1966) and May Diaz (1966) have

completed more traditional community studies. These women have had

access to material unavailable to male researchers; for example, Diaz

(1966:88) notes that in Tonala women are often the actual household

head while men claim this to be utterly groundless. Yet in order to

understand their lack of focus upon women one must consider the

Notes are included at the conclusion of each chapter.

intellectual climate which characterized American scholarship until

recent years--a concept which might be inferred from the nature of

male-female roles in the United States. To be a professional, a woman

was always expected to prove that she could do a "man's job." The

female anthropologist was required to study and investigate areas

which would prove her worth as a professional; these areas almost

invariably were prescribed by what men had researched. Thus the

woman in the field found herself spending much time with men and could

devote little attention to the study of women's behavior.

Selection of the Community

The selection of the village chosen for this study, Cajititlan,

Jalisco, Mexico, was no random choice, for axiomatic to much traditional

ethnography is the proposition that the researcher must investigate the

total community, analyzing the functional dependencies of the varying

institutions. Therefore if one wishes to focus upon a limited aspect

of the social system, it is helpful to have at one's disposal an

ethnography which outlines the basic characteristics of the community

at hand; Nunez (1963a) has completed such a study for Cajititlan.

More importantly, however, is the fact that women's passivity

has often been seen as a complementary aspect of male machismo (Nash

1970:638). If this is indeed the case, then in an area which greatly

elaborates the cult of machismo one would expect to find women who

conform more readily to the passive role which is reported in most

community studies. Therefore to test the hypothesis that women's

behavior is not entirely determined by the passivity ideal, an area

with extreme elaboration of machismo seemed to be a better choice than

an area in which the phenomenon is more muted, such as a village with

a high residue of Indian cultural patterns. As Nunez (1963a:118)

reports, Jalisco in general and Cajititlan in particular, both evidence

a high incidence of real manifestations of the ideals of machismo.

The Village

Cajititlan is situated on a lake shore, located thirty-two

kilometers from the state capital, Guadalajara. Although it existed

as an Indian community before Spanish conquest, it is today a typical

highland mestizo village. In no one's memory or even recollections of

tales told by present-day old people's grandparents, was any language

spoken but Spanish. The Cajititlences are conscious of their Indian

heritage and sometimes refer to themselves as "inditos" (little Indians)

in a self-deprecating manner, particularly when talking about the

very educated of the city.

Although Cajititlan owes its municipal loyalty to the county

seat at Tlajomulco, relationships between the two villages have always

been remote and little thought is given, or few trips taken, to

Tlajomulco, which is difficult to reach, particularly during the

rainy season. Thus, Cajititlan has a long tradition of political


Rurales (rural police) were introduced to the community in the

early 1960's and were the first effective, modern-day, outside law

enforcement known to the community. They attempted to depistolize

the village and were somewhat successful for it is rare to see a man

openly carrying a gun on the streets. However the effect of the

rurales has been to encourage men to hide guns under their belt

buckles, and not necessarily to stop carrying them altogether. Ibreover

it is apparently thought that Cajititlan is now successfully "civilized"

since the rurales are absent from the community for months at a time.

During the period from September, 1971, to December, 1972, rurales

were in the village only five months. So Cajititlan has been able to

regain much of the political autonomy characteristic of the pre-1960's

era. There is now a movement afoot to create a new municipio (county)

with Cajititlan at its head. As Nunez (1963b:348) has pointed out,

"social control is a function of the church and public opinion rather

than of police or political authority."

The village, with a population of approximately 1800 with 350
households, is a typical highland, peasant community. Corns and beans

are the major crops and most men identify themselves as workers of the

land; fishing forms a means of livelihood for a few, although water

hyacinths sometimes clog the lake and cause a decline in the fishing.

Most other male occupasions can be classed as "service" positions to

the community and are often part-time endeavors, such as baking and

blacksmithing. Cajititlences retain a reverence for the land and

are proud of the ejido system which has, as one woman put it, "made

patrons [in this case, autonomous individuals] of us all." Like

other highland and peasant communities, Cajititlan is a nucleated

settlement, built around a plaza; the fields are located away from the

settlement itself.

Peasant communities never exist in a vacuum and always retain

a relationship with the city, in this case, Guadalajara. Guadalajara

has always been linked to Cajititlan by burro or horseback, but in

1960, a graded road was completed making Guadalajara much more accessible.

Ten years ago this road was paved and a local bus cooperative now runs

four buses a day to Cajititlan. The links between city and village were

further cemented by the advent of Mexican tourists into the town; they

purchased lots along the lake shore and often visit the community on

weekends. Cajititlan is by no means isolated from the city world.

There are now fifty-five television sets in the village which bring

the life of the city into the village; the Cajititlences tend to

believe that the soap operas and other programs represent the reality

of life of the urban rich. Folk tales are often used as morality

lessons and now villagers also employ stories from the soap operas

as examples of what happens to evil or cunning people. The city is

still viewed with distrust and the behavior of the city folk who visit

the community is distasteful to the majority of the local residents;

the urban children are thought to be unruly and disrespectful and

parents fear that their own children might be subject to untoward


Thus, although Cajititlan has been subject to a number of

outside influences in recent years, the villagers cling tenaciously

to their traditional life and values. They welcome the trappings of

the city and women are particularly thankful for electric irons and

gas stoves; yet they remain suspicious that the morals of the catrines

(city-slickers) are somehow poorer than their own.

The Format

One of the most difficult tasks facing the anthropologist is

the presentation of his data in a manner which will be both understandable

and readable. In The Little Community (1969), Robert Redfield discusses

various methods which can be used such as an analysis of the social

structure or a typical biography, and concludes that the method of

presentation is not as crucial as the end result--how the whole of

the community is presented to the reader.

In this manuscript, the approach employed is that of the life

cycle. As Moore (1973:2-3) has recently pointed out, this concept

is not new to anthropology and has long been viewed as a "thing,"

described in linear form. Thus the life of the individual is viewed

chronologically with attempts on the part of the writer to separate

various periods of life and to limit his discussion to the events

characteristic of each age. As Moore has stated,

...these various ages of man spin off from the meshing--
as of gears--of a number of differently timed human life
cycles coexisting within particular communities. The ages
of man spin off from the intricate cycling of three genera-
tions at once. The coming into existence of a generation
also creates generational statuses and life crises further
up the line. Birth and the various ceremonies that mark
it, such as baptism, must bear the weight of at least two
higher generations, whose status is thereby changed.

Thus, in the description of the life cycle to follow, one sees

not only the typical events of the varying stages of life but how these

affect the roles and activities of others within the context of the

household and the community. The chapter on early life, for example,

does not limit itself solely to a discussion of the activities of

children, but focuses upon the variety of female socializers who

influence the child, be they older sisters, mothers, or schoolteachers.

In order to make this presentation more vivid and understandable

to the reader, the technique employed involves the use of composite

vignettes of typical days in the lives of individuals as a vehicle

out of which the elements of life can be analyzed. Thus the reader

is introduced to three families from which one can discern varieties

in house type, household structure and the ethnographic details of

women's activities. Each typical day is analyzed from the point of

view of the main actor who represents a different time of life.

The first of these is Cuca Hernmndez who resides in a one-room

dwelling, built around a dirt compound, with a lean-to kitchen. She

is nine years old and lives with her nuclear family-her mother, her

father, her brothers Chema and Beto, and her nine-month-old sister,

Luz. This type of family arrangement is quite common in Cajititlan,

particularly when a couple achieves a full complement of children.

Cuca, at nine, is in the last stages of childhood,for children of

ten years of age start to exhibit characteristics of adolescents

in their activities.

Rosi Rodriguez, the second character, is sixteen years of age.

At fifteen, a girl in Cajititlan is considered to be of an age where

courtship is expected and, perhaps, marriage will soon follow; it will

become clear, however, that such a girl is not considered socially

adult. She, too, lives in a typical household of an extended nuclear

family type. Her older brother, Jorge, has recently married and he and

his wife share the household with Rosi, her two younger brothers, and

her parents. Her house has two rooms and a kitchen shared by all

family members; the economic contributions of Rosi, Jorge, her mother

and her father have allowed the family to improve upon the basic one-room


Finally, consideration is given to another type of family,

that of dona Lidia Morales, a fifty-year-old woman. Her house has

a formal tiled breezeway, three rooms, and two kitchens. She lives

with her husband, don Miguel, and her unmarried son, Rafael. The

compound is also shared by another son, Benito, and his wife and

child; they have a separate kitchen. She also has two married

daughters who do not live with her but who are often present in the


These three families demonstrate the development of a cycle

within the domestic group, resulting in the spinning-off of new

nuclear families from extended family groupings.

Oscar Lewis (1959:18) has argued that the presentation of a

typical day in the life of the family is a valid approach to the

understanding of social systems. With the use of such a technique

one sees not only the events of one day, but some of the earlier

influences upon the informant's life. In this manner, such a

presentation is similar to the life history methods employed by

Dollard (1938), Radin (1926), and others. Due to the limitations in

time and scope of the composite vignette method it more nearly approaches

the ethnographic profiles utilized by Warner and Lunt (1941).

There are major differences, however, between the present

approach and those mentioned above, with more similarity to the use

of such material by Warner and Lunt. Warner and Lunt profiled various

community members in Yankee City, these being used as illustrative-

of activities and people within the community; however the profiles

stood apart and little effort was made to co-join the rest of the

material with the profiles. Typical life histories and Oscar Lewis'

theoretically earlier approach of using the typical day as a tool,

require that the reader draw conclusions from the life experiences

of a few members of a community. In the present method, the composite

vignettes are used as vehicles from which various elements can be drawn

out and seen to be characteristic of women's behavior in general. Thus

each day is followed by a discussion of the variety of activities,

events, and critical episodes found therein.

The other major difference in this approach is that while

life histories are presented of actual individuals, the composite

vignette characters are fictionalized. While all events and personnel

are valid in terms of cultural norms, they do not represent the lives

of any one individual; thus although dona Lidia's strained relation-

ship with her daughter-in-law is entirely typical and their responses

are culturally patterned, there is no dona Lidia. The decision to

use this approach arises from the recent work of Barnes (1963) and

others who have been concerned with the ethical problems confronting

the modern-day researcher and how he can best protect his informants.

By presenting bits and pieces of many lives in Cajititlan, no one

can be offended for no one will be able to recognize himself. Other

illustrative material of a personal nature found in the body of the

discussions is similarly scrambled.

It might be argued that such scrambling results in a distortion

of real cultural events and personalities. That is, in presenting no

one's reality, no reality is present. The events marking the days

of the characters to follow are nevertheless typical. Moreover,

Robert Redfield (1969:166) has demonstrated that any attempt to

present ethnographic reality results in portraiture. He concludes

that since this is the case, "the work of historians and indeed of

novelists will not be entirely irrelevant to me." Although the

composite vignette method is, in a sense, a novelistic approach, it

is separated from the camp of fiction for it represents a means of

presenting ethnographic detail in the context of movement through

space and time. We do not merely learn of laundering techniques but

see how such activity is integrated into daily patterns; we learn not

only that children do this or that but how these actions are ordered

in a time sequence.

Besides presenting chapters on early life, adolescence, and

adulthood, with accompanying daily routines, one chapter is devoted

to pregnancy, childbirth, and early infant care. These events are

considered by women to be extremely important and are also significant

in terms of the changes that they mark in the status of women.

In the concluding chapter, a summary of the achievement of

adulthood is presented, as well as a summary of divergence from ideal

roles. Events in the life cycle, marked by ceremonies such as baptism,

marriage, and death are analyzed as a means of demonstrating regulating

principles in the life of women--segregation by sex and cooperation.

Finally it is demonstrated that all non-passive behavior by women

cannot be explained merely in terms of divergence from ideal patterns

but that other factors, mainly situational, must be taken into account.



'See, for example, Nunez (1963a:119) who writes about his
problems in gathering data on women: "One factor which must be
taken into the researcher, being male, had
considerably less opportunity to observe and interact with women."

2The statistical data of this study were collected in a town
census carried out by this researcher and two field assistants.
Marriage records were made available by the town mayor.



Vignette One

The church bells, signaling that early mass will soon begin,

awaken Maria de Refugio (Cuca) Hernandez; she crawls from her petate

(straw mat) bed, being careful not to awaken her brothers, Jose Marfa

(Chema), eleven, and Roberto (Beto), three, who share the bed next to

hers. She has slept in her slip and pulls her dress on, stepping into

her sandals beside the bed. For Cuca, another day has begun.

Outside she hears the stirring of early morning and runs to

the kitchen where her mother stands at the hearth making tortillas.

Cuca has not yet mastered this art but begs bits of masa (corn meal)

from her mother to practice. Cuca's father, holding the nine-month-old,

Luz, looks on, teasing Cuca. Yet she takes pride in the fact that she

has advanced somewhat for, not too long ago, her efforts were invariably

fed to the pigs. She still must endure some teasing within the family

for her tortillas, instead of being round and light, are lumpy and

ill-shaped; the Cajititlences refer to these poor facsimiles as huaraches

(sandals) but all realize that tortilla-making takes much practice.

Her activity is short-lived, however, because her mother tells

her to start her daily chores; Cuca grumblingly agrees although she

would prefer to stay in the warmth of the kitchen. She finds the

broom, hidden in a corner of the kitchen, and begins to sweep out the

dirt compound, pushing the debris onto an old metal Pepsi-Cola sign

which she empties into a vacant lot across from the house. This

finished, she fills a bucket from the house's only faucet and

sprinkles the earth floor with water to keep down the dust.

She can hear Beto and Chema now playing and tussling in the

bedroom. She enters the room, where the whole family sleeps, and

finding trousers and a shirt helps Beto get dressed. Her mother

calls and she scurries to learn what she wants; Cuca must go to the

local cafe and buy a half a kilo of chicken. Carrying a metal plate

she sets out for the several block walk, greeting those she passes

and stopping to chat with one of her cousins. Today she carries

no money for the chicken must be bought on credit but Cuca has been

conducting money transactions since she was four years of age; now,

at nine, she knows what everything costs and how much change to


The chicken bought, Cuca hurries home to breakfast on beans

and tortillas and change her clothes for school. Today is Monday

and the school uniform, a blue skirt and overblouse, with a white

blouse, must be worn, each and every Monday. She attends the state

school for girls and is in the third grade, after having spent two

years in the first grade; Chema is in the fourth grade at the boy's


The family eats hurriedly and her father leaves for his

fields. Cuca rapidly washes the dishes in the lavadero (a wash basin),

using cold water and a stiff brush. She runs to change her clothes for

school starts at 8:00 a.m.; there is no clock in her house but she can

hear other children as they pass by her house on the way to school.

Grabbing her plastic bag, filled with the books supplied by the

government, she calls a good-bye to her mother and younger siblings

and sets off for school.

She meets her school companions along the way and, laughing

and chatting, they form quite an entourage by the time they reach

the plaza, by which the girl's school is located. The bell rings

just as Cuca and her friends arrive and there is a mad scramble to

get to the classrooms and into the seats. Cuca's teacher, a young

woman who commutes from Guadalajara, calls the class to order but it

is a few minutes before the class of thirty-four girls settles down.

The night before all were to have memorized a portion of one of their

texts which deals with the life of Benito Juarez; the teacher asks if

all are prepared and no one indicates that she has not learned her

lesson. The teacher, leading the class, begins to recite the lesson;

few join in but the short paragraph is practiced until all are loudly

chanting the lesson along with the teacher. Then the teacher asks

questions about the material; when Cuca is called upon she rises and

gives the correct answer, feeling proud of herself, and knowing that

the class would have laughed had she been wrong.

The teacher then begins to put long-division problems on

the blackboard and each student is told to copy the problems in her

notebook, and to solve each one. While working on the problems, Cuca

cannot resist the temptation of talking with her seat-mate, Elisa,

and the teacher scolds them; Elisa and Cuca are made to stand beside

their seats and are told that they must work the problems at home

that night. Cuca worries for she fears that her monthly report card

in which they are graded on application, conduct, and cleanliness,

will reflect this reprimand. She is soon saved from the punishment,

for at eleven o'clock the bell for recess is rung. The teachers all

congregate in another classroom and set out a table filled with sweets;

Cuca buys four pieces of candy with her veinte (a twenty-cent piece,

worth under two cents, U.S. currency), and runs outside to play with

other students. She joins a circle game playing with pupils from all

the grades; some girls run around aimlessly while others sit quietly

and sew. Although the recess is to last but thirty minutes, Cuca and

the other students realize that often the teachers enjoy their chances

at conversation and therefore recess often stretches to an hour, which

is the case today.

When the bell rings again, the children line up according to

grades; this takes some time and Cuca and Rosita take advantage of

this to push and shove each other. Then the school director announces

that they will practice the Mexican National Anthem, which they do

until twelve forty; the director leads and makes the students go

over various parts several times until she seems satisfied with the

results. Now only .twenty minutes remain of school for the day; Cuca,

along with her class, returns to the schoolroom where the teacher

gives them their assignments for the next day. The bell rings and

the students are dismissed, all running from the building.

Cuca, still remembering the scolding she suffered earlier,

does not dawdle on her way home, as is her custom. Her mother does

not even have to tell her to change her clothes today as she often

does. Chema quickly changes too and goes out to play while Beto cries

to go with him. Checma shakes Beto's hold upon his pants' leg and runs

out the door, yelling back that Beto is too young to play with him.

Cuca consoles Beto with the fact that she will play loterfa (a lottery

game similar to Bingo) with him, quickly setting out the cards and

beans used as markers; she must help Beto play the game since he still

cannot recognize all of the pictured animals and fruits by name.

Soon, however, Cuca's mother calls her to set the table and

help prepare the midday meal; her father has taken his meal with him

to the fields and is not home. Cuca, after finishing these chores,

is sent to find Chema who is playing at lassoing a dog while riding

a stick horse down the street from the house. The meal, consisting

of rice, chicken stew, and tortillas, is eaten quickly, while Chema

teases Cuca about her boyfriends; Cuca denies having such ties and

states uncategorically that she will never marry. Her mother laughs

at the uncomfortableness shown by Cuca, but does not enter in.

After the meal, Chema again leaves the house to play while

Cuca clears the table and washes the dishes; Luz is played with by

her mother while Beto hangs around his mother's knee. Cuca returns

to play with both Beto and Luz and is allowed to hold Luz for a

time. All then follow the mother into the bedroom for Luz needs

changing; although Cuca cannot accomplish this task as quickly as

her mother, she begs to do the changing. At first her mother demurs

but finally relents and Cuca busies herself with this task while Beto

runs between Luz and the mother, trying to call attention to himself.

It is October and each weekday of this month finds the church

bells signaling classes in Catholic doctrine around four o'clock. All

the children in Cuca's family attend these classes except Luz, although

Cuca and Chema have already made their first communions and Beto is

too young to learn much. It is common for a child to attend these

classes at four years of age but Beto has lately been allowed to go

with Cuca. Upon hearing the bells, Cuca's mother reacts quickly,

telling Cuca to wash her face and hands and those of her brother,

and to be careful to wet her ear lobes, thus avoiding a cold. While

Cuca does this, the mother again runs to the door to call for Chema,

who reluctantly returns to the house. Cuca and Beto set off for the

classes, held in the parochial school, a few minutes before Chema,

who arrives late. Beto accompanies Cuca to a class for post-first

communion children, the same class to which Chema now runs. Classes

are held every Thursday, except for October, and Chema wishes to

attend during this month since each attendance is rewarded by a

ticket which he can use at the end of the month to buy food and

drink at a fair. The children are chanting the responses to the

catechism,and Chema adds his voice to that of his sister and all the

others in the room. The class is dismissed in about an hour, the

children growing progressively more restless as the class continues,

exhibiting the same restlessness with which the class commenced.

Cuca and Beto return to the house while Chema again goes out

to play with his friends. As soon as they return, Cuca begins to-play

doctrinea" (doctrine class) with Beto. Today she tries to teach

him the Hail Mary, getting him to repeat lines of the prayer; Beto

cannot remember the lines although he can repeat them after Cuca,

and Cuca does begin to lose patience with him while she imitates in

voice and manner the nun she has listened to for the last hour. She

goes to the door of the house compound and calls two small neighbors

over, inviting them to play school. Again Cuca takes the role of the

schoolteacher, scolding upon occasion. Finally as the children tire

of this game, Cuca suggests that they play house. Cuca is the mother

while she appoints Jose, a five-year-old from across the street, to

play the role of the father. Even here she is the authority figure

and tells Jose how to play his role, directing him when to go to

the "fields," when to "return," etc.

Night is falling and Cuca, at the insistence of her mother,

turns herself reluctantly to her studies. She does not understand

part of the teacher's instruction and neither her father nor her

mother can help her. She grows increasingly more tearful as she

has problems with her work and finally her mother rebukes her,

telling her she should have started working earlier. Finally she

completes the work, or, at least, calls it complete. She sits

around with the family for a while, as they all chat together about

their day; Cuca and her mother embroider.

Around nine, Cuca's mother sets out a cold supper of bread

and milk; Cuca joins her, helping. Beto, Chema, and Cuca eat first,

the kitchen being lighted by a petroleum lamp. They return to the

bedroom while Cuca's father and mother eat. Soon it will be time

to sleep and Beto is already ready for bed. Cuca and Chema wait

awhile, arguing and playing together, but they finally take off

their clothes and crawl.into bed. Cuca thinks briefly of what she

will do on the morrow, before sleep overtakes her.

In this day, we have seen Cuca in interaction with her family.

She runs errands for her mother and performs chores within the house-

hold. Her domestic activities, then, center around the home but

carry her into the community. While she is subordinate to her

parents, she does have some control over her younger siblings and is

a socializing agent, particularly during play activity. Her domestic

responsibilities are usually performed at the behest of her mother;

she may, however, request to perform specific tasks.

By attending formal catechism classes, she comes into contact

with the nuns and is subordinate to them. Later, in play, she performs

a teaching role with her younger brother. In the class she practices

religious ritual and, by taking her brother along, exposes him to

religious training at an early age.

Cuca also participates in the formal educational system, coming

into contact with schoolteachers and other children of the community.

She receives formal instruction and plays in non-age-graded groups.

While she is in a subordinate position to the schoolteachers, she can

achieve some dominance in the playground.

Thus while her life is based in the home, Cuca moves into the

community to attend school, church, and to make purchases in the stores.

Discussion One

By analyzing the various elements of a day in the life of Cuca,

or any other child in Cajititlan, one can see the divergent influences

upon each life. Thus, we shall examine the roles of girls as socializers

and as the recipients of socialization. The major components of the

socialization task force, for both boys and girls, are females: older

sisters, mothers, teachers,.and nuns. Thus in considering the

socialization of children we are addressing ourselves to the varying

female influences upon their lives, in contrast to the influence of

males. First we shall give attention to the acquisition of skills or

tasks and how and where these are learned. Then the process of non-task-

oriented socialization will be examined. Religious training, on a

familial and extra-familial basis, will be the- subject of the third

section, while the influence of schoolteachers will follow. Finally

attention will be focused on play behavior and the practicing of roles

by children.

Acquisition of Skills or Tasks

In Cajititlan, little girls are taught or learn many skills

quite early in life. A girl will start to sweep and mop at about five

years of age, and will usually have practiced this for some time with

toy brooms, or even the adult instruments. She essentially teaches

herself through play. She also begins to run errands at about the

same age; if she is the oldest child in the home she will have followed

her mother around on errands while she will have done the same with

older siblings if she is one of the younger children.

Tasks such as washing clothes and ironing require greater motor

coordination. A girl of seven often starts ironing flat pieces, usually

with much advice and supervision by her mother or older sister since

there is danger involved in using the fire-heated irons. Washing

clothes, Cajititlan fashion, involves strength in the arms and hands;

a child of about eight starts helping her mother wash and mothers

usually show great patience in teaching this task for many of the

girl's early efforts must be redone because they are not clean enough.

It is also at this time of life that a girl starts actively helping

in caring for and socializing younger siblings.

It can be seen, then, that a small girl starts early in

learning the skills she will use during her entire lifetime. Boys,

on the other hand, have much more time to play. Among the poorest

families, little boys sometimes start gathering firewood at about

ten years of age, but most boys are not required to work about the

house or in the fields until about fifteen years of age. Thus, while

Cuca is helping around the house, her brother, Chema, has much more

free time, and he practices at carrying out "manly" activities such

as horseback riding, roping, and playing with toy guns.

The rationalizations for such discrepancies in task-oriented

socialization are many. First, schools interfere in field work for

boys since a man's working day often ends soon after school lets out,

and the fields are -often far away. Agricultural enterprise is arduous

work and the boys lack the strength to really aid their fathers,

according to informants. Most importantly, however, is the fact that

in Cajititlan, division of labor by sex is fairly rigid and little boys

do not learn what are considered to be feminine tasks. Both boys and

girls spend much time with their mothers and the mothers, essentially,

know no tasks to teach their sons. Their daughters, on the other hand,

can help them with their work. An example might clarify this matter.

Boys sometimes serve as functional "daughters" by running errands if

a woman has no available daughters; however this is considered a

woman's work and if there are any daughters in the house, they are

called upon; in the .same manner, a boy might help with the sweeping.

Other tasks such as washing and ironing are considered solely the

work of women and girls, and a woman without daughters would not

request such work from her sons.

Moreover, it appears that little girls actually welcome the

learning of domestic tasks. They see their older sisters and mothers

performing in this manner and desire to do likewise. It might be

noted that as a girl grows older she becomes more likely to resist

working, perhaps only because the newness has faded and drudgery has

set in.

It is additionally important to mention that the learning of

these skills is crucial to the girl's later ability to function as

a woman, particularly in such crucial tasks as sewing and tortilla-

making. Both require practice and perseverance and a girl who can

perform well in these areas is spoken of highly and continually praised.

Mastery of these arts will later be a source of pride to a husband,

and lack thereof will cause him shame. While men often brag that

their womenfolk make the best tortillas, the reverse can also hold.

Thus dona Carolina, a respected elderly woman, recounted a particularly

embarrassing time in her life, as follows:

When I was just married, I was still [floja] lazy
because I had not gotten accustomed to getting the
tortillas ready to send to my husband in the fields.
I soon learned that the tortillas I sent had to be
almost perfect in appearance. If the tortillas were
too large or too thick, the other men would throw my
husband's tortillas in the fire, telling him that the
tortillas were good only for tinder. This caused him
great shame and when he recounted this to me, I, too,
was greatly ashamed. I started to get up earlier in
order to have time to make better tortillas.

Thus the young girl learns that to become a woman she must

continually practice the tasks which she will carry out for the rest

of her life. She busies herself running errands, making tortillas,

sewing, washing, ironing, etc., and, perhaps most importantly, she

cares for her younger siblings, teaching them the things which she

has learned.

Non-Task-Oriented Enculturation

A child is born into an already established group, his house-

hold. Usually his first two years are spent in much physical contact

with his mother, and he is the center of attention. Discipline tends

to be lax and he is pampered by all family members; thus Luz, Cuca's

sister, is paid much attention by her mother, father, and siblings.

As long as she remains the youngest family member, she will not be

deprived of this affection. Much will change, though, if her mother

again becomes pregnant.

Infants in Cajititlan used to be fed on demand but now most

mothers feed their babes every three hours. If the mother does not

become again pregnant, weaning is a gradual process, usually occurring

between twelve and eighteen months of age. When a woman becomes

pregnant, however, her milk dries up. Women believe that the mother's

milk is actually blood and that the reason a woman's milk dries up is

that the blood is now going to form a new child.

Weaning, when carried out abruptly, is believed by all to be

traumatic to the child. Such children become angry, get sick, run fevers,

and cry. Women who must wean due to another pregnancy, and those who

are merely weaning their children because it is time, use the same

methods, although, in the latter case, they do it more gradually.

Z bila (aloe) is rubbed into the nipple and its bitter taste discourages

the child; mothers also hide from their children and ridicule them.

Bottle feeding is becoming more common and such children are generally

allowed to keep the bottle until they themselves grow tired of it. Even

here, however, ridicule might have its part to play, as Marfa Felix,

a thirty-year-old mother, explained happened with her child:

When Rosa Alba was four years of age, she still used
her bottle, carrying it with her everywhere. One day she
was in our store when don Mingo came in. He looked at her
and said, "Why are you drinking chichota de puerco [pig's
milk] because that's what's in your bottle." Alba never
drank from her bottle again, throwing it to the floor on
the spot.

Usually a child's attempts to continue nursing are the subject

of glee, for the children often show imagination in their efforts to

continue to nurse. Women, when gathered in groups, enjoy telling of

these experiences. For example, one informant told unceasingly of

her son's increasing attempts to cajole her into allowing him to nurse.

He would follow her around with a chair he could hardly carry, saying

in a cooing voice, "sientate, mama, sientate" ("sit down, Mama, sit

down"). In spite of the joking manner with which this matter is

treated post hoc, all women agree that weaning is a critical and

dangerous time in a child's life. Often, in addition to the afore-

mentioned difficulties that a child encounters, he will develop

sfpil, reported elsewhere (e.g. Foster 1967:128) as chfpil. This

disease is caused by jealousy and the symptoms begin when the mother

is pregnant, becoming more acute with the birth of the new child.

The most characteristic symptoms is "aching fingernails," inferred

by the fact that children affected by this disease worry their hands

together; other symptoms include headaches, chills, fever, and diarrhea.

Children are known to die of sfpil. Informants believe that the symptoms

become aggravated at the birth of the child because the child then sees

his mother giving active affection to another youngster. Mothers

realize that one of the best ways to fight this infirmity is to give

the older child attention; thus some of his anxieties about no longer

being the center of attention are eased. Another common cure is to

sew a red shirt for the child who, on wearing this shirt, will become

happy due to its bright color.

At any rate, weaning is the first occasion upon which the child

in Cajititlan becomes almost totally frustrated. Naturally enough some

discipline occurs before this time,for children must learn not to touch

hot objects or to play with other dangerous objects. Many mothers hold

their children over hot stoves and put their fingers close enough for

them to feel some pain, thus showing the children that such behavior

will result in distress, while explaining the dangers of fire at the

same time.

The care and patience women often show in teaching children

about danger is excerpted from field notes, as follows:

Today I was on the way to get my mail when Bertha,
the daughter of Juana Sebastian, came over and asked me
if matches would burn a person. She was playing with
Lourdes, the daughter of Fernanda Perez, who had found
a box of matches. I explained that matches could burn
and showed them a scar I had on my finger, telling them
it was from a match. Unfortunately, there was sun in
my eyes and as I talked with the girls I had one eye
closed. Lourdes said I wasn't telling the truth because
I was winking. I thought I had finally convinced them,
and then I went on.

On the way back, Bertha ran back when she saw me,
telling me that they were getting ready to burn the
matches. I gave them another lecture when Fernanda
apparently heard me talking and came out to investigate.
I told her the situation and she said, "Who has matches?";
Bertha held up both her hands to show that they were
empty. Then Lourdes held out the evidence. Juana
lightly hit Lourdes' hand and explained, very soothingly
I thought, why they shouldn't play with matches. She
said that they would strike the match and then it would
burn their fingers. Then they would drop the match on
their clothes and start these on fire. She told Lourdes
that whenever she found matches, she should give them
to her. Then she thanked me and I left.

Although corporal punishment is sometimes meted out, threats

and ridicule are the most common means of controlling a child. Spanking,

while not rare, is much less common than the threat of tres nalgadas

(three hits on the buttocks). The child is also threatened with

having a hypodermic injection, being sent away, or being taken away

by the devil or the gringa who also happens to be the local anthropologist.

Ridicule, as mentioned in the case of weaning, is by far the most

frequent way of disciplining children. When a child goes into a rage,

for example, his mother will tease him, calling him a chillon (cry baby),

or the like. Children are shamed as a means of cajoling them into doing

what the mother wishes.

Religious Training

There are three major agents in the socialization of children

in the religious sphere: mothers, older sisters, and nuns. The mother

is the first agent, for children are taken to the church at a very early

age, and mothers start telling their children about God and the Virgin

even before the children can talk. Mothers cross their children before

the children learn to cross themselves.

One mother explained the manner in which she taught her children

about religion:

Pointing to the crucifix in the church, I would say,
"alla esta tu papa, diocito" [there is your Papa, little
God]. Pointing to the Virgin I said, "there is the little
Virgin, she is your other mother." Then I taught my
children to ask God for bread, saying, "ask your Papa for
bread." Then my children learned to hold out their right
hands, just as they did when asking me for bread.

Usually children master the "Our Father," the "Hail Mary,"

and the Confiteor in their homes. Older siblings often delight in

corrupting their mother's attempts to teach these prayers, instructing

the child in parodies. One such goes as follows: "Santa Marfa, mata

a tu tfa. Dale de palos, hasta que se rfa" ("Sainted Mary, kill your

aunt. Hit her with a stick, until she laughs.") In spite of this

tendency, older sisters almost invariably spend much time helping

their younger siblings master religious material; often this takes

the form of play which was seen in the case of Cuca with her younger


Beto, because he has an older sister, attends catechism class

at the age of three; most children begin at about age four. These

classes represent the child's first sustained contact with non-kin members,

nuns and adolescent girls of the community who lead the classes.

These classes also demand a degree of quietness up until now only

expected at masses. The classes are held each weekday during the

month of October and every Thursday during other months. The most

important role, according to the Cajititlences, is to prepare children

for making their first communion, although post-communion children also


Baptism marks the earliest rite of passage for a child, yet

the first communion is the first time that the child actively

participates in, and is cognizant of, a rite of passage. When the

child reaches proficiency in reciting the answers to the catechism,

he is eligible to take his first communion; the vast majority do

this at a special mass held on Christmas eve, and are ideally around

seven or eight years of age. A godmother or godfather must be chosen

(godmothers for girls and godfathers for boys). Generally the child

is allowed to select his godparent although parents have a veto power

and can avoid forming a fictive kinship tie if they do not wish to.

The godparent is responsible for furnishing a rosary, prayerbook,

and sometimes, the special outfits worn--long, white dresses for girls

and blue trousers and white shirts for boys.

After the first communion, the child's status is altered for

he begins to participate actively in the religious life of the

community. Each year on January fourth, during the fiesta in

celebration of the Three Kings, all girls who have just made the

first communion march in the processional, two abreast, in their

white dresses. For several years afterward, girls continue to wear

this ceremonial clothing on specified occasions. Each night during

the month of May, women of the town sponsor masses each night for

La Purfsima (the Immaculate Conception); girls are expected to don

first communion dresses and offer flowers to the Virgin. June is

set aside for a similar celebration for the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

During this month boys offer flowers; they do not wear communion

attire but wear a red band across their chests. Both boys and girls

do this each year until about age ten. This is explained by the

Cajititlences in a very pragmatic fashion: the girls outgrow their

dresses and the boys would be embarrassed to continue participating

after the girls of their age have stopped.

The importance of these activities lies in the fact that

children now become more active participants in village life, with

responsibilities to the community. This foreshadows the type of

religious participation which will be expected of them throughout

their lifetimes. It is important to note, however, that boys are

participating in a female endeavor, thus symbolically emphasizing

the strong tie that boys develop with their mothers. The period

between the first communion and ten years of age can thus be viewed

as an "apprenticeship" of sorts; it is perhaps no coincidence that

at age ten boys no longer sit with their mothers at mass, but move

over to the men's side of the church.

Thus it has been shown that religious training is an integral

part of the child's enculturation, and his first real instruction by

non-family members, the nuns. It is in the religious arena that the

child first leaves his family and begins to develop a sense of

responsibility to, and participation in, the community at large, for

in a very real sense the community-level ethos is stringently tied

to the Catholic religion as it is practiced in Cajititlan.

Formal Education

It will be recalled that Cuca attended the state school for

girls, her teacher was from Guadalajara, she participated in singing

patriotic songs, and was disciplined. These items represent some

elements of schooling, evident in Cajititlan, and discussed more fully

in this section.

Cajititlan has three schools, serving grades one through six.

Two are state-supported schools, one for boys and the other for girls,

while the third is the parochial school and taught by nuns. There is

much disagreement in town about which type of school is superior, for

parents who send their children to parochial school cite the fact that

the nuns are better teachers and, besides, religion is taught, while

their opponents claim that schools which are sexually-segregated

are better and that the state schoolteachers are superior.

Although education is technically obligatory, only about

80 per cent of Cajititlan's children attend any school at all. There

is no one to enforce school attendance and absentees are frequent.

People claim a number of reasons for not sending their children to

school. Many say they simply cannot afford it; state school education

is avowedly gratis but collections are always being made for one thing

or another.

Most feel, however, that formal schooling is more necessary

for boys than for girls, particularly above the sixth grade level where

a student must live in Guadalajara with relatives or take a bus in

each day. There is a belief that beyond reading, writing, and doing

figures, a girl's education is wasted since she is being educated to

belong to another family. That is, when a girl marries she often

goes to live with her husband's family, thus removing herself as a

source of income for her own family. School statistics indicate

that this is indeed the case since about twice as many boys finish

the sixth grade as do girls, and, of those who finish, twice as

many boys will go to secondary school, although this represents

a very small percentage of the school population.

Yet most children do receive some years of instruction, some

starting school at five or six years of age while others do not

start until ten or eleven. Most are sent for one year of "practice"--

learning to sit still, learning to obey the teacher's instruction,

etc.--and are not expected to pass the first grade; this is partic-

ularly the case with the very young students. This causes enrollment

in the first grade to be very high, some classes reaching over one

hundred thirty, with only one teacher.

Most students do eventually learn the rudiments of reading,

writing, and arithmetic. Perhaps more importantly they find themselves

in a more sternly disciplined environment, and are taught cooperation

with others. Almost all of the teachers come from Guadalajara and the

students are thus faced with a view of a life unlike that of their own.

Finally, just as in the religious sphere children begin to develop a

sense of their own community, in the schools they begin to develop

feelings of Nationalism.

The type of discipline present in the classroom depends on

the training of the teachers. Ridicule is the oldest form of

discipline known in Cajititlan; in the past children were made to

wear fake donkey's ears and kneel in front of a window so passersby

could see that they had failed to do their lessons or had misbehaved.

This type of discipline seems to almost have completely disappeared

in the village. However the parochial schoolteachers still use some

physically punishing forms of discipline; for example, a child is

made to kneel and assume the position of crucifixion while holding

bricks or other heavy objects in his hand. The state schoolteachers

lean toward having children stand by their desks or in the corner.

Sitting quietly in one's seat, reciting lessons, lining up quickly

and efficiently is encouraged, and failure to do so might result in

a reprimand. Not doing one's homework is likely to result in

punishment. Thus, although the rules of the school game vis-a-vis

the home game are different, discipline is functionally analogous

since failure to do one's chores at home and misbehavior can also

result in punishment on the familial level.

The child is also taught in the schools to cooperate. Groups

of children are instructed in group dances to celebrate various

national holidays and the like. Thus the child learns more about the

requirements of group life. As will be seen in later chapters, women

actually must cooperate more frequently than men and, in this sense,

formal schooling could be considered more desirable for girls.

At one other level schooling is also, on a practical level,

more closely aligned with the reality of later life for girls. Girls

are taught elaborate stitches and practice their sewing in school; of

course this function could be performed solely within the household

but since this work is displayed at the end of the year, girls learn

to take more time and care. Boys, on the other hand, learn handicrafts

which they never practice in later life; it might be argued that manual

dexterity is thus learned, however, and this might be important in later


As was mentioned previously, one important contribution of the

schools is to imbue the students with the idea of what it is to be

Mexican. Schoolchildren participate in parades honoring national

holidays as well as religious processionals; they learn about their

country's history in school, and are taught to have pride in their

own nation. In these attempts the schools seem quite effective. The

school's attempt, plus that of religious celebrations honoring the

Virgin of Guadalupe, couple to teach national pride at an early age.

Formal schooling is almost entirely in the hands of the

schoolteachers, be they nuns or secular teachers; in the Cajititlences'

memory there has been only one male schoolteacher. Thus, in this

important area of socialization we again find that females predominate.

State schoolteachers view their roles as very important and

feel they have a great and beneficial effect upon their students. One

of the three Cajititlan-born schoolteachers agreed with their analysis:

When I started teaching in Cajititlan, very few children
wore shoes to school. But they started to notice how the
teachers dressed [empezaban a fijar en ellas], and now they
all wear shoes.

Other locals disagree with this point of view. The school-

teachers often wear mini-skirts or slacks and townfolk fear that this

will set a bad example. Even the parochial school is not free from this

taint since secular teachers are sometimes hired. One such teacher

dressed in mini-skirts and, according to informants, told unceasingly

of her boyfriends, instead of teaching; parents feared that this

behavior would adversely influence their daughters. In this case,

some of the mothers talked with the school director, a nun, and the

teacher was not rehired. Men leave attendance of school functions and

solution of academic difficulties to their wives.

In summary, in Cajititlan one finds a system of schooling in

which not all school-age children participate and, of those who do,

not all complete the six years. Education is viewed as more necessary

for men in the sense that it is more economically viable; it has been

suggested that, in fact, many of the activities learned by girls will

actually prove more useful in later life than those learned by boys.

In later chapters we shall examine the economic roles of women and

the practical training they must acquire in money management. Thus

it might be argued that practical mathematics, as learned in the

schools, is more essential for girls than for boys.

The schools do teach the young children formal group discipline,

and national pride. As in the homes, though, the role models are

women and young boys remain in close association with women.


Heretofore we have concentrated upon varying socializers in

the child's life and have mentioned that older sisters have an important
role to enact. Often with children Cuca's age, the role of the sister

as socializer takes the form of play; it will be recalled that Cuca

instructed her brother in the catechism in this manner.

We should now turn to an examination of the effect that such

roles have upon the participants. In order to do this we shall first

turn our attention to the type of play behavior engaged in by boys

vis-a-vis girls. Pre-adolescent girls tend to cluster in non-age-graded

play groups; thus recess at school finds older girls playing with

younger girls rather than with girls their own age. This foreshadows

the overriding importance of the mother role in this society.

In the homes, girls again play with younger children, often

siblings. If a girl has no younger siblings or needs more children

for her game, it is not uncommon for her to actively recruit other

youngsters from the neighborhood. In this manner, boys and girls of

other families, who have no older sisters, are incorporated into play

behavior at a young age.

Whatever the game, the girl in charge absolutely dominates.

She directs the players'movements through the game, as Cuca did with

her brother Beto and the neighboring children. Thus girls in Cuca's

position learn patterns of dominance over boys be they younger siblings

or neighbors, and the boys learn to submit. This anticipates the fact

that, within the home, women are often the real household heads.

Boys, above a certain age, tend to play in more age-graded

groups, although smaller boys are sometimes allowed to participate

in a junior role; boys' play usually requires physical strength and

muscular coordination. Girls begin to venture away from the house

at about four years of age while they run errands; boys tend to remain

house children until a later age. A boy of four might play very near

his house but seldom leaves the immediate area, unescorted. His entry

into the streets of Cajititlan usually takes some time, for a youngster

is often bullied by older boys. So until the age of nine or ten the

boy stays close to home, playing with older sisters or neighboring

boys and girls. Boys will, however, actively seek other activity

at six or seven years of age and sometimes their presence will be


By examining an incidence of play among boys, several themes

will become evident; the following is excerpted from field notes:

Today I observed some boys in play down the street.
Twelve of the boys, from ten to twelve years of age,
were mounted on stick "horses." A group of younger
boys would stand between the older boys and a small dog.
The younger group would start to run toward the dog,
thus making the dog run. As soon as the dog started up,
the other boys would follow, attempting to rope the dog
until one of them succeeded. Then the dog would be let
loose, and the whole process would begin again.

Thus one sees the role of young boys in play with older boys;

their status is definitely that of a junior partner. More importantly,

however, one can examine the type of play exhibited by boys. All games,

after the boy has left the dominance of his sister, involve practice,

not in the skills of agriculture or a trade, but in the elements of

machismo. Thus while girls continually practice the types of roles

and role-behavior of a skill nature, boys practice at being manly;

they play with guns, rope "cattle," etc. This type of play foreshadows

the development of the boy's ability to live up to the standards of

the cult of masculinity.

Thus, in examining play behavior, several motifs are evident.

Girls play at adult-women roles and in this play learn patterns of

dominance over males; males learn to submit. In later play, boys

practice manliness, rather than playing at their adult economic roles.

A distinction between public and private roles will become more evident

later, but mention should be made that this is also already manifest

in play behavior with all girls playing in the homes and older boys

playing in the streets.


When a child is born in Cajititlan his first childhood contacts

will be almost entirely with women. Within the household, people of

Cajititlan agree that it is the mother's prime responsibility to train

children, saying, "la primera educacion es de la mama" ("a child's first

education comes from his mother"). Fathers are away from the homes a

great deal and are apt to be distant when present; mothers, on the

other hand, lavishaffection and attention on their children. In the

school and religious sphere one again finds that all children spend

much time with women.

The amount of time passed with women is perhaps not as crucial

as the quality of the time spent, for women are charged with the very

real responsibility of training a child to become a functioning member

of society. Women teach children to behave in the Cajititlan-fashion.

Children must master habits and skills. In their homes they

learn to control bodily functions and to withstand the frustrations

of life; girls, in addition, learn chores. Female familial socializers

also begin their training on the religious level and this arena moves

the children away from the households and into the community sphere.

By participating in religious ritual, the child is thus incorporated

as a member of the community at large. School training, which is almost

entirely extra-familial, teaches children to have pride in their country


and thus incorporates them into an organizationally higher level.

Finally it shall be shown in later chapters that the patterns learned

in play will be of life-long importance.



Vignette Two

It is still dark when the church bells begin to ring on a

Sunday morning in Cajititlan. Rosa (Rosi) Rodriguez awakens when

her mother calls softly to her. She sleeps on a single bed while

her two brothers, Jose, ten, and Viviano, six, sleep beside her on

another bed in the room they also share with their parents. She can

hear her twenty-two-year-old brother, Jorge, and his wife, Bertha,

stirring in their room across the compound. The family quickly dresses

and leaves the house as the last bell rings for mass. Rosi and Bertha

take with them the sevillana (mantilla or head-covering) while Rosi's

mother carries the more traditional rebozo (shawl). Reforms in church

law to the contrary, it is still felt unfitting to enter the church

bare-headed. Many Cajititlences continue to prefer the earliest mass,

and Rosi's family is no exception. The early mass, which starts around

6:00 a.m., is thought not to interfere with the details of the day and it

is said that one feels closer to God in the early morning hours. Besides

this, any tourists from Guadalajara are more likely to attend the noon

or five o'clock mass and their presence is often considered disruptive;

the adolescent girls from among their ranks wear slacks, sleeveless

blouses, or mini-skirts to masses and do not show proper respect,

talking and laughing. The early mass is thought to "belong" to the

people of Cajititlan.

Rosi and her family hurry to the mass, Rosi hoping all the

while to catch a glimpse of Nacho Dfaz, her novio (boyfriend). She,

her mother, Bertha, and Viviano separate from her father and two

brothers at the door of the church and head for the women's side of

the church. They find a pew together and kneel, awaiting the priest.

Rosi takes this opportunity to glance at the men's side of the church,

searching for Nacho; not finding him she tries to turn her attention

to the more serious aspect of the religious service. Kneeling and

standing, praying and listening, she follows the service, with

difficulty. On the way to the church her mother rebuked her for the

length of her skirt, arguing that it was too short and Rosi remembers

this during the mass. She feels that she looks stylish in her

just-above-the-knee skirt and that her mother is old-fashioned when

she avers that short skirts are immodest. After all, her skirts are

much longer than those worn by many girls and the nuns have never

said anything to her when she goes to give catechism classes every

Thursday. She cannot understand why her mother does not realize that

times are changing.

As the mass ends and they leave the church, Rosi and Bertha run

to do an errand, after a brief conference with Rosi's mother. First

they go to the butcher shop and ask for a half-kilo of beef; Rosi pays

for the beef, but leaves it there. Then they go by their house to

pick up two buckets and a plate for the beef; since meat is in short

supply, Rosi's mother wanted them to get the order in immediately.

They walk to dona Augustina's cafe where they leave one of the buckets

to be filled with charcoal for cooking; then they walk across town to

purchase four and a half liters of milk from dona Lupe Huerta whose

husband keeps cows. Retracing their steps,with Bertha carrying the

now heavy bucket of milk, they return to pick up the carbon (charcoal)

and pay for it and to collect the already paid for beef. Rosi looks

longingly at the carnitas (fried bits of pork) now cooking in a big

tub in front of the butcher's and wishes that they were going to have

some of that; at thirty pesos a kilo ($2.40 U.S.), however, the meat

is too expensive and is sold mainly to the Sunday tourists.

Rosi is pleased that six months ago her brother married Bertha.

Sunday morning tasks used to take much longer, for Rosi, as the only

daughter, had to make several trips back to the house in order to

carry all of the purchases. Besides this, she enjoys talking with

Bertha as they hurry through the cobblestoned streets,for errands are

no longer the lonely tasks they were earlier. Now as the town is

beginning to wake up and all are enjoying the sounds of the animals

and the early morning cool, Bertha and Rosi start home. Rosi again

thinks briefly of how lucky the whole family is that Bertha has fit

into the family so well; she knows that many families have in-law

problems when a new daughter-in-law is introduced but, from all Rosi

can see, Bertha and her mother get along very well.

They return to the house, loaded down with their purchases,

laughing and joking. Rosi talks with Bertha often about her boyfriend

and today is no exception as she speculates aloud about why he was not

present at the mass. Bertha suggests that maybe Rosi and Nacho stayed

up too late last night, talking at the compound door, and that, for

this reason, Nacho was too flojo (lazy) to get up this morning. Rosi

admits that they did talk from ten to eleven o'clock but argues that

she was able to get up; then Bertha suggests that Rosi should find

another suitor who is not lazier than she is.

As soon as they enter the house, however, they stop talking

about such things, as Rosi's mother asks what they were laughing

about. Bertha and Rosi both know that Rosi's parents are aware

that she has a novio and probably know who he is; it would be

unseemly, though, to talk about such things to one's mother, and all

play a game of ignorance.

As Rosi's mother starts a fire for the tortillas, Bertha lights

the two-burner gas stove to boil the milk, and Rosi begins to sweep.

Rosi's mother remarks on the priest's avowance that since this is

Sunday no one should work. All laugh as Rosi's mother further explains

that since the priest is a man he means that only men should not work,

since all know that women work every day of their lives. Bertha

suggests that they refuse to work today and let the menfolk starve,

sending the three into gales of laughter. Jorge and Rosi's father,

Donato, have remained behind in the plaza to drink tequila and chat

with their fellow townsmen; they will follow the priest's advice and

not go to the fields today. One soon hears the sound of tortilla-making

as Rosi works at the metate and Bertha and Rosi's mother pat out the


The men return around 9:00 a.m. just as breakfast is ready;

Viviano has been amusing himself in the compound and Rosi is sent to

find Jose who is out playing. She finally locates him and scolds him

for not coming home to eat, imitating in style and manner the tone

of her mother's rebuke about her short skirt, now almost forgotten.

Jose begins to pout and Rosi puts her arm around him as they return

home, in order to console him. Breakfast is eaten and Rosi washes

the dishes, her mother clears the table, and Bertha begins to make

all the beds. When her mother goes to feed the pigs, leaving Rosi

alone in the kitchen, she begins to think of how little work she has

now that Bertha is here to help with the household tasks. Being

the only daughter in a family is difficult but Rosi now realizes that

she has less work as her other friends, who have sisters, are getting

more work as their older sisters marry and leave their households.

She knows that Bertha, though, will soon comprar un nino (have a

child) and will not have quite as much time to devote; she looks

forward to this, however, since she will have an opportunity to

interact with the child who will be her first nephew and she thinks

about the time in the future when she will have children of her own.

She knows that her mother does not want her to marry soon and has

heard enough tales to make her wary of marriage. What if she can't

get along with her mother-in-law or her husband turns out to be a


Now, though, the early morning tasks are finished and the

three have a chance to sit and talk for about an hour before starting

the midday meal. Bertha says that she believes she will go see her

mother who lives but a few blocks away and perhaps help her with the

preparations for her own midday meal; Rosi is sorry to hear this for

she knows that this will mean more work for her. Yet Sunday is a

special day and one should remember one's family and visit with them.

Bertha comes from a family of five girls and her mother is now alone,

all of the girls having married; Rosi's mother has expressed her approval

on many occasions that Bertha should help her mother and has told Rosi

that she should do likewise should she marry.

Rosi suggests that she could sew for a while. Her mother

vetoes this idea since it is Sunday and Rosi is being paid to make

pillowcases for a girl in town who will soon marry; although the daily

work of cleaning the house and fixing meals is permitted, her mother

feels it would be unseemly to iron, wash, or sew for pay on the Sabbath.

Dona Clotilde, a very old widowed aunt of Rosi's mother, comes in and

is given a tortilla filled with beans; she has no children and visits

relatives who, taking pity on her, feed her. As d. Clotilde and Rosi's

mother chat, Rosi sits and listens, not entering into the conversation.

Rosi and her mother start preparations for the midday meal and d. Clotilde

shows no signs of leaving; Rosi realizes that the meat will have to be

stretched for her mother will invite her aunt to stay for dinner.

After the midday meal, Viviano begs for Rosi to play with him.

They play loterfa, but not until Rosi has helped with cleaning up the

kitchen. The day lingers on and Rosi wishes for nightfall and the

serenata (serenade),hoping her mother will allow her to walk with

the other girls around the plaza. Each Sunday she must beg to be

allowed to go and her mother sometimes consents; she remembers that

when she was a girl of nine or so there was never any question and she

was allowed to attend each time there was a serenade.

When Bertha returns from her natal household, Rosi enlists

her aid in convincing her mother that she should be allowed to go.

Bertha broaches the topic with Rosi's mother and points out that she

will go too and watch out for Rosi; Rosi's mother finally agrees

and as soon as it is dark Rosi and Bertha rush to change into dressier

clothes, heels, and stockings. They walk to the plaza with Jorge who

will join some of his companions at a local cantina. The plaza is

already crowded and Bertha goes to join other young wives and young

mothers who are sitting on benches around the plaza. Vivano and Jose,

who have also accompanied them, go to play with the children who are

running in and out of the groups of strolling adolescents. Rosi looks

for a group with which to walk and spots two cousins who are walking

around the plaza, counterclockwise. She takes one by the arm and they

start to stroll around, while groups of boys walk in the opposite

direction. As each group passes she looks for Nacho, and her cousins,

who currently do not have novios, flirt with each group; although

girls never flirt when walking alone around town, it is considered

quite normal to flirt when strolling with other girls. One boy

separates himself from his group and starts to walk beside Rosi's

cousin, Gemma. He chats with her for a while and, when Gemma doesn't

respond, rejoins his group when they next meet. Rosi briefly feels

sorry for Esther, her other cousin, who is sandwiched between Gemma

and Rosi, for Esther will have little chance of talking with a boy

tonight since she is not on the outside. Finally Nacho walks over

and, taking Rosi's arm, begins to stroll with her; Rosi does not

take her arm from Esther's since she knows that if she walked alone

with Nacho, there would be talk. As this pattern repeats itself,

the walk around the plaza gets more difficult for many groups of four

or even five abreast are now walking in the plaza. The smaller children

tease both boys and girls who are walking with each other.

Rosi is pleased that the serenade is now held every Sunday,

a practice which has occurred only in the last few years. Before

this time, the term "serenata" was used exclusively for times when

musicians played in the kiosk of the plaza, on holidays such as

Independence Day. Now, however, each Sunday adolescents join to

dar vueltas (make turns around the plaza) and the now misnomer term

of "serenade" has continued in use. Rosi's mother, among others,

does not approve of this situation since she believes that girls

use the opportunity to search out novios, which is indeed the case.

Younger people such as Rosi and Bertha like the idea and feel that

there is now more movimiento (movement, action) in town.

Around ten o'clock, Bertha comes over and tells Rosi that it

is time to leave. She briefly says good-bye to Nacho, knowing that

he will probably not meet her at the door of her house tonight and

will stay in the plaza and drink with his friends. She helps Bertha

locate Viviano and Jose and the four of them return home, leaving

Jorge in the saloon; neither she nor Bertha is worried about Jorge

since he has no reputation as a drunkard, although he does drink

to excess upon occasion. As a special treat, Bertha stops and buys

some tamales for their supper from a woman who sells them each Sunday

in the plaza. Rosi's mother is pleased when they return and they eat

the tamales with milk, chatting. The boys are very tired and go to

bed while Rosi, her mother, her father, and Bertha chat in the kitchen

and await the return of Jorge. When he enters the house, they all retire.


In this vignette, Rosi also interacts with family members,

as did Cuca. She performs chores both within and without the home.

She knows, however, what tasks are expected of her and usually carries

them out without being asked. While Cuca served as an economic

intermediary, merely making purchases, Rosi now has means to actively

earn money. W-iile still being enculturated by her mother, she has

a much more dominant role over her younger siblings. Her sister-in-law,

Bertha, treats Rosi almost as a peer, and Rosi has a confidential

relationship with her.

She also has an expanded religious role. By teaching catechism

classes, she interacts with the nuns and has sanctioned authority over

her pupils. By attending mass, she participates in religious ritual

but also views the mass as a social event--a chance to search out

her boyfriend.

In the Sunday evening serenade, we see Rosi's participation

in courtship and her interactions with other girls and her boyfriend.

She is chaperoned by her sister-in-law who assumes responsibility

for Rosi's actions, and Rosi follows the cultural forms prescribed

in the serenade.

Thus, Rosi, at sixteen, is tied to domestic and economic

activities within the home but does move into the community for

religious and economic purposes. The Sunday evening serenades also

provide a weekly opportunity to interact, publicly, with her novio.

Rosi, who has more responsibility, also has less opportunity to move

freely outside of the domestic circle.

Discussion Two

As viewed by the Cajititlences, adolescence is a difficult

period of time to define. The onset of menses, while recognized as

important in terms of a girl's ability to procreate, does not signal

any great changes in her behavior. It will be recalled that boys

begin to sit on the men's side of the church at about ten years of age;

this same age is also recognized as a turning point in a girl's life.

Before this time there are fewer constraints and a girl is relatively

free to leave the house alone at night to attend rosary services, make

purchases, and the like. At ten or so the process is reversed and the

girl is brought back into the home. Parents fear that a girl of ten

who roams the streets at night might be stolen away, even though she

is not yet pubescent. Thus there is a sense in which adolescence begins

at the age of ten.

However, the age of fifteen is formally recognized as marking

a change from childhood to adolescence in various culturally symbolic

ways. The female is no longer a nina, but is a senorita. Often the

birthday itself is the occasion of a formal party, marking this change

in status. During exercises led by the priest in the Lenten season,

all unmarried women, fifteen and older, meet together. Finally fasting

during Good Friday usually starts in the fifteenth year for girls even

though the priest cautions that only people of twenty-one years or older

must fast. Thus, Rosa, at sixteen, is a true adolescent.

This chapter will devote itself to a discussion of adolescence,

mainly confining itself to girls from the age of fifteen through marriage.

It will be seen that in a cultural sense, true social adulthood is often

not actually reached until a woman has a child, if she and her husband

then form their own household either by moving to another house or

constructing a separate kitchen within the household. The process of

achieving adulthood will be discussed later.

The socialization process continues in adolescence and will

be the subject of the first section. Next a description of the

increasing role which adolescents play in family life will be

presented. Then we shall examine the public life and community

participation of adolescent girls. Courtship and then marriage will

also be discussed.


Ten years of age is a crucial turning point for girls as freedom

of movement is withdrawn and they are no longer permitted to venture out

alone after dark. Little attempt is made to explain this change to the

girl and often pouting and even temper tantrums are the result. Partially

this can be attributed to the fact that sex education is virtually absent

in Cajititlan, and many adolescent girls have little knowledge of the

mechanisms of sexual intercourse, conception, and the like, since these

are thought to be unfit topics of conversation with unmarried girls.

There are ways employed to avoid the acquisition of sexual knowledge.

For example, although Cajititlan is an agricultural community and one

often sees animals mating in the streets and in the fields, conscious

attempts are made to shelter all children from witnessing these events.

Children are taught that younger siblings are purchased, and the most

commonly used assertion in Cajititlan when one person is informing

another of a birth is that, "Fulana compro un nino" (Fulana bought a

a child). Others are told that the stork or midwife brought the child.

The recent construction of the Guadalajara airport, some seventeen

kilometers from Cajititlan, provides an additional social fiction since

children are now sometimes taught that an airplane brings a baby. That

all children are not completely taken in by these attempts at obfuscation

is indicated in the following excerpt from field notes:

I was sitting at my window typing and could overhear
a conversation Conchita, a nine-year-old, was having with
another nine-year-old, Soffa; Soffa's mother had given
birth a few days before. Soffa announced this fact and
Conchita asked if she had caught a glimpse of the stork.
Soffa remarked, "don't believe that about the stork for
I noticed that my mother was panzona [big-stomached]
before she bought the baby and now she isn't." Conchita
did not reply and the conversation moved on to a discussion
of what they would do at school the next day.

In any case, children do not generally have a clear idea about

sex and what knowledge they have comes from peers. Little girls,

particularly, are taught to be extremely modest and children do not

normally see their parents or other adults nude. This modesty, taught

to a young girl, usually lasts throughout life, and does not seem as

strongly developed in men. For example though men seem to feel no

shame at receiving injections in the buttocks from women, many women

will not allow a male doctor to examine them, and, as one woman put it,

"I would never show my buttocks to a doctor."

These factors, taken together, make a girl's first menstruation

an oftentimes frightening occurrence. Women and girls often tell about

the onset of menses after the fact and describe their reactions--invariably

they speak in terms of fear although the stories take on an element of

humor in the retelling and women laugh about their lack of knowledge.

One's mother is sometimes consulted about this phenomenon but more often

the mother just realizes what has happened and then must instruct the

girl in the mysteries of menstruation. Thus, d. Teresa, a fifty-year-old,

explained her reactions to menstruation:

The first time I had my period, I was quite frightened
and thought, "my mother is going to hit me." I went to the
lake and washed myself and returned to my home. I was
terribly afraid, my mother could tell, and kept asking me
what was wrong. I didn't answer but my mother must have
guessed and persisted in asking me. I was sitting down
and the blood seeped onto my dress, and when my mother
saw this, I started to cry, begging her not to hit me.
My mother then explained that now I was a senorita and
that this would happen each month. She brought rags for
me to- wear and explained that at this time each month I
shouldn't eat beef broth, guavas, oranges, vegetables,
or cold beverages since these would make my stomach very
cold and make it hurt.

It is evident that it is the mother's responsibility to tell

her daughters about menstruation, after it has occurred; menstruation

is most commonly referred to as "la regla" ("the rule") or "la costumbre"

("the custom"), and is classed as a sickness; it is not uncommon to hear

a female aver, "me enferme" ("I got sick"), meaning that she is menstruating.

Usually, however, mothers tell their daughters as little as possible and

do not explain the relationship between menstruation and conception as

it is viewed in Cajititlan. (This view will be discussed in the chapter

on pregnancy and childbirth.)

Mothers do not take this opportunity to explain more about the

sexual process; the girl is told only about menstruation. She is cautioned

against the eating of tabu foods and told not to bathe during her period,

but there is no attempt to explain further.

Around eight years ago, a health center was built in Cajititlan

and attempts are being made by the local public health nurse, a native of

Cajititlan, to educate girls before the fact. Thus in 1971 she showed

a film about menstruation to thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls.

Most women of the town accepted this idea since they recognize that

it would be easier to know about such things before they happen.

They claim that it "gives them shame" to talk about such matters with

their daughters and are apparently just as pleased that someone else

is willing to take over this responsibility.

Yet even though sex per se is not a topic of conversation,

mothers do caution their daughters against men, and the evils of men.

While they are discouraged from having boyfriends, mothers at the

same time caution girls against being alone with their novios, kissing

or hugging them, particularly in public. Fear of public censure is

quite common in Cajititlan and a mother feels an obligation to protect

her daughters from public talk, as well as to protect their virginity.

In one case when a boy and girl were walking in town with their arms

around each other, the boy's mother took it upon herself to speak with

the girl. She explained that people might assume that something else

was going on and that the girl should be ashamed. In relating this

incident, she preferred the opinion that since the girl's mother was

obviously unconcerned about the girl's reputation as evidenced by her

failure to censure the girl, she felt she had a responsibility to do so,

particularly since she believed the girl was still a senorita (in this

case, a virgin).

Although the adolescent girl has usually mastered most of the

skills which will be necessary during her lifetime, as has been seen,

the major socialization efforts now focus upon her reputation and the

protection of her virginity. This causes additional problems for

parents in this day and time since due to the influence of television,

schoolteachers, and Guadalajaran visitors, girls now dress in shorter

skirts; it will be recalled that Rosi was rebuked by her mother due to

the length of her skirt. Changes in dress are viewed with alarm by

many Cajititlences for, in the past, the knees were always covered

and sleeveless blouses never worn. Mothers fear that immodest dress

is indicative that morals are now changing, although apparently few

girls are pregnant at marriage. The concern over such dress patterns

in adolescent girls and a concomitant development toward longer hair

in boys (which is actually much less prevalent than short skirts on

girls), led one Cajititlence to write a corrido (a poem which is

generally set to music), lamenting this development:

Reports del Pueblo de

Ano del cetenta y dos
Lo que les boy a contar
Se cumplen las profecias
El mundo se a de acabar

En las afueras del pueblo
de este Cajititlin
El diablo seaparecio
Viniendo con sierto plan

Sierto es que seaparecio
lo vieron barias personas
que traia unos documents
para llebarse la lista
de las mujeres Rabonas

Estaba Chema Tadeo
Platicando con don Cleto
que alos padres de familiar
lla se les perdio el respeto

Es un purito desorden
la gente de orden sefija
tan rabona anda la madre
como rabona la ija

I am going to tell you
About the year of '72
The prophecies are fulfilled
The world is about to end

On the outskirts of town
Of this Cajititlan
The devil appeared
Coming with a certain plan

Surely he appeared
He was seen by various persons
And he carried some documents
To take away a list
Of the short-skirted women

Chema Tadeo was
Chatting with don Cleto
Saying that children no longer
Respect their parents

There is complete disorder
While the proper people notice
That the mothers wear skirts as short
As the skirts worn by the daughters


El mundo lleno de visios
De delisias y placeres
que asta los Jobenes hombres
pues lla quieren ser mujeres

Barios andan lla a la moda
crellendose muy galanos
lla perdieron la verguenza
no son machos Mexicanos

Las mujeres de oy en dia
todas ponen mal ejemplo
Rabonas y sin reboso
asi se meten al temple

Los Jobenes de melena
todos iran a la guerra
por que se presumen la moda
que se inbento en ynglaterra

La moda entire las mujeres
siempre sebe en las charriadas
de asco berles las piernas
vien prietas y muy chorriadas

Las Jobenes coquetean
para que se siga su nombre
coquetas y resbalosas
lla fastidiaron al Hombre

El diablo se aparecio
lla lo bio este Gorgonio
a grenudos y rabonas
se las llebara el demonio

El castigo llegara
creo que no a de ser tarde
estos bersos con compuestos
entire su madre y su padre

por ai ba la despedida
caminando por el plan
estos bersos los compuso
un indito en alfabeto
del pueblo de Cajititlan

The world so full of vices
Of delights and pleasures
That even the young men
Well, now they want to be women

Many dress in the new style
Thinking they're quite dashing
But they've lost their shame
And aren't Mexican machos

And the women of today
Now set a bad example
Short-skirted and shawl-less
They even dare enter the temple

The long-haired youths
Will all go to war
Because they presume the style
That was invented in England

The style among the women
Is always seen at rodeos
With disgust, see their legs
Very dark and very dirty

The girls flirt
So their ill fame will continue
Slippery and flirty
They annoy men

The devil appeared
He was seen by Gorgonio
And he will take to hell
All the hairy men and short-skirted

The punishment will come
And I think it won't be long
These verses were composed
By your mother and your father

Now I bid you goodbye
Moving right along
These verses were composed
By an illiterate Indian
Of the village of Cajititlan

Although much public and familial criticism now centers around

girls who wear short skirts, the majority of the young Cajititlences

wear skirts just above the knee; older women acknowledge that the length

of their skirts has changed, too, and some do not attach grave importance

to this type of dress. Many argue that the ages between fifteen and

eighteen have always been particularly difficult for girls and that

girls of this age "don't think" or are "stupid." These ages are also

regarded as the most likely to produce pregnancy in unmarried girls

since the girl does not have the maturity to cope with a boy's advances.

For this reason, mothers claim they discourage their daughters from

having novios. Yet, although many mothers, such as Rosi's, argue with

their daughters about the length of their skirts, they assume that

tears and lack of patience with mothers are components of the maturation

process; this, according to many, cannot be viewed as any great cultural

change. One woman, a well-respected spinster, told of her early life

and the lives of girls today:

When I was young there were not as many dances or
serenades. Although you may not believe me, my mother
tried to discourage me from spending all my time in the
church; she knew that I only went to the masses in order
to walk through the streets and perhaps see my novio and
to chat with my friends in the church door. So when
people say that people were more religious in the past,
I laugh. We were not more religious for there was just
less movimiento. I only wish I were at the entrance of
life, rather than at the exit.

Thus adolescence is always viewed as a trying time and socializa-

tion continues throughout this period of a girl's life. Although she has

mastered all of the skills necessary, she does not have the full inventory

of cultural material at her disposal. She learns about menstruation, for

example, and her mother tells her what she needs to know about tabu foods

and the like. But she does not learn about sex nor pregnancy until these

situations are very real in her own life. Although she is cautioned

about boyfriends, little attempt is made to explain that which she is told

to fear. While she knows that some girls have offspring without having

been married, the mechanisms of conception are usually unknown. Thus

her education, though growing, is still incomplete.

Expanding Role Within the Family

Adolescent girls, such as Rosi, assume more and more responsibility

within the household as they grow older. Their influence on younger

siblings increases; for example, we have seen that Rosi has the right to

rebuke her younger brother, Jose. Often the girls assume an importance

close to that of surrogate mother, particularly when there is a great

difference in age between the adolescent girl and her younger siblings.

In addition to her daily chores, the girl is generally told what to do

by her mother, and, in this sense, she is not required to actually

assume responsibility, but to follow her mother's directions. It is

further assumed that a girl of this age is fully capable of running a

household in an emergency, even though she is not viewed as fully adult.

For example, if the mother is ill, dies, or must leave town for some

reason, the adolescent girl should be able partially to fill her place.

In one case, a girl of fourteen not only cooked, washed, and managed

the household, but also ran the family store, located within the house;

her mother was living in Guadalajara for three years while her brother

attended secondary school there. Another girl whose mother died when she

was sixteen, and whose father was already dead, reared six- and eight-year-

old brothers, taking in washing and ironing in order to support the family.

In addition to contributing to the socialization process of younger

siblings, girls of Rosi's age also often begin to help the family economi-

cally; fully 50 per cent of girls between the ages of fifteen through

nineteen find some means to increase the family's larder, while 60 per

cent of the young women between the ages of twenty through twenty-four

contribute economically. The household is the basis unit of the

economy and any earnings are given over to one's mother. Rosi, it will

be recalled, sewed for others whereby she increased the family's income.

Others make tortillas, wash, or iron for other people. Some few have

worked as servants in Guadalajara. Girls are encouraged to help

financially because the family can always use more money; more

importantly, the Cajititlences argue that then a girl will be known as

hard-working. Women who claim that they do not wish their daughters

to marry still maintain that it is important that a young woman be

known as hard-working, for laziness is a reflection upon the family.

Although no one will admit that they actively wish their daughters to

marry, it is felt that a hard-working girl will be more sought out as

a marriage partner and this will reflect well upon the family.

Thus adolescent girls have more important roles to play, both

in socializing younger siblings and in helping the family's economy,

than do younger girls.

Formal Public Life

Adolescence is a period of increasing participation in, and

responsibility to, the family; the same can be said of the adolescent

girl's obligations toward the community. Girls during adolescence

have a greater number of ritual roles than any other group, be they

men, women, or children.

It will be recalled that young boys and girls serve apprentice-

ships in the religious sphere. Adolescent girls proceed one step further

in that they have their own saint to care for--Saint Theresa. Each

year the girls of the town take up a collection to sponsor masses for

this saint; they are responsible not only for sponsoring the mass, but

for singing, organizing the processionals, hiring musicians, and buying

cohetes (fireworks). The group charged with this obligation is still

referred to as the "Catholic Action," a religious group that has held

no meetings for the past five years. Thus the adolescent girls of the

community carry on the traditions always associated with adolescence.

Informants explain that one of the girls always recalls the obligation

and, consulting with others, usually relatives, organizes the mass.

Adolescent girls are also apparently willing to assume

responsibility generally held by others in the past. The Commemoration

of Corpus Christi, along with many other religious celebrations, fell

into disfavor with a local priest some fifteen years ago; he believed

that the cargos were too expensive and prohibited their observance.

In 1970, the celebration of Corpus Christi was reinitiated. In the

past the various groups recognized in CajititlAn were each obligated to

decorate an altar: married men designed an altar with the crucifix;

unmarried men, the Virgin of Guadalupe; married women, Our Lady of

Refuge; and unmarried women were responsible for an altar to the

Saint Theresa and for an altar to the Christ Child, the representative

of boys and girls. Since the celebration was renewed, interest has not

been great, and during the past two years, only two groups have designed

altars--married and unmarried women. The married women have continued

to arrange an altar for Our Lady of Refuge, while the unmarried adolescents

have taken on the burden of arranging all of the other altars.

In cooperating in these endeavors, adolescent girls are learning

to accomplish tasks which they will perform during their entire lifetimes;

after marriage they will join with other women of the town in sponsoring

masses during the months of May and June. Cooperation will also be neces-

sary in the preparation of ceremonial meals at baptisms, weddings, and

wakes; adolescent girls also start to play a small part in this aspect,

although they have no directive role.

While in sponsoring masses they are learning to perform as

religious adults, adolescent girls also perform functions within the

religious community which are solely their own. It will be recalled

that Rosi teaches catechism classes and this is the province of

adolescent girls (and some spinsters). Yet few girls can participate.

in this at any one time. Girls of Rosi's age are also charged with the

sweeping of the church. The priest and the nuns draw up a list of

thirty groups with three girls in each group. The groups are then

assigned a day and each group is to sweep the church on that day on

the first, another on the second, etc. This job usually takes two hours

and is considered a solemn responsibility for unmarried girls between

the ages of fifteen and twenty. In the past, however, this was a mirror

of the responsibility given to married women (and often turned over to

unmarried daughters) of the community to sweep the atrium; the priest

has now hired women to do this since he claims that women would no

longer accept the obligation.

Adolescents also sponsor booths at local kermesses (bazaars)

used to raise money for the parochial or state schools; this has also

traditionally been the duty of members of the Catholic Action group.

The girls buy materials and turn over any profits to the schools. For

example, one girl might make sandwiches, set up a booth, and give the

money collected, minus her expenses, to the institution at hand. Others

sell beer, soft drinks, or other foods. Often these are held in strict

alliance with the church and boys and girls still attending catechism

class can purchase items with tickets they are given for each attendance.

Usually at such affairs the school or church will net some 200 to 300 pesos

($16 to $24, U.S.).

Adolescent girls are often called upon to play parts in other

secular and sacred aspects of community life. Each year one girl is

selected to take the role of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the acting

out of her apparition to the Indian, Juan Diego. Others serve as the

"Three Marys" who parade through the town on horseback, carrying the

standard of the Virgin of Guadalupe. During the fiesta season, honoring

the Three Kings, a different girl serves each day as the Virgin Mary

in the processional. Others dance or carry standards of the various

religious conferences in town. It would be unthinkable to the

Cajititlences that a married or non-virginal woman should take such

parts; the occasion is viewed with solemnity, and the part is considered

a great honor.

On secular occasions, adolescents also have important public

roles. During the Independence Day celebrations, a parade is formed

and adolescent girls ride on floats on the rear of pick-up trucks.

A queen and two princesses are also selected to "reign" over the

two-day festivities, held on September fifteenth and sixteenth.

These girls ride in the parade, are crowned, and then are publicly

seated on "thrones" (wooden boxes covered with bedspreads) during all

the various happenings of the independence celebration--competitive

games, dances, etc.

The position of queen apparently diffused into Cajititlan

around thirty years ago when men from varying parts of the republic

came to construct a canal for irrigation purposes; they convinced

local townfolk to follow the custom of electing a queen in Cajititlan.

A slate of candidates ran for the office and votes were bought; the

proceeds were used to buy the queen's dress and to defray the costs

of the celebration. During the past few years, however, the selection

of the queen has fallen into the hands of the town mayor, the president

of the ejidal organization, and those they wish to consult; unfortunately

the townpeople feel that the election system was far superior and,

consequently, there is sometimes difficulty in locating a queen.

Whomever is selected is criticized as being too old, too ugly, too

pompous, or the like, and many parents forbid their daughters to

accept the "honor." One year, recently, when a twenty-five year old

who was particularly disliked within the community was chosen as queen,

so much criticism ensued that her mother decided she should decline;

a new queen had to be selected some four days before the celebration.

Thus it has been shown that adolescent girls have many roles

in, and responsibilities to, the community, both in a religious and

secular sense. Besides taking important parts as Virgins and queens,

they cooperate to sponsor masses, help raise money, and teach catechism

classes. Although some adolescent males also participate in the

parades and processionals, they are much fewer in number, and they

do not have responsibilities for sponsoring masses within the

community until they have reached full social adulthood after marriage.


It has been remarked that mothers see adolescence as a difficult

time, when a girl's emotions are at their tenderest, but there is also

a sense in which adolescence is viewed, by adult and adolescent females

alike, as a fine time of life. Although the girl has increasing-tasks

within the home, she is still relatively free of the responsibilities

of adulthood; she need not concern herself with problems of an irrespon-

sible husband or a treacherous mother-in-law. She will spend much of

her time thinking of her novio, as did Rosi, and, like the current

adults, will probably remember courtship as the halcyon days.

Courtship is a time of intense romantic contact and an adolescent

boy often waits for hours outside a girl's window or door, hoping that

she will come to speak with him for a time. Notes or letters are

frequently exchanged, pledging undying love and devotion; the texts

for these letters are often copied from books and it is not uncommon

for a young man to search out a friend with excellent handwriting to

set down his (or the book's) words. The serenade, described in some

detail in Rosi's vignette, is the hunting ground for would-be Lotharios

and the place where those who have already become novios meet. Dances

are also frequent and happy is the young man who is allowed to dance

all evening with the girl of his choice, this being indicative that

she has accepted him as a novio.

The girl has the upper hand in courtship. If angered, she will

not come to the window, or will refuse to give her hand to her boyfriend.

The boy sometimes asks a female cousin to talk with the girl. When

either partner wishes to withdraw from the arrangement there are

culturally prescribed ways in which the bond is broken, a pattern

which foreshadows role behavior of adult men and women. A boy who

wishes to discontinue his relationship will stroll around the plaza

with another girl. Girls, on the other hand, generally say that

their mothers or fathers have learned of the match and feel she is

too young to have boyfriends; thus the boy's ego is spared somewhat.

This is highly suggestive that the adolescent girl has already learned

the subtleties of role behavior which will be required of her in later

life, that is, public subservience to males.

When a girl has been jilted or feels another girl is flirting

with her beau, she often takes the matter in her own hands. It is

very common for such an enraged girl to confront the new girlfriend

in public, with a fist-throwing, hair-pulling fight resulting. If

possible she will enlist the aid of her sisters and cousins to give

the interloper a beating. That this is not a new occurrence in

Cajititlan is evidenced by the following story told by doaa Petra,

a sixty-year-old matron:

When I was a girl of fifteen, I was sweeping the
church. When I left I saw my novio's ex-girlfriend and
her cousin waiting for me outside the church; I knew
they wanted to beat me up. So I ran to don Rafael's
store, next to the church, and asked him for a handful
of lime. I hid this under my shawl and walked through
the atrium. The girls attacked me and started hitting
me with their fists. They were surprised when I threw
the lime in their eyes, and while they were temporarily
blinded, I blacked their eyes and bloodied their noses.

Later my mother found out and asked me why I fought.
I told her it was because a boy in town liked me better
than he liked the other girl; I didn't tell her he was
my novio because she would have been angrier. She
spanked me anyway.

Like many other occurrences in Cajititlan, fighting is

discouraged but is always greeted with laughter, after the fact.

As will be seen, fighting among women is not limited to adolescent


Most Cajititlences agree that at the age of fifteen, a girl

is ready for courtship; at the same time they express the hope that

their own daughters will wait until a later age to enter into the

courtship arena. As was pointed out in Rosi's vignette, it is thought

to be disrespectful to one's parents to discuss one's novios. Although

parents usually know when their daughters or sons have beaus, all

maintain the social fiction of ignorance. Courtship, in specific cases,

is considered a fit topic of conversation only with one's peers, or

perhaps a young aunt, older sister, or sister-in-law; thus young

married women are often sought out for advice to the lovelorn.

Despite the reticence in discussing courtship and'the insistence

that no one wishes his daughters to begin courting at an early age, a

formal rite of passage is associated with the fifteenth birthday.

Although the fifteenth birthday has been celebrated for many years,

the present-day elaborate ceremony now practiced by some community

members was diffused to Cajititlan approximately thirty years ago.

The quinceanera (fifteen-year-old) selects fourteen girls to accompany

her at a special mass; all, including the quinceanera wear long dresses

and heels, although the honored girl wears a white, wedding-type dress.

Purists claim that the fourteen girls or damas should be of the same

age or younger than the feted one; this ideal standard is not often

carried out since one must be careful to pick girls whose families can

afford to purchase material for a long dress. Godparents are selected

for the ceremony and must pay for bouquets, music, the cake, and the

mass. Musicians go to the girl's home and accompany the girl and her

fourteen damas to the church. The girl kneels at the altar, with her

godparents behind her, and the damas beside the godparents; the god-

mother is charged with the responsibility of having accompanied the

girl to confession the night before. Upon leaving the church, the

girl is often flanked by a chambelan (chamberlain, steward; in this

case, a male companion of approximately her age), with the godparents

and damas following. A dance and meal generally ensue.

In virtually all respects this ceremony mirrors, structurally,

the wedding ceremony, even to the godmother being obligated to accompany

the girl to confession. One could easily mistake the processional

going to church with that of the marriage processional, and the scene

within the church, during the mass, lacks only a bridegroom.

Such anelaborate ceremony is not extremely common in Cajititlan

and is the subject of much dispute. Detractors claim that parents

sponsoring such endeavors and incurring great expenses such as buying

the girl's dress and giving the meal, are stating that their daughters

are now ready for marriage. Interestingly enough, those who do give

such a fete to their daughters claim that it signifies no such thing

and is merely a party. At any rate since this is the first occasion,

at least ideally, in which a girl is allowed to attend a dance, it

does seem to signal that the adolescent has now reached courtship age.

Another ceremony within Cajititlan is apparently becoming the

functional equivalent of the quinceanera celebration. Cajititlan

offered the full six-year primary schooling for the first time in the

school year of 1967-1968. Due to the fact that most girls start school

late, are kept out, or have to repeat, most are fifteen or sixteen

years of age at graduation. The graduation ceremony is quite similar

to that of the fifteen-year-old birthday rite in that the girls wear

long dresses, with their hair professionally arranged, and heels.

This is often the first time since first communion that the girl has

had a long dress. In addition there is a special mass, with a party

and dinner afterward. Graduation is also a relatively expensive

undertaking; in 1972 parents were required to furnish dresses for

their daughters and slacks, shirts, and ties for their sons; in

addition they had to contribute eighty-five pesos ($6.80, U.S.) to

defray the cost of the mass and dinner. Since the average income for

males is twenty-five pesos a day, this figure represents a great

expenditure. Although no Cajititlences remarked upon the similarity

between graduation and the fifteenth birthday, they do seem somewhat

related. Cajititlan has never had any ceremony marking a like period

in a boy's life and it could be that primary graduation might perform

this function with boys.

The examples adduced thus far show that courtship generally

begins at about fifteen years of age and is considered a fine period

in a girl's life. Although the romanticism exhibited during this time

is not often carried over into later life, nevertheless it can be seen

that in acting out the roles of courtship a girl learns role behavior,

in public subservience to men. This is the role which will be expected

of her in her relations with her husband throughout her life.


Courtship generally stretches to several years, often between

three and five, although there are reported cases of couples being

novios for ten years or more before marrying. Within the community

there is disagreement as to whether brides of today are older or

younger than in the past. Marriage figures show a slight trend during

the past fifty years for couples to be a bit older at first marriage;

that is, the mean, modal, and median ages at first marriage from 1927

to 1931 are approximately one year younger than the same figures for

the period from 1967 to 1971. During the past five years in Cajititlan,

women married at around twenty years of age, while men married at around

twenty-three years of age. Thus most girls spend about five years in

the courtship arena before marriage.

Ambivalence toward marriage in Cajititlan is expressed. Women,

while affirming the happiness of their marriages, caution against marriage;

common complaints are habitually drunk, jealous, or irresponsible husbands,

and, perhaps, an even more frequently expressed aversion to unfeeling

or deceptive mothers-in-law. This ambivalence is obvious in the common

saying, "para comer pescado y tomar estado, se necesita cuidado" ("to eat

fish and get married, one must be careful").

Most agree, however, that men need marriage more than women.

This idea is phrased on both an emotional and a practical plane. Even

men say that while women can be satisfied with their work, both around

the house and in commercial endeavors, a man can never be happy without

a woman. More pragmatic reasons are also cited. A woman learns at a

very early age how to care for a house, to cook, to sew, and to accomplish

the domestic tasks which will be necessary during her lifetime. She can

thus care for herself should she never marry. A man, on the other

hand, may be busy in the fields and may not have the time nor the

ability to minister to his own needs.

Little girls of nine or so often say they will never marry.

Girls of Rosi's age also remember the ambivalent attitudes toward

marriage, and often wonder whether or not they should marry; Rosi's

thoughts about this matter are a case in point. While she wishes to

have children and thinks she loves Nacho, she still questions the idea

of marriage.

Despite the expressed ambivalence toward marriage, most women

do marry, and rationalizations for marriage are various. Often fatalism

is involved. The Cajititlence believes that frequently God chooses that

one should marry; girls often verbalize the conviction that they will

marry "si Dios me toca" ("if God chooses me"). One girl related

that if God made her fall in love with a bad man, she would prefer


To escape an unfortunate family life is held to be a poor

reason for marriage. The girl often finds that she has exchanged

one bad life for another, at least in the eyes of the townfolk, and

may have a husband or mother-in-law who makes her life just as miserable.

By far the most commonly accepted reason for marriage is to provide

insurance against loneliness in later life. There is no loneliness

as long as one's parents live but the idea is recurrently expressed,

"se llegan a morir mis padres y luego, que hago?" ("my parents will

die and then what will I do?"). Particularly in the case of men, the

reasoning is used that a person may be ill and will not have "ni quien

darle un jarro de agua" ("anyone to give him even a glass of water").

While courtship is a time of intense romantic verbal contact,

love is not considered a valid reason for marriage. One should

consider the family and everything about one's potential spouse,

particularly searching for a man or woman who is a good worker. A

desirable wife should know how to care for a house, be loyal to her

husband, be able to care for the family's money and always save some

amount, no matter how small, in case emergencies arise. A good

husband should be an adequate provider, remit money to his wife, and

control his vices. At a wedding, the parting advice of the bride's

father to the couple was that although he realized that the couple

loved each other, love is not the important thing; rather they should

have respect for each other and be precavidos (circumspect) in their

dealings with both families.

When a young man decides he is ready for marriage, regardless

of his age, he discusses the matter with his parents. If they approve

the match, his father asks two or three friends or relatives to go

ask for the girl's hand. Although there are no formal casamenteros

(marriage brokers) in town, some well-respected older men are more

often sought out for this duty. They are armed with liquor and go to

the girl's house after dark. Generally they consult with both the

father and mother of the girl and this occasion is usually accompanied

with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, even though the girl's parents

might be in favor of the match. Both act surprised, still carrying on

the social fiction that they were not even aware that the girl had a

boyfriend. One of two results can occur as a consequence of this

meeting. The girl's father always sets a plazo (waiting period) for

giving the answer. The most common plazo is three months. If, however,

the young man has a poor reputation, the father might set a waiting period

for as much as a year, thus indicating his displeasure at the possibility

of the match. It is hoped that the young man will tire of waiting and

find another novia or that the daughter will realize the stupidity of

wishing to marry such a lazy, drunken, or irresponsible man. It is

further desired that a young man, being thus rebuffed, will see the

error of his ways and become a more suitable partner before the termina-

tion of the waiting period. If he is willing to delay for such a length

of time, parents say they are helpless in the matter and allow the couple

to marry. Local folk opinion, however, demonstrates that the girl's

parents are often correct in their feelings about the young man and

girls who marry such men usually lead unhappy lives.

During the more usual three-month wait, the young woman becomes

the focus of much attention. She seems to enjoy this role and is very

coy when asked whether or not she will welcome the young man's hand.

All of her cousins flock around her and each attempts to be the one

to find out if she will accept. Often the girl plays the role to its

utmost, one day stating she will marry and, the next, denying that she

will. It is during this time, too, that the mother takes a very active

socializing role, explaining to the girl what her duties will be, and,

often, cautioning her against marriage. Sexually, most girls are

still told nothing, save that they must do what their husband wishes

at night. Several mothers have stated that they do take this

opportunity to explain to their daughters, "lo que es el hombre y lo

que es la mujer" (about men and women), but most assert that this type

of discussion would make them embarrassed.

The girl has generally already made up her mind before the

first visit takes place, for the young man consults her in taking

this step. If her parents disapprove the match, she has two

alternatives: she may accept her family's decision or may allow

herself to be stolen away by the young man. The robo (stealing away

process) will be discussed later in this section.

The plazo, as a social arrangement, insures that a male will

not be publicly offended. If the suit is to be declined, people feel

it should be done at the earliest possible time. Thus little is said

if the match is not to be; rather the girl's father talks with one

of the men who came to make the offer, informing him that the suit

will be turned down. As the day approaches signaling the end of the

plazo, it is assumed that the match will be made. Thus, as the plazo

comes to an end, preparations start, presided over by the young man's

mother. On the evening signaling the end of the plazo, "el sf" ("the

yes" or the answer) is to be held.

Female relatives of the young man bring fruit to his house

after dark; the boy's mother has prepared alcoholic fruit punch in

liter bottles, and some relatives bring tequila and rum to augment

this supply. By 7:30 p.m., all invited participants have gathered

at the boy's home. Meanwhile, in the young woman's household,

preparations are being made to greet the guests; flowers generally

decorate every room, and benches, usually borrowed from the town hall

and the girl's relatives, are brought in. Normally the girlzherself

hides away, fixing her hair and dressing; these young women often say

that they feel shame and therefore do not want to see anyone.

Around eight o'clock, the young man's male relatives flock

to the girl's house, carrying bottles of liquor; sometimes the young

man himself is present and sometimes he joins the group later. These

men retire to a room, with male relatives of the bride-to-be. For at

least thirty minutes, talk centers around other matters while the

young man's relatives serve liquor and cigarettes to the young

woman's relatives; they might discuss a soccer game, happenings

around town, or the like. It is the responsibility of the senior male

of the entourage who first asked for the girl's hand to bring up the

topic of the evening. Usually this is the signal for the young man's

father to speak up, praising the selection made by his son. At this

point the girl's father suggests that he, the boy's father, and the

bridegroom-to-be retire to another room; often he asks his wife to

join them. There the young man is given advice and told how he must

be a good husband and father; the bride's parents stress that he must

treat their daughter well. The assembled men continue to drink tequila

and rum while women, girls, and boys drink the alcohol punch in the

kitchen and patio; this, too, has been provided by the male's family.

It is interesting to note that little girls consume much more punch

than do boys; it is hypothesized that since punch is regarded as a

"woman's drink," little boys who are not yet allowed to imbibe tequila

forsake punch as evidence of their maleness.

After about an hour of giving advice, the girl is called upon

to enter the room and give her answer. Her presence is the signal

for mounting excitement, and word soon spreads that she has agreed.

One of the boy's relatives leaves the house and shoots off two rockets,

notifying the young man's female relatives, awaiting at his house,

that the suit has been accepted. They group together carrying trays,

buckets, and cooking dishes filled with fruit, along with additional

punch and tequila. As they file into the house, they present the

fruit and drink to the bride's mother, joining in the festivities

with the other women present. The amount of fruit thus brought is

symbolic, somewhat, of a bride's worth, and talk soon fills the town

about how much was given.

After the girl says "yes" she often disappears again, claiming

that she is ashamed to be seen. The other guests drink and talk, with

many, both male and female, drunk before the si ends, usually around


After the girl has said "yes," a date is set for the formal

presentation of the couple, the third step in the marriage process.

This is generally held the following Saturday. As is the case for

the sf, the expenses of the presentation (presentacion) are borne

by the bridegroom's family. The presentation may follow two forms

since this is the opportunity for the priest to talk with the couple.

Either the couple goes to the priest's house or he is brought to the

girl's household; since the priest must be paid to go to the bride's

house, this is more prestigious. In any case he speaks with the boy

first and then the girl, again giving them advice about being good

spouses, in addition to cautioning them about the religious sacredness

of marriages. In either case a dance ensues, and it is the responsibility

of the groom's family to provide all liquor and soft drinks and to pay

the band. The spatial segregation by sex is not evident in the

presentation, due, undoubtedly, to the fact that it is a dance.

Segregation does exist, however, roughly along age grades. Youths

cluster together while older men and women sit and talk. As the

evening wears on, the segregation breaks down as the men have more to

drink. Then the older men begin to seek out adolescent girls with

whom to dance; husbands and wives do not generally dance together.

Sometimes young men are also able to coax older women into dancing;

particularly if two women are intoxicated, they might start to dance

with each other. Usually these affairs last until the small hours

of the morning.

The following three Sundays, the priest reads the banns, after

which the couple may marry. A date is set for the wedding and prepara-

tions become very important. First the bridegroom's mother accompanies

the bride to Guadalajara where a white wedding dress is purchased or

rented and paid for by the bridegroom's family. The boy's baptismal

godmother is called upon to purchase a party dress, also given to the


The couple decide upon wedding godparents, usually a married

couple. They are responsible for providing a wedding meal, paying

for three or four hours of music, and with furnishing a bridal bouquet

for the young woman. In addition the girl also selects five godmothers,

of about her age, who usually also serve as bridesmaids. One provides

an additional bouquet to be left on the altar of the church; another

supplies the mancuerna (lasso of marriage) which is draped around the

couple during the wedding mass, thus signifying-their union; the third

purchases thirteen gold twenty centavo pieces, called the arras, which

are given to the bride during the ceremony; the fourth godmother buys

wedding bands for both the bride and groom while the final godmother

supplies the wedding prayer book and rosary carried by the bride.

On the day before the wedding, relatives and comadres of the

groom's mother gather at her house to kill chickens and make nixtamal

(corn soaked in lime for making tortillas) for the next day. Generally

meals supplied by the godparents (usually a breakfast) and by the

bride's parents (usually a supper) are lighter meals and do not take

as much work. To the groom's mother falls the most responsibility

for the wedding. Very early on the morning of the wedding, the same

women reassemble where they cook the chickens, making two kinds of

mole (sauce); prepare rice; and make tortillas. The groom's mother

is in command, directing the activities of the other women, and often

relegating responsibility for various dishes to her sisters. Most

often the female relatives of the groom do not attend the ceremony

itself since they are too occupied with the preparation of the wedding


As the hour of the appointed mass approaches, the bride begins

to don her wedding dress while her female relatives gather at the

house. Musicians, who are hired by the groom's family, come to the

girl's house. There they line up, in this manner: the bride, flanked

by her father on one side and her godmother on the other; the damas

(bridesmaids, in this case); the band; and female relatives of the

bride, including her mother. (Male relatives are already seated at

the church.) Waiting for them at the church steps are the groom and

the godfather. The priest meets the bridal party at the church door

and the wedding party lines up. The order of entry into the church

is not fixed, although the bride always walks with her father and

precedes the groom.

At the church altar, the party is arranged in the same manner

as that reported for the fifteenth birthday mass; the only difference

is that the groom kneels at his bride's side. During the ceremony,

the godmothers who are also damas have the responsibility of giving

their contributions to the couple; at one point the bride is given

her rosary and book, at another the mancuerna is placed around the

couple, etc.

At the end of the ceremony, the bride ascends the alter and

places a bouquet there; no one can explain the significance of this

act. As the wedding party leaves the church, rice is thrown at the

couple. This custom has been in vogue for only the last forty years

and is said to signify "good luck"; the origin is unknown by the

Cajititlences although it probably diffused from Guadalajara. The

wedding party, now led by the young couple, proceed to the godparents'

house. Since couples are usually married at the early mass, the

wedding breakfast is served then. All begin to drink and toast the

new couple, and the couple dances the first dance. There is little

formality on such occasions and the bridal couple seem soon forgotten

in the drinking and revelry that follow. Around noon, the party goes

to the groom's house. Here a formal, sit-down, meal is served. All

of the groom's female relatives, including adolescents, are involved

in the meal--the older women in preparation, and the younger women

in serving. It is important that the godparents and girl's relatives,

both male and female, are served first and the bride's female relatives

are not required nor expected to help. Finally the party goes to the

bride's house, where a light supper is served. This supper and the

music played at this time represent the only expenses incurred by the

bride's family.

Mexican law requires that in order for the marriage to be legal,

a civil ceremony must be held before the church marriage. Usually this

is not carried out in practice and the couple is often civilly married

at the bride's house, at the close of the day; sometimes they are not

civilly married until the next day. Following the civil ceremony,

an important ritual, the benedici6n (benediction), is carried out.

The couple kneels and the sign of the cross is made over them by the

two sets of parents and the godparents. This is then followed by the

compadres' abrazo (embrace) between the godparents and the two sets of

parents; this act signifies that the godparents have become compadres

of the bride's and groom's parents; although the godparents become

compadres of the two sets of parents, the parents are not each other's


In the past, the bride was turned over to her godparents and

resided several days in her godparents' home before going to live with

her husband; this could be termed "transition" in Van Gennep's (1969:10)

scheme of rites of passage. This custom has fallen into disuse but it

is still very common for the girl to remain with her parents for several

days following the ceremonies. During this time she and her husband

act as novios still, with the young man going to speak with his new

bride at her window or compound door. Following this period the groom's

mother and godmother go to the bride's home and call for the bride and

her things; then she generally moves into the groom's natal household.

By analyzing the elements of the marriage ceremony, several

themes become apparent. It is said by the Cajititlences that when a

girl marries, she now belongs to a "new family," and now her major

responsibilities are to her husband's family. Structurally this seems

borne out since almost all expenses are paid by the groom's family.

It is also important to note the cooperation and participation required

of women during the ceremonies. The groom's female relatives bring

fruit, prepare elaborate meals, and are evident in almost every

aspect of the.ceremony itself. Although participation of the bride's

female relatives does not require as much cooperation, they do rally

around the girl on her wedding day, giving her advice and helping her

dress. Thus women view their participation as absolutely essential.

Although the above description of the marriage process is

the ideal one, census data indicate that nearly 40 per cent of the

marriages in Cajititlan are begun with a robo (literally "robbery").

The rcbo occurs in three cases: 1) the young man asks his father

if he can marry the girl and is refused; 2) the girl's hand is asked

for, but the match is opposed by her parents; and 3) the girl is so

young that the young man knows his suit will not be accepted. In the

robo, the girl is stolen away, often from a dance or party, and placed,

for safekeeping, in the home of one of the boy's relatives or in the

home of his baptismal godparents. After the girl has passed one night

there, she is considered damaged merchandise; as virginity at marriage

is highly prized in Cajititlan, and it is assumed that the girl is no

longer a virgin, she would have difficulty finding another husband.

Again a delegation is sent to the girl's home, although this time much

talk centers around the lack of respect evidenced by the boy and the

fact that he wants to do the honorable thing and marry the girl.

Generally agreement is reached, after much outraged behavior by the

girl's parents, and the couple is married. The ceremonies surrounding

such marriages are similar to, though generally less elaborate than,

those already described, but "el sf" is absent, and the girl is

married in a blue or pink dress, rather than the traditional white.

It is considered a propitious sign if the bride's parents

ask that she spend the night before the wedding in her natal household,

thus indicating that her parents have reconciled themselves to the

marriage. All agree that the preferred mode of marriage is for the

bride to leave for the wedding mass from her own home. It is sometimes

the case that the girl's parents still avidly oppose the match and

refuse to take part in the ceremonies; they do not prepare the

wedding supper and the bride's father appoints a stand-in, usually

the girl's baptismal godfather, to give the girl away.

If it is the case that the young man's parents have refused

to ask for the girl's hand, there is usually more difficulty. Since

it is unthinkable that a man or woman might marry without their parents'

permission, action is stymied, and the girl's parents are put in the

awkward position of trying to force the boy's parents hand. Since

the most common reason for refusing a boy's request for marriage is

that the girl is a known non-virgin, opposition is great, for the

boy's parents argue that the family will lose honor in encouraging

such a match. Often the couple does not marry, but merely lives

in consensual union, although the birth of a child will sometimes

cause a rapprochement. In one case a man waited some twenty years to

marry his common-law wife, after his parents' death.

Although the girl is generally in full agreement with the robo,

cases are present where the girl was actually taken by force; Foster

(1967:116) also reports this for Tzintzuntzan. These occurrences are

extremely rare and there are but three women in town who were truly

abducted. Yet consider the plight of d. Vicenta, a widow, who tells

the following story:

I was but fourteen years of age, and not old enough
even to have a novio, but I did. He was eighteen and
wanted to ask my parents if he could marry me. I refused
and one day as I was walking in the plaza, he grabbed me
and gave me a severe susto [fright]. He put me on his
horse and took me to Jocotopec, a town nearby. There he
forced me to sleep with him and then brought me back to
Cajititlan, placing me in the home of his godfather.
When my parents learned what had happened, they were
very angry. My father sent a woman who worked in our
store to see if I was all right and not beaten up.
When Clara came to speak with me, I told her I didn't
want to get married. She told my father this and he
sent back word that I was no longer of use to him since
I was now a calabaza hueca [broken-up squash, i.e., a
non-virgin]. Dario and I were married within a month.

Thus it has been shown that although there is much ambivalence

toward marriage in Cajititlan, most people do marry. Parents partic-

ularly caution their daughters against marriage and the prevalence of

the robo as a marriage form is indicative that the parents' desires

that their daughters not marry is more than mere social fiction.

In spite of this, there is more ritual attached to the marriage

ceremony than any other similar life crisis within the community, and

the roles acted out by women are very significant.


In this chapter we have seen that while adolescence is viewed

as a difficult time, particularly in mother-daughter relationships,

it is also seen, particularly in the area of courtship, as a time

of great freedom from responsibility. It has also been demonstrated,

however, that the young woman has increasing tasks within the household

and is a particularly strong agent in the socialization of her younger

siblings. The girl, herself, is not fully socialized and must learn

about such matters as menstruation and, perhaps just before marriage,


In addition it is evident that adolescent girls also have

increasing responsibilities to the community and have important

public functions to fulfill both to the sacred and secular aspects

of village life.

Although the girl, immediately following marriage, has mastered

many skills and knows many cultural facts, she is not considered a

social adult, and the full inventory of cultural knowledge is still

denied to her; this will become evident in the chapter to follow on

pregnancy and childbirth.



iThe original orthography has been maintained.



Pregnancy, childbirth, and infant care are considered most

crucial areas of feminine knowledge by the married woman of Cajititlan;

these spheres are considered almost exclusively the domain of adult

women, although men and unmarried women do learn some, but not all,

of the details surrounding such events and practices. They do provide

a common basis for understanding among women of the community, and are

often topics of conversation when women gather in kitchens, the common

meeting ground for women.

In this chapter we shall examine pregnancy and childbirth in

terms of common beliefs of the women of Cajititlan; more importantly,

these will be related as episodes in the attainment of full social

adulthood for women. How and from whom a woman gains this information

is of critical importance in understanding the cultural maturation


We shall consider first the folk theory of conception and

demonstrate its wider application within the community. Then we

shall discuss the pregnancy itself, with emphasis on post-marriage

socialization of young women. Childbirth and post-natal care will

be the topic of the following section, while recent changes will

then be examined. The baptism ceremony will be analyzed in terms of

participation of a group of actors, in the final section.

Theory of Conception

Foster (1967:130) has argued that "in a manner of Latin

American communities blood is seen quite specifically as a Limited

Good." Cajititlan is no exception to this generality. In order

to understand the local theory of conception, one must examine, in

some detail, the view of blood commonly held by the Cajititlences.

Blood is considered the one element which must be considered above

all in the area of health. Strong blood means health, vitality, and an

active sex drive, while weak blood indicates the opposite. Yet blood

figures even more strongly in local belief than just as an indicator

of health. Menstruation is seen as an illness since the woman is

thought to be losing blood which causes debilitation of the body;

one midwife opined that women menstruate because they are being

punished by God and this is one means of keeping them weaker than men.

Blood is also said to nurture a child in the womb and thus pregnancy

is also thought of as an infirmity; in one case this researcher heard

a woman state, "ya me enferme porque no me enferme" ("I got sick

because I didn't get sick"). That is to say, the woman was stating

that she knew she was pregnant because she was no longer menstruating.

After giving birth it is believed that the mother's milk is also made

from blood and thus nursing is debilitating to a woman. For men the

only bodily substance universally held to be formed from blood is

semen and, for this reason, it is thought that too much sexual inter-

course will cause weakness in the man for he will be losing too much


This concept of blood is closely intertwined with the process

of conception. Conception is believed to be the result of the co-mingling

of the father's blood in the form of semen and the mother's blood

which she would usually menstruate but now coagulates to form the

child. While during gestation, the foetus is nurtured with the

mother's blood, the father may contribute by continuing to have

intercourse with the mother. This belief is so strong that one

cause of homosexuality is said to be that the father did not use

his wife during the pregnancy and the child is thus completely

nurtured from his mother's blood. In any case, in spite of a

tendency toward initial virilocality and the preeminence of the

paternal surname, offspring are considered to be more the product

of the mother, who gives more of her blood in nurturing the foetus

and nursing the infant. The belief that the mother is more important

is also recognized in the kinship system, for two offspring of the

same mother and a different father are recognized to be full siblings

while two offspring who share the same father but different mothers

are half-siblings. This is explained both in terms of the relative

amounts of blood contributed by both parents and also to a fact which

is quite obvious to the Cajititlences: two children born of the same

mother were carried by her and thus "lived" in the same place for the

first nine months of their lives.

Mothers frequently remark, "este nino yo lo cried con la sangre

que corre por mis venas" ("I raised this child with the blood which

runs through my veins"), referring to the blood she contributed both

in nurturing the foetus and in nursing. In fact, two children who

nurse from the same wet-nurse are considered siblings and cannot

marry; whether this ideal is followed was difficult to determine

since, although no informants could think of two hermanos de la leche

(milk-siblings) marrying, they all expressed assurance that a dispensa-

tion could be secured from the church for such a marriage. That nursing

is also considered an important source of blood for the child is indicated

by the practice of calling the wet-nurse "mother" regardless of what kin

ties apply, if any.

The knowledge of this folk scheme relating blood to conception

is not the secret domain of women; adult men know the belief system

while adolescents, who may be ignorant of the mechanisms of the sex

act, have some idea that they are more related to their mothers, and

know that the mother's milk is made from blood. Although this is

general knowledge, we shall now examine areas which are the almost

exclusive domain of women.

Pregnancy and Beliefs Surrounding It

Soon following marriage, young women usually become pregnant.

It is sometimes the case that a girl does not realize she is pregnant

and must ask her mother (or, in some cases, her mother-in-law) why

she is no longer menstruating, the most commonly recognized sign of

pregnancy in Cajititlan. When her mother or mother-in-law becomes

aware of what has happened, the young woman finds that a whole new

world of cultural knowledge is opened to her and learns of the many

restrictions surrounding pregnancy. The first pregnancy is a time

of continuing instruction in beliefs surrounding this important

aspect of the culture. The young woman also tells her husband and

he may take it upon himself to seek knowledge from his own mother;

particularly during the first pregnancy men are said to be very

affectionate and concerned for their wive's welfare.

A public health nurse, herself a native of Cajititlan once

remarked that, "it is curious that women here don't take any care during

a pregnancy, and take too much care of themselves after giving birth."

She was speaking, of course, of her efforts to convince women that

they should see a doctor during their pregnancies. In the Cajititlences

view, however, much care is taken during pregnancy to prevent aberrations

in the child,, to prevent natural abortions, and to insure that the infant

will be healthy.

The mother usually assumes the solemn responsibility of passing

this information to her daughter. Many foods are prohibited, some for

their properties which might cause sickness to the mother and child,

and some for their propensity to disfigure the child. The foods which

are tabu during menstruation are also tabu during pregnancy and are

said to cause "cold" in the womb, thus resulting in severe pains;

milk and the nopal cactus are included in this list. Certain meats

should not be eaten during the pregnancy since they are felt to affect

the skin of the child. Eating fish, birds, and chickens is to be

avoided since all are said to cause h4rpis, a disease in which the

child's skin is very dry and cracked. This is related to sympathetic

magic since such animals have skins which are puckered and dry. In

one case where a mother found her pregnant daughter eating chicken

skin she rebuked her saying, "your child will have skin like a chicken."

In spite of these tabu foods a young woman is told she should

satisfy any cravings (antojos) she might have, unless they are on the

forbidden list. If so she should eat a piece of sugar and take three

swallows of water in the name of the Trinity (some say in the name of

the Three Kings); since not satisfying cravings is said to cause

abortions, this will avoid such problems. Mothers are also expected

to tell their sons to see that their wives' cravings are satisfied.

Thus this area is fully known to all adult members of the community.

Since pregnancy is not discussed between non-related members of the

village community, and care is often taken to avoid being seen in

this condition, one informant told of her shame when a man tried to

help her satisfy what he thought was a craving:

When I was waiting for Roberto [pregnant], d. Trini
came selling ice cream. I went out to buy some, not
because of a craving but because I always bought.
D. Trini said that he had run out, but then gave me a good
look. He scraped to the very bottom to get some for me.
Many times this part is salty and I told him I would
wait until the next day. He kept insisting and finally
said, "I am going to talk frankly with you, this isn't
for you." In other words, the ice cream was for my
unborn child. I was very ashamed.

Other factors might contribute to a spontaneous abortion.

Women should not carry heavy objects nor jump, and should rest some

each day to avoid a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion, known as

mala cama (bad bed). Eclipses are especially feared in that they are

said to cause deformities or spontaneous abortions. The solar eclipse

of 1970 was apparently a time of great concern for pregnant women and

their husbands in Cajititlan. Carrying something made of metal, such

as keys, and using a red belt or red piece of cloth is said to negate

the effects of the eclipse. One woman consulted her midwife before

the solar eclipse and was told about the necessity for such items.

When the midwife saw her husband during the eclipse, she questioned

him as to whether his wife had followed her advice; since it was the

woman's first pregnancy, the husband said he was not satisfied with

merely following the formula to the letter. Therefore, he related

that his wife was in the bed with machetes, axes, iron rods, and hoes

and was covered with a red blanket "para que no me vaya a eclipsar"

("so she won't get eclipsed on me"; that is, "so she won't abort

or have a deformed child"). The fact that the child was born without

difficulty attested, in the midwife's mind, to the efficacy of her


Deformities or problems in the child's or mother's health are

also attributed to geophagy, widely practiced by pregnant women. The

desire to eat dirt or clay is viewed as a manfa (mania) and is dis-

couraged by the young woman's mother. Although the woman is driven

by a craving, nothing seems particularly efficacious in ridding women

of this desire; the eating of sugar and drinking of three swallows

of water is considered ineffective. Eating dirt is believed to cause

worms in the mother and the unborn child, an affliction which merely

increases the problems. The worms want more dirt on which to feed

and thus the woman's desire for dirt increases.

If the pregnant woman is discovered with this mania, conferences

are likely to result in how to rid the woman of the problem. One man

whose wife was continually picking bits of adobe off the walls to eat

was told by his mother to place dirt from the cemetery on the walls;

this cure is regularly used to stop children from eating dirt but is

viewed by many as ineffective with women. Others substitute magnesia

for dirt in the hopes that this will satisfy the craving and not harm

the mother or child. Geophagy, then, although considered harmful is

also viewed as very difficult to treat.

Besides learning of methods to prevent abortions and deformities

in children, the young woman during her first pregnancy must also be

instructed in varying items which will reduce the chance of a difficult

delivery. She is taught not to eat supper since it is believed that her

body will not be able to utilize this nutrition and all of the food will

go directly to the baby's head, thus enlarging it and making for a more

difficult birth. She is also told by her mother, a midwife, or her

mother-in-law to regularly place firewood in the fire knots first, to

insure that the baby will be born head first.

In addition to methods which insure health of the mother and

infant, other cultural beliefs center around prediction of the sex of

the unborn child. It is frequently asserted that the sex of the child

is determined by the strength of the parents' blood and, therefore, sex

drive. If the man's sex drive is stronger, the child will be female,

while if the woman's is stronger, a male will result. Informants

agree that although single families have both male and female children

this is the result of varying strengths in the blood and that normally

there will be a preponderance of one sex, indicating that the opposite

parent's sex drive is stronger. Some even go so far as to state that

since men prefer male children they will search for a woman who is

excitable, thus indicating a strong sex drive. At any rate, prediction

of the unborn child's sex is not left to speculation about the relative

sex drives of his parents. Rather, other signs are taken as indicative.

It is said that if the woman's abdomen protrudes, the child will be male,

while if it spreads, the child will be female. Furthermore local beliefs

have it that male children are fully developed some forty days after

conception while female children are not so developed until after the

sixth month. While all women attest to this fact, virtually all even

affirm that they have witnessed miscarriages which bear this belief

out. D. Selidonia, a midwife, explained this in terms of two mis-

carriages by a niece of hers:

When Juana had her first mala cama, it came at one
month. The baby was fully formed, and even had finger-
nails; it was a boy. I baptized the baby and it was
buried, as an angelito, in the cemetery. Her second
mala cama was at two months and the child looked like
a piece of meat, nothing more; it was obviously a girl.
Since the foetus did not look like a person, it was not
baptized and was buried in the corral.

Thus if a woman feels movement at forty days or so, she is told that

her child must be a boy, since girl children of that age are not

sufficiently formed to move.

While the public health nurse's avowal that women do not care

for themselves during their pregnancies is correct, in her terms, most

of the women within the community feel that they do everything in their

power to insure that their health is guarded and also that of their



Although a young pregnant woman is told a myriad of things

relating to her pregnancy, her mother usually tells her nothing of

the rigors of childbirth. Women are said to suffer in childbirth --

because "that's the way the Virgin suffered" and mothers agree that

they would only frighten their daughters by explaining the pain they

will endure. This, then, is an additional case where a woman is told

only what she needs to know at a certain point in her life, and no more.

Particularly during the first pregnancy, the midwife is often

consulted during the pregnancy itself; after giving birth once, she

is usually not called until labor itself starts. Although the woman's

husband may be present during the delivery, it is more common for only

the midwife, the woman herself, her mother, and her mother-in-law to

be in the bedroom, where the child is generally delivered.

If the delivery is an uncomplicated one, there is little activity

besides the general work of delivering the child. The midwife massages

the woman's stomach to get the baby in place, and must exercise great

care in guiding the child since there is danger of tearing. If it is

a first pregnancy, the woman is instructed not to cry out since this

is believed to cause "aire" (bad air) to enter the woman's lungs and

cause sickness in the woman. One informant stated that during her

first delivery she was "dying of fright" and started to scream; her

mother placed a shawl in her mouth, telling her to bite on that instead

of screaming.

In the case of difficult deliveries or other problems, there

are methods to facilitate giving birth. If labor is sustained, mid-

wives often prepare a fire and place water and sugar in a pot over it.

When this begins to boil, the woman squats over the mixture, letting

the vapor, according to local belief, enter into her womb; this is

said to bring the birth more quickly. If this fails, a doctor may

be sent for; while public health supplies a doctor for Cajititlan, he

does not live in the community and oftentimes a male member of the