Mexican Women: The Anatomy of a Stereotype in a Mestizo Village
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL
FULFIL]i'.:YT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ABSTRACT ......................................................... v
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION........................................ 1
CHAPTER TWO: EARLY LIFE.......................................... 14
CHAPTER THREE: ADOLESCENCE, COURTSHIP, AND MARRIAGE ............. 42
CHAPTER FOUR: PREGNANCY, CHILDBIRTH, AND INFANT CARE............ 86
CHAPTER FIVE: ADULTHOOD, SENESCENCE, AND DEATH.................. 110
CHAPTER SIX: SITUATIONAL IDEALS OF BEHAVIOR AND INTERACTIONAL
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
MEXICAN WOMEN: THE ANATOMY OF A STEREOTYPE IN A MESTIZO VILLAGE
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.
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
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.
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 account...is...that 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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
ADOLESCENCE, COURTSHIP, AND MARRIAGE
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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