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One of the many themes that have become clear in this voyage is that of women and their role in society. To begin, I think it starts in the home. What role does your mom play in your household? A huge one, I bet. I know that without my mom, the strongest pillar of the family unit would crumble. Her role in making income, taking turns preparing meals, cleaning when my lazy siblings don’t, and offering motherly warmth and advice only moms can is priceless. Although the activities that are undertaken by moms vary throughout places, it is evident that women have a certain power and place that is integral to society.
In the ejido Felipe Carrillo Puerto, women do not go off to work like the men do in the milpas or in construction jobs in nearby cities. What they do is equally as important, and this is what I have been told too. It is not just me that sees it, but fortunately the women in the ejido recognize it too. They keep the household functioning. Paakach (making tortillas) is a daily activity that the women have become very skilled at; believe me, it is not as easy as it sounds! This meal preparation is vital, offering energetic calories and nutrients to keep everyone going. Cleaning is also undertaken on a daily basis with the help of some children. We often see cooking and cleaning as stereotypical female jobs and a way that they are kept from ‘moving ahead’ in society. This is not necessarily the case. In the ejido (and everywhere else I believe), these jobs are fundamental. It may even be thought of as a powerful role to be played in the home. Not only this, but the female is ultimately special in that she experiences and has the experience of childbirth. The female in the ejido is also in charge of rearing the child throughout its infancy. These are some of the most important times in the process of human development.
Not only does the woman hold power in the household, but she also holds power within the community. Although positive women representation is not the number we’d like to see – especially not enough on T.V. right ladies? – groups and organizations are increasing more and more. In the ejido, there exists a recently formed women’s cooperative that makes decisions about the activities they do as a group. One of the activities – and one that I have talked bout in a previous blog – is the development of home gardens. Just outside the household space is the land that surrounds it, yet still belongs to the family. Although the men help out, the main person in charge of the gardens (and the chickens, etc.) is the woman. It is her responsibility to maintain these areas that serve as keys to nutrition and the kitchen. She holds a certain degree of power and say on the land. Similarly, your mom has a certain control over what goes on in and around the house…”mow the lawn!” she’ll yell to your lazy brother, or “pick up Lucy’s (the dog’s) poop in the yard!” she’ll tell someone. My host mom, Doña Josefa would also enlist the help of her children and man the boat, so to speak, telling which sibling to help with what. There is a routine for each day, and the woman is in charge of making sure all gets done and goes smoothly.
Not only is the power of women felt in the practical sense, but it is also felt in those abstract ways unable to describe when you walk into a room. The other day I walked into the room where Doña Asuncion was preparing tortillas and food; she only speaks Maya and greeted me with a smile and a Mayan saludo. She is a mother of 14 children who are all grown up now. She does not seem that old, she may be pushing 60, but her energy is great. She laughs at my silly joke about ‘butts’ in Maya and English; ‘iit’ (pronounced like ‘eat’) means butt in Maya. Overall, she is well respected in the community and looked upon as a figurehead. Without knowing this, I could feel her power as soon as I entered the room. She is one strong lady, and one that people look upon with respect. This whole issue of women and power is one that really got me thinking. Although the situation between men and women is not as equal as we would like, maybe it is also more equal than we sometimes think. At least here in the ejido, every women I asked believes that men and women are treated equally; although they carry out different jobs in the community, each has the same rights (including voting power!) and must do their part to help bring food to the table. I don’t think there is a word for ‘feminism’ in Maya, but everywhere you look the woman makes her important presence.

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Comment by Nashielly Victoria on February 16, 2010 at 12:51pm
Thanks, Claudia :)
Comment by cloud.eah on February 1, 2010 at 9:17am
BEAUTIFUL!


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