Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mothers and Daughters, in Chacala

I read three things today that seem to go together somehow.One was in my favorite blog: La Gringa’s Blogicito. The topic of her post was the apparent failure of family life in parts of Honduras, but it was also about the rest of Central America, and Mexico too.She quoted an article the subject. The author said that oftens mothers in poor families see their children as a resource, rather an expense. They aren’t thinking of the cost of a child: food, clothes, school, medical, dental, etc. They think their children will support them, starting when as soon as they are old enough. So the more children the better. I have heard that about India too, in relation to family planning issues.

The article also had some interesting statistics about how many children in very poor Latin America countries are born into lives without fathers . Or where the father moves on: for work, to the Norte, or for work somewhere else.Or for someone else.According to the article, the next man in the mother’s life is often only interested in supporting the children he has fathered. So the older children are sometimes passed on to whoever. I know that’s true here in Chacala, because I have seen it.But I think maybe it’s starting to change. Most of the families here of woman under 40 seem to have only 3 kids, usually. My impression is that only the least educated and poorest continue to have numerous children, one after another. But nothing like the previous generation. Many of the woman in Chacala in their fifties and sixties had eight or more children born to them. I ave the impression that birth control and abortions are more available to women here than even 15 years ago.Then this evening I was re-reading, for the third time, a book I enjoy more each time I read it. It’s called “ A Chance to See Egypt”, by Sandra Scofield. It’s about life in small town Mexico from the point of view of four characters, a Gringo, a Gringa, and two Mexicanas.

In the book, the Gringa, an artist, is talking about the Mexicana mother, about 32 perhaps, and her 17 year old daughter. She says “I thought of it alot, the closeness of a mother and daughter. The mother, I thought, was the means of survival, but the child was the reason to live.”I also just finished another book this morning, Louise Erdrich's, “The Painted Drum”. The power went out last night when I was reading the last ten pages. I tried to read by flashlight but, ….. One of the themes was the complicated relationships of mothers and daughters. It was a book that was hard for me to read. Very painful. But I kept reading it.

Reading these things all on the same day sort of filled my head with mother-daughter images. I love being in Chacala, where I can see the lines of different families. Great-grandmothers, Grandmothers, Aunts, Mothers, Daughters, Grand-daughters, and Cousins all over the place. And Mother–in-laws, Daughter-in-laws, and 2nd and 3rd cousins, everywhere you look.And it makes me think about me and my Mom. We never got along until I was an adult. Then we become very close. But she died when I was 30, so there are many things I never got to ask about, or talk about with her. I have some aunts, but we were never close. And only one girl cousin, who was a girly-girl, and I wasn't really. And then she died young, before we might have become friends. And that's it. My two grandmothers, and two step-grandmothers died before I was born. And my Mom died when I was 30. I miss her alot.

I am kind of jealous of some of the families here. It’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like to grow up with so many familiar faces, and family members all around. I might have liked or I might have hated it. Who knows?


Charmaine said...

Hola Andee ... interesting thoughts about families. I used to wonder why poor families had the most children until I read about African families. There is a very good reason that they have so many children. It was because of the high incidence of mortality rates among African children. The larger the family, the higher chance of having a few survive. Sad but true. It's a different reality but at least now I understand.

teadust said...

A thought-provoking post in many ways (and some really sweet photos!) I enjoy reading your blog very much.

I'm unfamiliar with the infant-mortality rate in Mexico and how that might have a bearing on the drive to have lots of kids; I suspect overall that it's more due to religion and to the "children can work and support us/the family" cultural issues, but I don't really know.

What also concerns me is the growing gender imbalance in some countries (China, India, I'm looking at you) due to the importance placed on male children to continue the family line, and the continued lack of value placed on female children who are seen as financial drains on the family, among other things, exacerbated by the governmental family planning/restriction policies.

I can relate to the poignant tugs of feeling when seeing so many large, close families with strong matriarchal and extended female "fabric" weaving through the generations in all directions. Not coming from that so much, I also wonder if I would have liked it or chafed at it?