A Mixe Flower
Gloria, 13, belongs to the Mixe Community of Maluco, a small village in the north of the “Itsmo de Tehuantepec”, Oaxaca Mexico. She lives with her mother and 8 of her 10 siblings who are between 4 and 20 years old. Gloria became mother at the age of 12, a consequence of the constant sexual abuse of her father who has also attacked two of her sisters, aged 8 and 16.
The house where they live has only one room in which they all sleep distributed along the floor and two hammocks. Next to their home, there is another room used as storage and a kitchen, where they prepare tortillas and beans. Every day the youngest of the family – Hector, 4, Kevin, 6, Yoruidi, 7, Joana, 9, and Alvaro, 11, go to the village to school. Meanwhile, Gloria, her sister Guadalupe, 17, who is six months pregnant, and her mother stay at home to make “totopos”, small corn tortillas cooked in a firewood oven. They start their working day at 5 am. Gloria’s mother grinds corn while the two teens make and bake the “totopos”, from dawn until sunset. Gloria’s son is 10 months old. He still has no name, they just call him “bebé”. She had to leave school to work and take care of her baby.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Latin America is the only region in the world where the number of teenage pregnancy is still increasing. Mexico has become a worldwide leader in teen pregnancy. One half of adolescent girls who have begun their sex life between the ages of 12 and 19 gets pregnant.
Rubicelia Cayetano, from NAXWIIN NGO, has worked with such realities and has faced many similar situations. In a report on teenage pregnancy in Mixes communities she says: “When parents find out that their daughter had sexual relations with her boyfriend and that she is pregnant, or that she has been raped, they ask the youth to get marry or “repair the damage” through money compensation, for which they put a price. However, if the girl was victim of sexual abuse, the importance of receiving psychological care is rarely considered. Even in some cases it has happened that the girl’s parents decide to give her daughter to the rapist to live with him for having dishonored them, regardless of what the girl feels or thinks; and thus, she is treated like an object at the disposal of the others.”*
The following are quotes from Mexico’s director of United Nations Population Fund, Leonor Calderon Artieda:
“Girls between 10-14 years old are highly vulnerable. It is a social group that has almost no voice or conscience of the things that are happening. There is a very high percentage of pregnancies that are consequence of abuse. We believe that a child under 14 has no ability to authorize and consent to a sexual relationship, but in many cases it is the clear result of sexual violence, and incest. Another element that we have observed is that the fathers of the babies double or triple the age of the mother, which reveals it is not a relationship of equals. There must be judicial measures. A crime that continues its process of normalization and has no consequences, is the greatest incentive for these situations to keep on happening.”
“Keeping girls from attending school often leads to teen pregnancies. The cultural justification is referred to as “usos y costumbres”.** Education is a fundamental right in Mexico and the Latin American countries. We have an obligation to avoid any cultural practice that could limit that right.”
“Teenage pregnancy is an issue. The statistics talk about unwanted pregnancies, but for me, the wanted pregnancy is also a problem. What makes a 14 or 15 year-old-girl want to be pregnant – even when there are opportunities for her to become a productive person in society? The best contraceptive in the world is opportunity to make a career or accomplish a dream. ***
* Rubicelia Cayetano Cap. Teen pregnancy among Mixes women. Rights, sexual and reproductive health among indigenous youth: Towards building a necessary agenda. Paloma Bonfil S. (Ed.) Edited by AC GIMTRAP
** In Mexico, it is informally known as a system of customs the way of self-government practiced by many indigenous population municipalities in order to regulate the life of the community.
*** Interview with Leonor Calderon Artieda United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Mexico.