Women in the Yucatan — By Jennifer Shipp
Mexico North America Yucatan Trips

Women in the Yucatan — By Jennifer Shipp

Oxkutzcab Yucatan girls
Though Mayan, they still posed for us enthusiastically, but we asked permission to photograph them first.

I’ve been reading a book called Women of Yucatan by George Ann Huck and Jann E. Freed. Last year, upon returning from Mexico, I ordered some books by Oscar Lewis (The Children of Sanchez and Five Families)  an anthropologist who studied Mexican families. The books have made me glad to be an American. In Mexico, rape isn’t considered a crime if a woman agrees to marry her rapist.

According to some of this literature, it isn’t a crime to beat your wife here. And most men cheat and have babies with other women, their mistresses. This is the story that these books have told. I find it hard to believe perhaps because I don’t want to believe it, but also because it sounds so hostile, but Mexico doesn’t feel hostile. I like the women we’ve met here, and the men and it sounds like a harsh reality. I don’t want it to be their reality. And maybe the lives portrayed in the books are just exceptions. But I’ve been trying to reconcile the information from these books into what I observe when we’re here in Mexico. How can strictly Catholic families justify so much physical abuse, rape, and adultery?

Indeed, how can this be the norm, and more balanced, less macho families the exception?

People seem to love each other here. But there’s evidence that this different way of doing things is perhaps the norm. A man in one of our friend’s family recently committed suicide. The details of how he did it remain obscure, but he apparently offed himself because his wife and children finally left him. (Who knows what he did to provoke the schism…it isn’t talked about here). The incident highlights (perhaps) the problem with machismo. Men aren’t adept with emotions, but women are remarkably wise when it comes to feelings. But it’s as though the men here only recognize physical and political strength. Women aren’t given credit for the important roles they play in men’s lives. The imbalance, creates particularly messy results when women finally assert themselves.

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