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Central and South America

Salvadorans who emigrated as children

"Among the estimated 2.5 million Salvadorans living outside of El Salvador are members of the so-called “1.5 genera- tion,” or individuals who emigrated as children and who came of age in their new country of residence. The experienc- es of emigrant children differ from those of adults in a number of respects. In the case of children, the decision about whether and how they emigrate is often in the hands of an adult rather than the child. Children frequently experience a dual separation, first from parents who may immigrate earlier when children are quite young, and second, from the relative who cared for them before they emigrate and who may be the only parental figure they can remember. Children who are particularly young when they emigrate might not even remember their lives in their country of origin, and may lack information about the social and historical conditions that shaped their own family’s trajectories." go to the Anthropology of Children and Childhood Interest Group newsletter

History of varied Latin American attitudes towards abortion and contraception

"In 2007, Mexico City legalized abortion performed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In 2000, the Costa Rican Supreme Court banned in-vitro fertilization. In 1998 and 2006, El Salvador and Nicaragua respectively issued blanket prohibitions on all abortion procedures, and in 2003 Peru passed a law mandating that every pregnancy be registered….

During the Cold War, … international aid and development organizations and state institutions had promoted fertility control as a way to improve public health and to achieve national economic security, hemispheric stability, modernization and full industrialization. Less explicit agendas involved the promotion of smaller families as a way to combat the spread of communism, increase consumption of consumer goods and (most nefariously) reduce the population of specific ethnic or racial groups." This changed after the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population Development. Since then, international efforts regarding reproduction have tended to be framed in terms of individual rights rather than population control. Recently, there has been a rise in "human rights" rhetoric, which enables seemingly contradictory claims such as the "right-to-life" of the unborn and the "reproductive rights" including abortion of women to be simultaneously advanced under the rubric of “human rights.”

Catholic and evangelical churches, in concert with the international right-to-life and “pro-family” movements, have promoted legislative changes in Argentina, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru to extend legal ramifications back from birth to conception. In the last ten years both El Salvador and Nicaragua have enacted total bans on abortion. Yet, in Uruguay doctors are now allowed to instruct women on home medical abortion, and in Colombia, pregnancies can be terminated if they threaten the “rights to life, health and physical integrity” of a pregnant woman.

"The retraction of state commitments to public health has meant the rapid expansion of privatized medical care, leading to high cesarean-section rates and a flourishing infertility industry. [view source]

Morgan, Lynn M. and Roberts, Elizabeth FS, "Rights and Reproduction in Latin America," Anthropology News, March 2009, pg.12

Sleeping in Peru

IncaMama writes in a forum: well i can only speak about the other culture i'm familiar with, Peruvian. my family is from there and i've got about 35 younger cousins whose child rearing i've witnessed first hand over the past 25 years or so. i agree with your DH very much, at least with my family. my entire family lives on the same block..if you can call it that. it's a small town and the houses are not like our houses here. the closest thing i can related it to is a series of rowhomes but even that is not quite it. it's sort of a little commune, i guess? anyway, they all go in and out of each others' houses. they eat at each others' houses, it's rare that each household is having their *own* dinner, etc..childcare is shared across all members of the family. babies sleep primarily with their parents until they're around 5 or so and then they sleep with other members of the family (my one cousin slept with her grandmother until gmother died when cousin was 21). it's completely bizarre for someone to be sleeping alone. in fact, it's sort of rude and NOT received well. readmore logo



Nannies in Brazil

"Some well-paid nannies in São Paulo are employing nannies of their own. Ms. Soares said nanny friends earning more than $4,300 a month were paying less-qualified nannies a little over $900 a month to baby-sit for their own children. ... After a two-year stint working as a nanny in New York, Ms. Soares found her way last year to the home of Fernanda Parodi, a lawyer married to a chief executive in São Paulo. Ms. Parodi says she has no complaints about Ms. Soares’s salary, though she is counseling her to buy a cheaper car. “I don’t ever want her to leave,” said Ms. Parodi, 38, who is considering promoting her to personal assistant. Where some mothers see a debilitating revolution, she sees social progress. “If Brazil wants to move beyond a third-world country, then it needs to allow everyone to participate in the growth,” Ms. Parodi said. “It’s the price you pay for progress.”" go to the New York Times

A project in Peru

The high Peruvian Andes has a higher maternal mortality rate than in urban and wealthier, non-Indian areas. Initial programs promoting the training of traditional midwives in biomedical techniques were unsuccessful. Later programs focussed on educating traditional birth helpers on hygiene and training in recognizing signs of danger in pregnancy. These did contribute to a reduction of infant deaths and increase in prenatal controls. To tackle the problem that the majority of women's deaths in labor were due to sudden and unexpected events, such as hemorrhage, a new program attempted to move birth into higher-tech clinics. Government paid for these services but not for transportation, a huge factor in the high mountains. Maternal 'waiting houses' were established to house women from remote villages in the last month of pregnancy. In 2005, a Vertical Birth with Intercultural Adaptation program specifically addressed perceived challenges for Andean women. For example,(1) discomfort and modest issues were ameliorated by designing and using a warm and full covering hospital gown and reducing the number of dilation checks, (2) small electric stoves to heat labor and delivery rooms reduced anxiety about cold; (3) more than one person was allowed to accompany the laboring woman and participate in the birth process; (4) vertical birth positions for normal deliveries using floor mats and a birthing stool were allowed; (5) food and drink, including certain tradi- tional labor-inducing herbs were allowed; (6) the family was given the placenta for its culturally appropriate disposal; (7) the general environment for birth was changed, swapping metal framed beds for wooden ones and changing white bed sheets to preferred darker colors; and (8) health care personnel were sensitized to the “cultural needs” of patients in their care.

Two years later, the author visited the clinic where one of the successful pilot programs had been initiated, but found the program no longer being offered. Nurse-midwives and women of the local population, not predominantly Indian, had perceived this program - associated with 'indigenous' birth choices - as negative. "Nonetheless, informal chats with local women indicated that general birth preferences for vertical positions, herbal remedies, presence of family members, appropriate disposal of the placenta and reduced exposure were still present. Due to contestation in applying the “indigenous” label, pregnant women were probably not receiving the type of birth care they would like." [view source]

Guerra-Reyes, Lucia, "Implementing an Intercultural Birth Care Policy: The Role of Indigenous Identity in Peruvian Maternal Care", Anthropology News, March 2009, pg. 13.

Midwives are …

Amazonian midwives are women who have learned by practice, coming to midwifery through necessity or "divine calling". [view source]

Fleischer, Soraya, "Midwives Unite in the Brazilian Amazon", Anthropology News, March 2009, pg.8

The midwife item reveals another contentious intersection of cultures: Traditional midwives' training does vary. There may be many who could benefit from simple practices - often hygiene related - acquired elsewhere (for example, in modern clinics) without distorting their trade and sacrificing the enormously valuable emotional role they play in their communities. It is mistaken to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, by sanctioning clinic-only births the way many hi-tech facilities in Latin America seem to be doing with great success.

Regulating menstruation in Brazil

"The availability of contraceptive pills as over-the-counter pharmaceuticals in Brazil has allowed Brazilian women to use the pill with or without regular interruption, enabling them, for example, to skip periods during Carnaval. ... In Brazil different methods target low-income segments of the population who rely on under-funded public health services, on the one hand, and those who can afford private health insurance (roughly 25% of the population), on the other. [View source]

Sanabria, Emilia, "The Politics of Menstrual Suppression in Brazil," Anthropology News, vol. 50, issue 2, February 2009, pp.6-7





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