Sunday, August 21, 2011

Maltrata experiences: Births and deaths

Births:
In Maltrata, people get married (or at least form serious relationships) and have babies very young. Even though it's a more traditional town, there are lots of instances when the baby (or at least the pregnancy) comes before marriage. They say that between 15 and 20 is a normal age to get married -- though there are people who get married and/or pregnant even younger. A 22-year-old  "cousin" in the family I stayed with said that out of about 30 classmates (not sure if referring to la escuela secondaria (middle school) -- which more people finish-- or la preparatoria (high school)), about 25 are married with 1-2 kids. I've never felt so old at 24 for not being married or having kids! (Not that I'm in a rush!). Since everyone starts their family early, there are lots of babies and young children. In my everyday life in the DF I very rarely interact with babies or young children (or even adolescents), so I really enjoyed playing with the little ones and living under the same roof with a 14-month old.



Deaths:
When someone passes away in Maltrata, a car drives throughout the town announcing the death over a loud speaker. There were about 3 deaths in Maltrata while I was there. The most tragic/unexpected was a man that was electrocuted while working. I went to the velorio, or wake. The tradition in Maltrata is to keep the family and the deceased company all night until the Catholic mass the next day. People come and go throughout the night and most bring flower arrangements and/or money. The money collected goes toward expenses with the goal that the family doesn't have to pay anything. Apparently people also bring beans, sugar and others staples, but I didn't see that. The visitors came in and gave the flowers/money and greeted/consoled the widow. They were then given a (cup?) of incense to wave around the coffin. (I thought it was a Catholic tradition but was later told it was a more indigenous tradition. Honestly I'm still not quite sure.) The visitors then took a seat in the room or throughout the house and stayed for a little while. The family served coffee and tea and bread/pastries.

I wasn't in Maltrata the next morning, but the family I stayed with explained what happens the next day up through the following year. The day following the velorio mass is held in the church. From there, everyone goes to the cemetery and then back to the house for beans prepared in a special way -- only for funerals -- and sometimes rice. Nine days later, a padrino takes a cross, flower arrangement and offering (of fruit?) to the cemetary and then everyone goes to the house for tamales and atole.  This is repeated at 9 days, 6 months and one year after the death.  The food on the one year anniversary includes meat, as opposed to the tamales and atole.

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