Friday, May 15, 2009

Motherhood in the Tribe

Today is Mother's Day here in Paraguay so I thought I would re post this about motherhood among the tribe where we lived in Venezuela.

Today is also Independence Day here. A fellow missionary living here in Paraguay posted about how this is celebrated here and has some nice pictures to accompany it. Luque Life

(This young mother is expecting her fourth child.
She has two living children, having lost one to malaria.

Amanda of Baby Bangs had a lot of questions for me in response to the post I did about Ye'kwana marriage customs. I'll try to answer them.

She asked;
"I need to know more about the married couples giving their firstborn children to the mom's parents to raise. So does the child think of its mom as its sister? Do the moms have a hard time doing this? Do they stay involved in its life? So many questions!"

When a newly married couple has a child, tradition dictates that the child be given to the mother's parents. The child will know who is it's mother but the grand parents have final say in all matters. When that grand child marries, the son-in-law will move in with the grand parents.

Giving up the child is not as terrible as it may at first sound when you realize the mother and her husband will usually live with her parents for several years and even then, they will build right next to her parents. The son -in -law is responsible for the upkeep of his wife's parents and it is his duty to stay nearby to do so. This may even play into the tradition of giving them the first born, as it will encourage the parents to stay near by. Also, the girls are quite young at marriage and often need the support of their mother. The girl is marriageable shortly after her first menses.

The parents do stay involved in the child's life but are not the highest authority. This does cause conflict at times when a Christian girl marries and her parents are not Christin. She will not want her child raised out of the faith. This encourages Christians to marry children of other Christian families so as to avoid this conflict, which does cause the Christian families to be stronger.

The encroachment of the outside culture is causing much of this to be abandoned and is a great source of concern for the tribe. Without the in-laws staying to care for the elder parents, and the young child to provide for them, what is to become of the elderly? These are issues one does not see without spending time on the culture.

And now, allow me a rant!

The Venezuelan government often tries to move Indian teachers, malaria workers and such, around at their own whim and are not aware of all the difficulties they are creating. The government has placed Cuban and criollo Venezuelans into the community, even military, which often impregnate the young tribal girls, and then leave them to fend for themselves, not knowing where they fit in the community, once the workers are relocated elsewhere.

This creates grave problems and no one is left to deal with it. This has even led to armed confrontations between military and tribal peoples. Very sad, and the instances are happening more and more frequently as the military is moving more and more into the tribal communities.

This type of behavior is what will ultimately destroy the tribal cultures and is the true case of ethnicide in Venezuela. It is being quietly covered up and unreported, but it is happening!

The missionaries who were accused of such things, but never proven to have committed them, are no longer on sight to report such atrocities and the government claims to have 'saved' the tribes from the evil influence of foreigners, all the while destroying the very people t which they claim to be helping.

Adorable children!


Joy said...

What a beautiful baby. That is very interesting about the culture and how they keep the generations together in that way.

Happy Mother's Day (again)


FJ said...

Quis custōdiet ipsōs custōdēs?