Shaping the Motherhood of Indigenous Mexico
Publication Year: 2013
The cash transfer program is Oportunidades, which enrolls more than a fifth of Mexico's population. It expects mothers to become involved in their children's lives at three nodes--health, nutrition, and education. If women do not comply with the standards of modern motherhood, they are dropped from the program and lose the bi-monthly cash payments. Smith-Oka explores the everyday implementation of the program and its unintended consequences.
The mothers are often berated by clinicians for having too many children (Smith-Oka provides background on the history of eugenics and population control in Mexico) and for other examples of their "backward" ways. An entire chapter focuses on the humor indigenous women use to cope with disrespectful comments. Ironically, this form of resistance allows the women to accept the situation that controls their behavior.
Published by: Vanderbilt University Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Table of Contents
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First and foremost are the women who participated and who shared their stories, concerns, joys, and fears. It is thanks to their boundless generosity in sharing their sorrows and laughter that this book was even possible. While all the wonderful people I met in Amatlán will remain anonymous, I hope that their voices come through in this narrative. I ...
Acronyms and Agencies
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Oportunidades: Literally “Opportunities”; the state-run conditional cash SEDESOL: Secretaría de Desarrollo Social; Ministry of Social De-...
A Word on Nahuatl Pronunciation
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...after colonial contact, and thus it borrowed most of its letters from Spanish.1 Convention has changed over the past couple of decades to incorporate more phonetic spelling by including K instead of a hard C, S instead of a soft C, W instead of U followed by a vowel, and so on. The letters CH, M, N, P, T, and Y are pronounced in Nahuatl as they ...
Introduction: Burst Uterus and Spoiled Milk
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The pickup truck bounced along the rutted road. Tito was giggling in the backseat, enchanted by the constant honking of the passing trucks loaded down by their enormous cargos of oranges bound for the cities. His grandmother Esperanza sat composedly on the seat beside him, looking out at the rapidly passing scenery outside her open window...
1. "Somos Mexicanos": Giving Birth to the Nation
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The nineteenth century was a time of tremendous upheaval for Mexico: it lost almost half its territory to the US in 1848; segregation of the old classes and castes was officially abolished, and vestiges of the colonial period were destroyed; communal landholdings (belonging to both the Church and the indigenous people) were forced to privatize under the...
2. From Eugenics to Parteras: Changing Conceptions of Maternity
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Oportunidades was conceived to create modern mothers. Using this cash transfer program as a lens, we can analyze the ways that institutional forces impose a certain type of body politic on their subjects—particularly concerning reproduction. Linking the idea of disobedience with the broader perceptions of the women’s reproduction can help to show...
3. Conflicted Relationships at Home and at the Clinic
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A poster hangs prominently in the clinic at Tepatepec. A picture of a happy extended indigenous family—mother, father (carrying their one daughter), and grandparents—reads “¡Que no te discriminen! Tienes derecho a que te traten con respeto. Si alguien te trata mal, o te condiciona la prestación de un servicio, repórtalo a Oportunidades” (No one should discriminate against...
4. Expectations of Good Motherhood
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“Motherhood is the most highly judged state of your life.” This was said to me by one of my friends in the United States during the early days of my pregnancy, a few years after I returned from Amatlán. In this state, my friend—who is the mother of three children, two of whom are twins—said, people will judge you and correct you and punish...
5. Laughter and the "Best" Medicine
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One day in early 2004, the village women were asked to attend an important gathering at the Casa de Salud. The physician and nurse from the Tepatepec clinic were to come up to give check-ups, and the women were expected to attend. When Esperanza and I arrived, there were only...
Conclusion: "I nurture them because I love them"
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A few years after returning from Amatlán, while I was going through my field notes in preparing my book manuscript, I came across these words from Cristina. We had spent much of that day talking about her motherhood, her children, and Oportunidades. One of the questions...
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Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2013