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Chapter Seven Moving beyond Notions of Resistance and Accommodation Understanding How Women Navigate Conflicting Models of Marriage in Rural Mexico Holly F. Mathews In 1982, I interviewed Rosa, a 25-year-old married resident of Santa Ana, the rural Mexican town in which I began fieldwork on gender roles in the late 1970s.1 Born in 1957, Rosa married at age 17, moved in with her husband’s family, and had her first child at 18. In discussing her marriage, she said: Rosa: I made a mistake in my marriage [Me equivoqué en casarme]. It was the biggest mistake of my life. I have suffered so much with my husband and my in-laws. My own family does not know how he wastes our money on drinking and how I have to beg others to help feed my children . Did my mother-in-law ever help us? No, she always takes his side. Others will tell you that I am a good wife and mother, but she would never say that. Holly: Why did you get married? Rosa: Well, truthfully, I didn’t want to, but what choice did I have [qué alternatívas tenía yo]? My father knew the family, and he said that I should marry Raul. We only met two times. I really did not know him. But he was the one I got [pero el era lo que me tocό]. It was my destiny [era mi destino], and I endure it [lo aguanto] so my children can finish school and make their own futures [hacer sus propios futuros]. In the summer of 2014, I interviewed Rosa’s youngest granddaughter, Alma, a secondary school graduate who had just turned 18 and discovered she was pregnant. In talking about her future plans, she said: 133 Alma: I always thought that after I finished school, my novio [boyfriend] and I would “elope” [nos vamos] to the States. There, we would get jobs and make enough money to get a house and start a family by working together to make a good life [una buena vida trabajando juntos]. I am not like the women of before [no soy como las mujeres de antes]. I am not one to be pushed around [dejada]. I only want to marry a man who treats me well [por las buenas] and wants to be with me. But there are no jobs here, and it is very difficult and very expensive now to cross the border. All the men are leaving, but the women cannot. Some girls are afraid that if they don’t find someone, they will be “left-behinds” [quedadas]. When my boyfriend, Antonio, was preparing to leave and he wanted us to have sex [estar juntos], I thought it would bring us closer [para acercanos más]. I did not think I would get pregnant, but maybe it will be okay. I will move in with his parents, and he will send us money. I have the hope that when he returns, we will marry. On first examination, it may seem that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite the passage of three decades and despite being better educated than her mother and grandmother, Alma has ended up in the same circumstances. Yet her discourse clearly reveals evidence of emerging new values and aspirations. Why do women in some areas still appear to comply with or accommodate to practices they view as oppressive while others are espousing new values? How do shifting ideas about marriage and gender roles relate to self-understandings, behavioral goals, and the choices women make? In this chapter, I draw on schema theory from cognitive anthropology and psychology to explore the ways that contemporary young women in rural Oaxaca navigate between an older schema of marriage based on respect and deference and rooted in an agrarian-based, collectivist system (see Quinn, this volume) and a newer schema of companionate marriage emerging as the basis for rural life becomes more individualistic. The former, which I label the respect (respeto) schema following the conventions adopted by Jennifer Hirsch (2003), is characteristic of marriages traditionally arranged by parents and entails spousal relations based on male dominance, gender role complementarity, sex segregation , and adherence to duty.2 The latter, which I label the trust (confianza) schema, is based on the idea of free choice in marriage and emphasizes the importance of mutual understanding and gender roles characterized by emotional intimacy, mutual support, and cooperation in family duties...


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