Puberty and Adolescence

Linguistic labels for children change at about the age of 11 or 12. Girls are categorized as young women, implying that they are almost capable of having children and are reaching a period of sexual attractiveness. Boys are labeled as young men, but not held accountable in the same way that girls of the same age are. Many girls of this age report that they are no longer allowed to visit girlfriends, go on errands alone, or appear in public unaccompanied. Boys are able to wander freely in the communities. Because of significant class and regional differences, levels of education for adolescents can vary.

Until about 10 years ago, most rural Zapotec girls were completing only three or four primary grades. Now more are finishing the sixth grade and some go on to secondary school. Adolescent boys traditionally had more years of elementary school than girls and were more likely to go on to secondary school. In cities like Juchitn, a higher level of education has been attained than in rural areas. For those Zapotec living in Mexico City and the United States, education levels are significantly higher with people finishing high school and some going on to finish college. Recently, in better-off communities such as Teotitln del Valle, a few boys and girls—usually sons and daughters of merchants—have finished professional careers as accountants, lawyers, and doctors. In general, the age of marriage for girls has risen from 14 to 16, largely due to increased levels of education. This trend is not unique to the Zapotec, but is seen overall in Mexico.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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