Socialization of Boys and Girls

Children of both genders are welcomed at birth, but Aymara women say, "A girl is only born to suffer." Everyone agrees that a family with only daughters would be cursed, but that all sons would not be so bad. Demographic figures show better survival rates for boy infants than girls, suggesting that they may receive better care.

"As soon as they are able to run about steadily," (Tschopik, 1951, p. 164) both boys and girls are put to work. They fetch water, herd sheep, and care for younger siblings. Girls as young as 6 years are left to baby-sit alone in the house and may be expected to have meal preparations underway when adults return.

Children are assigned to help their same-sex parent more often as they get older. Men expect sons of age 10 or older to work beside them in the fields or travel with them for temporary wage labor, and girls of the same age are mastering the jobs of adult women such as cooking, knitting, spinning, and livestock care. A distinction that emphasizes the greater importance of boys is that they are referred to as "working" beside their fathers in the fields, but girls "help" their mothers. Punishment for slacking responsibilities is harsh, but children find some time for games and fun, especially while they are herding together in groups of boys and girls. Most women say that men should administer physical punishments, but adults tell stories of being beaten by either parent for not doing assigned chores.

Both boys and girls attend school, but girls are more likely to be kept at home intermittently to help their mothers and to drop out of school sooner. Thus boys become more fluent in Spanish, the language of education, politics, commerce, and city life.

Families may give away or loan a child to a relative or compadre who may take the child to work for them in another rural community or in town. "Extra" daughters are more likely than sons to be given away in this manner. Children are often harshly treated at the hands of their new guardians. They sometimes run away or may be eventually rescued by their parents.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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