Guatemalan Women's Studies
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Solola Couple Guatemala by Ilhuicamina
Solola Couple Guatemala by Ilhuicamina

Guatemala has long been a patriarchal society. When dictators Manuel Estrada Cabrera (1898-1920) and General Jorge Ubico (1931-1944) sought to impose order and progress, they assumed patriarchy was immutable (Carey 114). Men feel the societal pressure to be the providers and decide if, where, and in what capacity their female family members work while women are traditionally set to fill the role of housewife, mother, and caregiver. Because of economic demands, women have been forced to step outside of their traditional role and join the ranks of men, completing tasks that would traditionally be completed by males. As long as such actions do not call undue attention to their actions or challenge male authority, women transgress these gender identities without reprisal (Carey 116). In societies eyes, males do not have such freedom. Social pressures have often prevented Mayan men from even dabbling in domestic chores while women have grater flexibility in transgressing gender norms.

Contraceptive Knowledge and Women's Access to Medical Care

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Guatemala has one of the highest levels of fertility in Latin America (Lindstrom 146) and because of a large portion of the population live in rural areas, many people lack awareness of modern contraceptive options. Approximately half of the population is indigenous, decedents of the Mayans or other native groups while the second half of the population is ladino, those who have European origin. (Glei 6). In a study surveying the contraceptive knowledge of a sample from both rural and urban areas, of married women between the ages of 15-49, 17% of Mayans use a modern method of contraceptives verses 43% of Ladinos (Lindstom 146).
Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and therefore has limited funds for health care provided assistance. Ethnicity is one of the major roles in the distribution of resources. The Guatemalan population experiences some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the region. According to a study that analyzed the ethnic variation in pregnancy-related care, results showed that urban residence seek biomedical care and have successful deliveries compared to those who live in rural areas and lack such access. (Glei 6) Since the 1980’s agencies such as the World Heath Organization have displayed interest in improving such maternal and child health conditions. Programs such as the Safe Motherhood Initiative have been the result of a desire to equalize the distribution of health care and make it more accessible.

Rigoberta Menchú Tum
Rigoberta Menchu Tum
Rigoberta Menchu Tum

Rigoberta Menchú Tum won the 1992 Nobel peace prize for her autobiographical work I, Rigoberta Menchú. Born January 9, 1959, Rigoberta had a difficult upbringing as a poor Indian peasent living in Mayan highlands. She lived a life full of struggle, family distruction, and a desire for justice. Involved with social reform and women’s rights from a young age, Rigoberta Menchú was extremely influential in her work in social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation in respect for the rights of Indigenous people.

Works Cited

Carey, Jr., David. "Oficios de su raza y sexo" (Occupations Appropriate to Her Race and Sex): Mayan Women and Expanding Gender Identities in Twentieth-Century Guatemala." Journal of Women's History 20.1 (2008): 114-148. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 28 Feb. 2011.

Lindstrom, David P., and Coralia Herrera Hernández. "Internal Migration and Contraceptive Knowledge And Use in Guatemala." International Family Planning Perspectives 32.3 (2006): 146-153. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 28 Feb. 2011.

"Rigoberta Menchú." Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition (2010): 1. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 1 Mar. 2011.

Smith, Carol A. "Race-Class-Gender ideology in Guatemala: Modern and.." Comparative Studies in Society & History 37.4 (1995): 723. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 28 Feb. 2011.