Across the Boundaries of Belief: Contemporary Issues in the Anthropology of Religion

By Morton Klass; Maxine Weisgrau | Go to book overview

7
Becoming a Mujercita
Rituals, Fiestas, and Religious Discourses

Valentina Napolitano

This article analyses the celebration of girls' fifteenth birthdays in a low-income neighbourhood of Guadalajara, Mexico, and argues that this ritual is important for an understanding of gender identity in contemporary Mexican society. Through the analysis of personal narratives and social interaction I argue that the symbolism of the celebration of girls' fifteenth birthdays is connected to its performative aspects, to images of femaleness, and to the family status and respectability of the actors. I argue that this ritual should be understood within a contested space of different religious discourses promoted by clerical and lay agents, and that through celebrations of this ritual distinct aspects of self, gender and family identity are emphasized or denied. --Author's Abstract


Introduction

There have been few published studies of the celebration of girls' fifteenth birthdays in Mexico, especially among urban, non-indigenous populations ( Cardenas 1987). Recent literature on gender in urban Mexico and Latin America has focused more on class, ethnicity (e.g. Arizpe 1977; Beneria & Roldan 1987; Nash & Safa 1976; 1986) and women's participation in social movements (e.g. Alvarez 1990; Logan 1988; Westwood & Radcliffe 1993), than on the study of rites of passage ( Lomnitz & Perez-Lizuar 1987) and life cycles. These latter themes were once developed in Latin American ethnography by scholars working within the Culture and Personality approach (e.g. Díaz 1966; Díaz-Guerrero 1975; Fromm & Maccoby 1970; Kemper 1977; Romanucci-Ross 1973), which later scholars

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Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 3: 279-296.

-113-

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