COLONIA LIFE IN OAXACA
AT 9:45 ON A NOVEMBER MORNING in 1969, Gloria gave birth to her sixth child, a severely deformed little boy who was born with a perfect body, but whose head lacked a crown (partial anencephaly). Gloria herself suffered from the birth and needed blood transfusions. By early afternoon the child had been taken home from the clinic in a box by his aunt via one of the local second-class buses. A box was used because of what neighbors might say about such an ugly child. The family was both embarrassed and horrified. Meanwhile, Gloria lay in her room in the clinic. Her bloodstained clothing was still in the corner of her room; her blood transfusion bag was hung on a coat rack. No one wanted to tell her about the little boy for fear that, as a consequence, she might suffer from an illness called susto.1
Later that afternoon, a group of Gloria's family went to visit her. Although they still did not tell her about the child, they discussed it among themselves outside her room. The child was still alive and was being given chamomile tea. Some of the family members argued to let him die. Others argued that their responsibility was to life, and to do anything intentionally to hurt the child would be counted by God as a mortal sin. At that moment, the doctor came to visit his clinic, and he discussed the child with the family. He said that for 500 pesos (about $50.00 US at the time), he felt sure that he could [fix] the boy. Again, the family argued about the kind of life the child would have since he was deformed and had been born into a poor family. Others argued that not to do everything possible would be a sin in the eyes of God. The problem, however, solved itself since the child died shortly after the conversation.
After a look at Gloria, who still needed blood transfusions, the doc-