Another morning at Casa Maria. We’re prepping for more formal interviews so we’ve started our informed consent process, which means reciting a lot of words to residents who just want to tell us their story. They don’t entirely understand the formality of the paperwork that lets them know they can withdrawal at any time, or get complete confidentiality… they just stare at us until they get to talk. There’s a lot of healthy people at Casa Maria and they seem to crave adult conversation with someone new.
So afterwards, I went to Spanish and I started talking to my teacher about the speaker from yesterday. I asked about family planning methods and cervical cancer rates and she said a lot of what the speaker told us- that Mayan women have a lot of traditions which they hold onto and they’re not about to change because things have been that way for a long time. Their faith in the Catholic church prevents them from using birth control, and their husbands think if they get checked for STD’s it’s cause the women are sleeping around (the husbands are usually the ones to be concerned about though).
There seems to be this idea that Mayan women and their families are ignorant, but I really just don’t believe that. There’s more to it because these people are resourceful and great sales people from what I’ve seen in the markets. Here in Guatemala, there is so much diversity : 22 Mayan tribes, 2 Garafuns, and Ladinos who all speak a different language and have different customs. It just seems like they don’t entirely understand each other’s ways. It doesn’t seem right to me to characterize a culture as ignorant though.
As Devva (my favorite professor here) says in regards to disabilities- “Disability does not reside in the person. I can’t give it away to someone else. I myself am not disabled if I can function in my own way. Disability lies in the interaction with another person, or the environment.” This is the same way I think about all of these different cultures. Within the same tribe, their customs make complete sense. They’re not ignorant; they’re following tradition and cultural norms. However, when another of the many cultures sees that here, it may seem different from their own ways. That doesn’t make them any less of a person or an ignorant or maladaptive culture, it’s the interaction between the cultures that creates the issue. I hope that sort of makes sense to everyone because that’s how I’ve processed it in my head.