Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

When “Girls Marry Without Having a Legitimate Age” : Gender, Ethnicity, and Youth in Historicizing Child Marriage in Chiapas, Mexico
by Waters, Amy Jean Lopez, M.A., University of California, Davis, 2019, 39; 13812193
Abstract (Summary)

This research seeks to historicize child marriage in Chiapas, Mexico in order to shed light on the enduring concerns about this practice. Situated along Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, Chiapas continues to see as many as 30% of girls married by age eighteen. With the highest rates of girls entering into early marriage in rural areas and among indigenous populations, the state of Chiapas provides an illuminating case study for why we must understand the historical background of an area when addressing an issue as socially complex as child marriage. In this way, evaluating child marriage also helps to analyze discourses surrounding constructions gender, ethnicity, and youth throughout Mexican history. While evidence of child marriage in Mexico has existed since the colonial era, many of the social and economic factors that drive girlhood marriage culminated in the late nineteenth century. After national independence, an internal colonization persisted among the ruling creole and mestizo classes and indigenous communities throughout Mexico. In Chiapas, a particularly oppressive labor system which targeted indigenous populations took hold of the region, and marriage records indicate this contributed to higher rates of girls who enter into marriage before age fifteen. Despite this, when anthropologists in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries documented marriage practices, including child marriage, it was treated as a lasting trait of a precolonial lifestyle. In addition, as part of Mexico’s campaign for national progress, the state promoted expanding secular educational opportunities for Mexican adolescence, and a particular construction of “youth” emerged that oscillated between the promise of a prosperous future in Mexico and the rebellious problem child. These educational opportunities, however, were limited to a privileged class in or surrounding urban areas, and the majority of marginalized groups remained excluded from this liminal period of youth as they transitioned straight into adulthood when they entered the workforce. Women of all classes would have been expected to enter adulthood through marriage. The transition from childhood to adulthood was far from homogenous, and took different forms depending on the socio-economic circumstances and one’s gender in late nineteenth- century Mexico. In this regard, indigenous women faced a triple burden in terms of their gender, ethnicity, and class, which placed them at a greater risk of early marriage.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Reséndez, Andrés
Commitee: Miller, Susan, Reséndez, Andrés, Hartigan-O'Connor, Ellen
School: University of California, Davis
Department: History
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 81/3(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Latin American history, Gender studies, Native American studies
Keywords: Child marriage, Ethnicity, Gender, Mexico, Youth
Publication Number: 13812193
ISBN: 9781085799836
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