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A Courtship after Marriage

A Courtship after Marriage: Sexuality and Love in Mexican Transnational Families

Jennifer S. Hirsch
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 397
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  • Book Info
    A Courtship after Marriage
    Book Description:

    From about seven children per woman in 1960, the fertility rate in Mexico has dropped to about 2.6. Such changes are part of a larger transformation explored in this book, a richly detailed ethnographic study of generational and migration-related redefinitions of gender, marriage, and sexuality in rural Mexico and among Mexicans in Atlanta.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93583-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xxii)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-56)

    Older women in Degollado, Jalisco, frequently complained to me about girls these days: “No tienen vergüenza,” they would tell me—“They don’t have any shame.” These women, born in the 1930s and 1940s, would tell me that in the days when they courted, girls only eloped against their will, carried off at gunpoint on horseback. Now, they told me again and again, the girls are in the lead, dragging their boyfriends by the hand when they run off without their parents’ permission. Men and women in this community talked about how the social construction of gender changes with migration, in...

  7. CHAPTER 2 “Here with Us”: Introduction to a Transnational Community
    (pp. 57-80)

    When I arrived in April 1996, both Degollado and El Fuerte looked to me like little worlds unto themselves—sleepy places that could not be more different from the strip malls, trailer parks, and six-lane highways of suburban Atlanta. Over time I learned that the Mexican and U.S. field sites are intensely intertwined, and in fact some of those features that struck me as most strongly “Mexican” looking, such as the colonial-style sandstone details on the homes of some of the town’s wealthier residents, date back not to Mexico’s colonial past but rather to the more recent prosperity of migrant...

  8. CHAPTER 3 From Respeto (Respect) to Confianza (Trust): Changing Marital Ideals
    (pp. 81-111)

    In Mexican Spanish, the wordsnovioandnoviarefer to boyfriend and girlfriend, respectively, but also to one’s intended spouse; there is no separate term for a fiancé(e). For the older women in the Mexican field sites, the concepts were indistinguishable: the goal of anoviazgo(courtship) was to produce a marriage. These brief noviazgos, which were strictly controlled by the girls’ parents, allowed for very little personal interaction between the future spouses. My use of the term “courtship” rather than “dating” as a translation for noviazgo, dated though it may sound, is deliberate. Courtship—and the implication of tightly...

  9. CHAPTER 4 “Ya No Somos Como Nuestros Papas” (We Are Not Like Our Parents): Companionate Marriage in a Mexican Migrant Community
    (pp. 112-156)

    Analyses of marriage as a site for the reproduction of gender inequality have focused primarily on power and labor. Feminist social scientists have developed a language to describe and analyze domestic struggles for power, but our theoretical tools have failed to incorporate a paradox with which many of us are intimately familiar: marriage can be simultaneously a site for the negotiation and reproduction of gender inequality and a relationship of mutual assistance, emotional support, and shared pleasure.¹ To understand the social context and lived experience of marriage in this migrant community—simultaneously a site for hierarchy and intimacy—we need...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Representing Change: A Methodological Pause to Reflect
    (pp. 157-179)

    Eloquent though they were, the stories men and women told me about courtship, love, and marriage do not speak for themselves. Differences in how the two groups of women compared here—women born in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, and women born in the 1950s and 1960s—depict their intimate lives may be shaped by the fact that they are at different stages in their lives and marriages: given several decades of shared experience the younger couples may come to argue, as their parents do, that what truly holds a marriage together is work shared and obligations fulfilled, rather than...

  11. CHAPTER 6 “En el Norte la Mujer Manda” (In the North, the Woman Gives the Orders): How Migration Changes Marriage
    (pp. 180-208)

    What are the differences in the social constructions of gender between two locations of a transnational community? The first generation of studies examining questions of gender and migration in the Mexican, Caribbean, and Central American contexts looked at whether women who migrate to the United States gain power, relative to their sisters who stay behind. Most found that in fact women are more powerful in the United States, primarily because of the social and economic effects of women’s participation in wage labor. These studies, however, assumed for the most part that gender in the sending communities was a static set...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Sexual Intimacy in Mexican Companionate Marriages
    (pp. 209-230)

    Marital sexuality has been transformed from a relationship that produces social ties primarily through reproduction to one that is understood to produce conjugal ties directly. To a lesser extent, migration-related differences reveal themselves in what women said about their sexual relationships. I emphasize here the fluidity of cultural constructions of sexuality, drawing attention to the socially and historically constructed emotional content of relationships. The theoretical approach to sexuality is that it is not a static cultural construction that dictates behavior or an attribute that people possess but rather a set of shared ideas, values, and symbols that peopleuseto...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Fertility Decline, Contraceptive Choice, and Mexican Companionate Marriages
    (pp. 231-264)

    The younger women would agree with their mothers thatlos hijos son la felicidad de la casa(children make for a happy home), but they want much less of this happiness than did their parents. Young couples’ interest in delaying a first birth and their decisions to space births, to have fewer children overall, and to build more emotionally complex relationships with those children take on new meaning when analyzed in light of the broader trend toward companionate marriage. The life history informants’ mothers, who managed their fertility using breast-feeding or sterilization, had an average of almost nine surviving children...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Conclusions
    (pp. 265-286)

    The changes in the lives of Mexican men and women who migrate highlight the importance of exploring how social and economic context may affect communities of people who are culturally similar but who live in different places. Specifically, differences between the two communities in the spatial organization of social life, in women’s economic opportunities, in the role of the Catholic Church in organizing and regulating daily life, and in perceived legal protections against family violence facilitate independence for some migrant women.

    A finding that merits further investigation is the way in which men and women in the three field sites...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 287-328)
  16. Glossary
    (pp. 329-334)
  17. References
    (pp. 335-356)
  18. Index
    (pp. 357-376)