Ch. 5

Chapter 5. The Life Course in 21st Century Perspective

Lays out the transforming cultural scripts and spaces which are encountered along the contemporary life course. Details the campesino life course in the context of traditional work patterns and the cultural construction of gender. Analyses how the shift to new cultural scripts and spaces is altering perceptions of work, gender and aging.

Video: Two Examples of Hand-Kissing Respecto Greetings

Field notes June 15, 2003: At one of the largest extended households in the community. I am talking to Don Edwardo, age 78, and his wife Isabela, age 74, who are working in their butcher shop attached to their house and facing the street. They look up at the noisy approach of a group of young teens. I recognize one of their grandsons, age 13, who greets me with a handshake. Then smiling and bobbing in a casual way, he skips to his grandmother, first casually kissing her hand and following this with a gentle affectionate kiss on her cheek.

Added Value: Issue of Gender: Web links and audio.

From the Mesolore web site you can access audio lectures about gender in Mexico and how that changed after the Spanish conquest.

Student Question

Listen to lectures Studying Women’s (In)equality by Susan Kellogg and Engendering the Past by Elizabeth M. Brumfiel and think about how it relates to what is discussed in this book.

Added Value: Key Print Resource:

Caroline Dodds Pennock. 2008. Bonds of Blood: Gender, Lifecycle, and Sacrifice in Aztec Culture

PowerPoint: Traditional Campesino Life Course Stages in Nahuatl

Video: Maintaining Some Aspects Of The Campesino Lifestyle

One can begin to understand the dramatic shifts in cultural spaces within the very youthful part of the life course by looking at the images in the text ranging from the 1970s to 2010 in the video and PowerPoint below. The video and powerpoint show a shift from children in the 1970s being prepared to take on the campesino/a mantle in young adulthood, to a growing engagement with a technologically-mediated and culturally diverse world outside community borders.

In the short video below, is seen an elder with his six-year-old grandson tending sheep on a road to the mountain grazing areas.

PowerPoint-Life Script Changes 1970s-2010




Rescripting the Life Course



Video: Los Buitres

Gang-oriented residents about these kids, they were angrily described as lazy, drinkers and drug users who fight among themselves and with other groups. In the link here Alex Juarez speaks to me about los buitres.

Video: Rosalba’s Quinceanera

For the 90 percent of Amanalco’s residents who are Catholic, there is also a cultural script of religious maturity built into the sequential rituals of baptism, First Communion, Confirmation and marriage. Some girls also celebrate the Quinceañera (15th birthday). As the video “Rosalba’s Quinceañera” illustrates, this ritual embeds the godchild in a powerful social triangle.

Web Link: Quinceañeras and Cultural Variation

Quinceañera celebrations are widely practiced in Spanish speaking Catholic areas of Latin America with distinct variations in countries like Puerto Rico, Columbia, Cuba and Mexico. Such celebrations are increasingly being carried out in North America within Latino heritage communities and sometimes are merged with the traditions of a “Sweet Sixteen” party.

Video: Nanny’s Working Experience

Up to the 1980s the only typical wage labor sought by teenage girls was to work as live-in servants and nannies for middle and upper-class families in Mexico City or Texcoco. While this involved wage exploitation and difficult working conditions, some women spoke positively about how this experience provided access to new experiences. For example, my comadre Anastasia, age 44 in 2010, emphasized that, as a young teen, she was well treated when she worked as a nanny in Mexico City, caring for the child of a female doctor. She even got to ride in a plane for the first time, something almost no one in Amanalco has yet ever done. You can learn about her experience working as a nanny by clicking on the image below.

Video: The Shift to Textile Work: Rosalba in Chiconcuac

By 2000 about 200 villagers, including my goddaughter Rosalba, still worked in Chiconcuac. However, early in that decade increasing global competition began to force these factories to drastically downsize. At that time about 20 families in Amanalco decided to use their children’s accumulated skills and wages to invest in sewing and weaving machines and create clothing in their own homes for sale in regional markets. By 2010 this pattern was becoming very popular, with about 150 households engaged in the production of clothing.

Video: Young woman Who Started the First Internet Café in 2003

A smaller core of young women also took advantage of growing educational opportunities, completing high school in the new local facility built in the early 1980s or a technical school completed in 1995. Some went on to outside technical schools, junior college, and even to university in Mexico City. A small core of these women became hair stylists, secretaries, nurses, and teachers in both regular grade schools and bilingual schools opening in the region. One such 21-year-old female, a computer science major at Texcoco’s junior college, opened Amanalco’s first computer café, in 2003, with the financial backing of her parents and other relatives. Here she can be seen talking about the development of this business.

Power Point: 21st century occupations of fathers and mothers.

In a 2003 sample drawn from 156 4th and 5th graders in the primary school, almost none of the children (2 percent) identify their fathers as campesinos, with the most commonly cited work being: other (any commercial activities); merchant of some kind; clothes maker; bus or taxi driver and musician.

Video: Head Delegado Talks About How He Learned Music

This event highlighted for me the growing cultural and economic importance of music for Amanalco, and also how this occupation connects residents beyond the household and across generations. While my 1972/3 dissertation research indicated that 69 individuals were working in fiesta bands, by 2011, the head delegado, himself a salaried musician in the National Naval Band, estimated that there were at least 500 people in Amanalco who made money playing music.

PowerPoint: The Shift to Maturity

One of the most powerful frameworks for understanding the changing life course in Amanalco and elsewhere in Mexico is the dramatic and even startling fertility-linked demographic change mentioned earlier in this chapter.

By 2005, Amanalco’s community’s age structure still had the classic pyramidal, youth-dominated shape, although the reduction in childbirths was beginning to be seen at the youngest end of the lifespan. With just 3.4 percent over age 65, this was still a young community, especially compared to other towns closer to Texcoco where higher migration and earlier limitations on fertility typically doubled or even tripled this measure of agedness.

Added Value: Web Link: Age pyramids for other countries

At for following site for the US Census bureau, follow the instructions below to create age pyramids for most the nations around the world;

Under the drop down menu for Select Report, choose “Populations Pyramid Graph”, then select the year, country or region and hit “Submit” button at the bottom left to see the resulting pyramids. To get a sense of global difference in population dynamics, you might compare the age pyramids for Mexico, the United States and Japan, for the current year and into the future.