Careers of Midwives in a Mayan Community
By Lois Paul, Stanford University
II. Juana, a Prototypical Midwife
III. Maria, an Atypical Midwife
IV. Social & Economic Characteristics
From: Women in Ritual and Symbolic Roles. Edited by Judith Hoch-Smith and Anita Spring (Plenum Publishing Corporation 1978)
EDITORS' NOTE: A short and conceptually narrowed version of this article was published in Ethos shortly before Lois Paul died. That publication, entitled "Recruitment to a Ritual Role" (L. Paul 1975), deals exclusively with one of the two major themes of the present version, that of the normal process of becoming a midwife in San Pedro la Laguna. Like this chapter, it includes the case of Juana, a typical, indeed prototypical, midwife, and it lays out the economic and other background factors that usually characterize those "normal" women who end up in mid-career as sacred midwives. This chapter includes as well the contrasting and instructive case of Maria, a deviant or "abnormal" woman who half solves her psychological problems, along lines suggested by Silverman (1967) for shamans, by becoming accepted as a midwife in a neighboring Indian town. Lois Paul was a research assistant in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University, Stanford, California. Ms. Paul died on December 21, 1975.
"El Parto" childbirth. Painting by Juan Fermin González Morales, 1999.
"Parto," birth, one of the few paintings of a midwife which is done by a woman artist. Painting by Vicenta Puzul de González, 2009. Collection: Rita Moran, mayawomeninart.org