Careers of Midwives in a Mayan Community
Midwives in the Zutuhil community of San Pedro la Laguna in highland Guatemala are both ritual and obstetrical specialists. Like shamanpriests generally, the midwife mediates between her patients and supernaturals, performing rituals to safeguard her patients. She herself is recruited by supernaturals and her calling is validated by a shaman. Exercising the role of midwife in San Pedro, in comparison with other communities, involves large case loads and requires a high level of activity and professional commitment. Incumbents are recruited from the category of women still in their prime—married women who begin their careers between the ages of 35 and 40. These women must overcome their own reluctance, their husband’s objections, and society’s envious ambivalence toward their social ascendancy (Paul and Paul 1975).
KeywordsPublic Health Nurse Professional Commitment Domestic Sphere Supernatural Power Ritual Specialist
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