Maya children working in the streets: Value mismatches from the village to the street setting

Katrin E. Tovote, Ashley E. Maynard
Published Online:
27 Dec 2018
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 53 Issue S2

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In the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, a large number of indigenous Maya people have relocated from their villages to an urban centre where many families, especially mothers and children, work as street vendors. We were interested in the typical cultural expectations for the development of Maya girls, the ways that these expected patterns were interrupted by street work, and the ways that girls and families dealt with this novel situation. In order to provide a more complete picture, we compared the daily experiences of girls who work on the street with those of their male counterparts and with the routines of girls who lived in traditional, rural settings. Our data include ethnographic observations and a census (N = 250–300), informal chats (N = 250–300), and semi‐structured interviews with children (N = 51) and adults (N = 25). Using Greenfield's theory of social change and development, we found a coexistence of value matches and mismatches. These addressed adherence to tradition versus embracing ethnic variety and innovation valued in money‐based market economies and collective responsibility versus individual choice and expression. This mix of values occurred in the domains of gender roles for work, motivation for street work, leisure time, and schooling.

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