TURNING 15 IN EL SALVADOR
After 17 years of thinking that I was “learning” a culture (ok, so I was, and am still learning), and after a couple of years of confusion and inquiry into what I see in the culture, and a few days of serious research (and a couple of hours of fervent prayer), I wish that I could sit down and write a detailed and intellectual research paper on certain aspects of the culture. I would like to call it: “The Quinceañera and Rural Latin Culture, and the Historic and Spiritual roots of Salvadoran Culture, in which the Cultural Norm (the Accepted, Traditional World View), Mixes Animism + Catholicism + Evangelicalism, and Under a Veil of Religion Seems to Welcome infidelity, Sexual Perversion and Promiscuity, Violence, Child Abuse, and the Forced Motherhood of Minors and Sexual Abuse of Children - Especially Around the Coming-of-Age-Traditional-Sexual-Maturity-Rite-of-Passage-into-Womanhood Ceremony of the Quinceañera”.
Aside from the fact that an intellectual paper cannot bear a title so long, (and filled with grammatical errors), I have so much more to learn before writing such a paper. But, I still wanted to "put it out there” in the form of this blog, and a question (at bottom). In all of my research, aside from personal experience, and first-hand reports, I have seen cited innumerable times, that this topic has “yet to be fully studied”, and that most people who celebrate the quinceañera (whether in Latin or North America, and even in Spain), do not know the origins of the celebration: did it come from the Aztecs or the Spaniards? Was it a native, animistic ritual or does it have catholic origins?
I do not, in any way mean to judge individuals who celebrate the quinceañera (and I have been to what I would call, some beautiful, God-honouring celebrations, in which I really think the tradition was sanctified and redeemed). I do think that many cultural traditions can be redeemed, and used in a way to honour God, and to edify believers. But, in reaching the youth in our village, and in making disciples in this nation, I think that it is extremely important to understand the culture fully, and to understand the roots of the culture. When we do our staff training and talk about World View, we need to have a clear understanding of the World view –and I thought that I did have a fairly clear understanding, until recently.
I feel like there is an urgency to understanding the secrets of this culture, that the women and girls in our village never talk about, but that I have begun to see. There are several 14-year-olds who we love very much, who are “looking forward” to turning 15 next year – but what will it mean that they turn 15?
I already know from several conversations with the older generation of women, that 100% of those I have talked to, (of the women that I do know), became mothers at (or extremely close to –usually before) the age of 15. They became grandmothers at age 30, and great-grandmothers at age 60. I also know that it is a gang-controlled area, and has been since after the war. While the historical, traditional roots, may or may not include violence and rape surrounding the quinceañera, we do know that rape surrounds gang initiation for girls. It is “global-common-knowledge”, that girls are initiated into gangs in three main ways: (1) being physically beaten (usually by other girls), being “gang-raped” by men, or being chosen as a gang member (usually a leader)’s wife.
I have also read (while not fully researched), that (especially, but not strictly) in rural areas, the quinceañera is typically raped or taken as a wife - in a veil of secrecy, with the full knowledge and complete lack of protection, of the family.
Very recently, the Salvadoran government approved a new law forbidding the marriage and sexual relations of/with minors. The problem is that those practicing these traditions are neither informed nor prosecuted.
So, the question, (mostly to Salvadorans/Latinos): “What does quinceañera mean to you personally, and what do you think it means to girls living in the “campo”/village?"
AND, WHAT IS THE SOLUTION? "Plan", and other organizations are pushing for El Salvador to legalize abortion! Right now abortions are illegal in El Salvador...is "terminating a pregnancy" (or killing a baby!) really going to help the girls?!