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Family solidarities questioned by gender. Ethnographic cases in a village of southern Chiapas (Mexico)

Alicia Rinaldy

Research Framework: This paper documents the diversity of family solidarities experienced by men and women, coffee producers in the region of Soconusco, in southern Chiapas (Mexico). They belong to a generation born around 1950 who lived two distinct historical moments. First, socialization structured around the agrarian production and the ejido, which imposed some obligations and built specific gender identities. Then, since the 90s, in a new step of her family life course, this generation faces de-agrarianization process of the labor market and state intervention.

Objectives: The central question that guided the writing of this paper is: how family solidarities can explain the diversity of men and women trajectories in this village?

Methodology: The investigation is based on a one-year ethnographic survey done in El Paraíso village and, to be more precise, on eight family genealogies and about twenty life stories. The paper looks into two ethnographic cases belonging to this qualitative database.

Results: The article reveals the weight of gender in the family solidarities because men and women do not inherit the same resources and obligations within families. Family solidarity takes different forms and outlines according to the resources (financial, relational, land) and to the sociodemographic characteristics of everyone (as the gender or the place among siblings). 

Conclusions: The observation of the different forms of family solidarity has allowed us to understand the male and female ways to make family and the issues in terms of gender identity in this village of Mexico’s southern border. Family solidarities allow dealing with the new labour markets and the new forms of public intervention in rural areas in a differentiated and unequal way.  

Contribution: The article has three interests. It reveals the voices of a generation who now are struggling to live exclusively from agricultural labour, while their parents benefited from land reform and industrial capitalism advantageous for small-scale peasant agriculture. The analysis also shows how family solidarity is deeply determined by the gender system. Finally, the text is useful beyond this specific research, for the general reflection on mutual family assistance and the methodological tools for appreciate it.