Luis Cocon, our CFCA communications liaison in Guatemala, and his wife, Mercedes, recently welcomed their third child, Cristel, into the world. Here Luis describes some local customs and traditions that take place after a baby is born.
Naming babies in Guatemala is a family thing. We all get involved: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and everyone close enough will usually have a say in the matter.
We are careful in choosing names; we want our children to be proud of their name and we try to avoid those that can be offensive, funny or extravagant.
Our more common sources for names are: names of parents, grandparents or close relatives, from nature, from characteristics expected from the baby’s personality or popular names at the time.
Local customs and traditions
As soon as possible after our baby was born, my wife drank a hot tortilla drink called “atol de tortilla.” We believe this tortilla drink provides good, abundant and rich breast milk.
She stayed home with the baby for about 40 days as her body recovered from giving birth. During this time my wife was cared for by my mother.
Mercedes could not take cold showers, go up and down stairs, carry heavy things or hand wash dishes and clothes because she was recovering, and we also believe that the baby can get sick by her doing these things.
Putting a coin over the baby’s bellybutton with a cloth is a common thing to do to prevent a protruding navel. My wife and I are not sure this really works, but we have done it anyway, partly because our parents wanted us to do it.
We also put a red bracelet on the baby’s right hand to protect her from “mal de ojo,” or bad-spirited people.
Well-wishers came to our home as soon as they found out that our baby was here.
They brought plenty of food because they knew my wife must rest and could not do all the chores and cooking.
The older people offered advice on how to care for our baby and affirmed their support for us.
We prepared our room with decorations, extra chairs and coffee for our visitors. It is tradition to give coffee and homemade bread with natural honey on the side.
Well-wishers came in and out of our home for the next month or two after our baby was born.
The amount of people was sometimes overwhelming, but we also felt blessed to receive the love from all these people. Everyone wanted to meet our new baby and welcome her to this world. We were also eager to present our baby to our loved ones.
My parents tell me that 12 was a typical family size about 30 years ago. My father had 11 brothers and sisters, and so did my mother.
Today the Guatemalan family has gotten smaller. Large families of 12 children are not as common as in past years.
I have three children, but a more typical number for an average Guatemalan family today is about four.
Congratulations, Luis and Mercedes!