Growing Up Sexually


TZELTAL (Mexico)


IndexAmericasCaribbean, Middle / Central AmericaMexicoTzeltal 





“Children are given no information about sex prior to marriage, and girls remain entirely innocent. They may be pregnant several months before they are aware of what is happening. The complete sexual segregation in work tasks and play during adolescence makes the relationship between sexes strained”, an organisation contrasting the continuity in occupational adjustment from early childhood to adulthood (Nash, 1970)[1].

Stross (1970:p63-4)[2]: “When girls reach eight or so they sometimes play games relating to sex and marriage. One group that I noticed was squatting in a banana grove while the leader passed out unripe bananas to the other girls saying, “this is your wife, and this is your wife, and this is my wife”, until each was appointed the care of her own banana-wife. Later they changed roles, turning the bananas into drunken husbands. At about this age or earlier girls will search for and find the [.] , a small worklike antlion that is supposed to be placed on the nipples of a woman’s breasts so that it will bite and make the breasts grow”.

According to Hunt (1962:p94)[3]: “After the first menstruation (and sometimes a little before if they show signs of maturity), they change from the light cotton skirt into the traditional dark bluenagua (tubular skirt) and redfaja (sash), and are considered marriageable (solteritas ortek' el)”.












Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Nash, J. C. (1970) In the Eyes of the Ancestors: Belief and Behavior in a Mayan Community. New Haven, Conn. ; London: YaleUniversity Press

[2] Stross, B. (1970) Aspects of Language Acquisition by Tzeltal Children. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms. 1971 copy [eHRAF]

[3] Hunt, M. E. V. (1962) The Dynamics of the Domestic Group in Two Tzeltal Villages: A Contrastive Comparison. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Library