Why Most Latina Moms Won’t Let Their Daughters Leave The Hospital Without Earrings
Leaving the hospital already blinged out is a rite of passage for many Latinas. It is a tradition that is so ingrained our culture that even our own tías learned the mastery of taking a needle and pushing it through the skin of our tender earlobes. While to Latinas it is very normal to have your ears pierced before you can even walk, non-Latinas have questioned whether this is child abuse. For us, this is just how we were brought up — our mamás just wanted us to enter pre-school looking fabulous and we cannot blame them for that.
So, first you are born.
This is a pretty natural first step in human nature. By the time you are born, you know mamá already has three things ready for you. The first is your name, the second is your outfit and the third is all the bling you’re going to wear for your first introduction to the outside world.
The first thing you do is chillar, because ¡¿qué clase de carajo es todo esto?!
There are so many firsts to be had. Your first solid meal, first steps, first Instagram post — but all mamá can think about is the moment you’ll rock your first piece of gold jewelry.
You are whisked away to get your ears pierced basically while you’re still halfway stuck in your mom’s womb.
We weren’t joking when we said many of us got our ears pierced before leaving the hospital. I had a neighbor who was a viejita that was nearly blind as a bat but she was always called on when there was a new birth. She’d bring a small sewing kit to the hospital, request ice to numb the ears y rápidito she would puncture the earlobe with a sewing needle. Chances are, we or our moms knew of a señora who would get the job done.
But why? What’s the rush? Good questions.
These questions have been asked by Latinos and non-Latinos alike, including this mom posting on a parenting message board:
I asked my sister what she thought about it. I was curious about her opinion because she’s been in the U.S. since she was about 5, got her college degree here, etc… and is basically well immersed into “American” culture. Well she basically had the same attitude as my mom! I was really surprised! She asked me if I was “wussing out” and if I was becoming a “gringa.” I was really surprised. I didn’t expect her to respond like that. (Which by the way, I’m the only one of all my siblings who actually speaks Spanish to her children and they are very fluent in it!)
Of course, there might be a slight thread of sexism running through the whole thing.
From the same poster as above:
We just had our first baby girl after having boys, and I’m a little torn on this. It seems to be big taboo in the Mexican community for a girl not to have earrings. I know that growing up, if I ever forgot eto put mine on, my aunt would say, “Hola Nino”, or “Hello Boy.”
Yup. It’s a statement that’s probably not new to any of us. One Twitter user also mentioned that even when she was wearing ruffles from head to toe, her mom would call her a boy when she would forget to wear her earrings.
Another Latina mom points out the tension this discussion can cause among moms of different cultures:
A lot of Anglo moms consider the practice barbaric and even borderline child abuse. Latina moms accuse Anglos of cultural insensitivity in the same breath that Anglo moms compare earlobe piercing to genital mutilation. There’s no winning this argument.
Comparing earlobe piercing to genital mutilation? Yikes.
So how did this tradition even start? Legend has it that…
…Once upon a time, a baby Latina went out into the world without pierced ears and an evil dragon found her and said, “Oye, pareces niño.” And the little girl was all like…
As for whether it’s really child abuse, well…
A lot of us whose ears were pierced before the placenta was even wiped away will readily tell you that we literally do not remember the moment it happened, and also that the larger the hoop we wear now, the stronger our superpowers. But it’s ultimately up for parents to decide, ¿tú sabes?
In any case: Worry not, little former holey-eared babies. You’re not alone.
Did you get your ears pierced as a baby? Would you pierce your baby’s ears? We wanna know, because we’re metiches.