Precinct 333

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A Situation I Encounter All Too Often

As a high school teacher (10th grade World History),I see too many babies having babies. And I've seen too many of these little girls who are married or who get married.
In its most forgiving outline, the love story of Liset and James Landeros has the ring of a fairy tale.

Liset and James fell in love. They defied their parents - and the law - to follow their hearts. And after many struggles and trials, they finally married.

But one harsh detail - their ages - belies this romantic formula. A slight, quiet girl with coffee-colored eyes, Liset was only 12 when she began dating James, four years her senior. At 13 she was pregnant and miscarried her first baby. At age 14 she married James to keep him out of jail; the state of Texas was threatening to charge him with the statutory rape of a minor.

Frankly, the law needs to be changed to allow for the charges to be filed regardless of whether or not the couple later marries. And at least this couple sort of tried to do the right thing.

I mean, its amazing. I've seen too many girls with boyfriends in their twenties. Last year I even had a 16-year-old girl who wasn't sure if the father of her unborn child was her 21-year-old boyfriend, the married 26-year-old in the apartment next door, or the 31-year-old married guy upstairs. Mama's response? "It doesn't matter. It will just be wonderful to have another baby in the house, now that your little brother is in pre-school!"

There is a common thread that flows through most of the cases like this that I see. The story notes this same factor.
Immigration from developing countries where the practice is the norm, particularly Latin America, may be boosting the number of underage wives in the United States.

According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, young girls of Latino descent are bucking a historic national downward trend in teen pregnancy.

One study released in March by the Mid-America Institute on Poverty in Illinois shows that the birthrate for Latinas age 10 to 19 in that state actually grew by 18 percent in the past decade, while birthrates for all other ethnic groups declined.

"We get a steady influx of people from Mexico, and they bring certain traditions with them," says Maria Socorro Pesqueira, the executive director of Latina Women in Action, an outreach organization in Chicago. "There are quinceanera (coming-of-age) parties for 15-year-old girls that send the signal: Hey, you're a lady now and ready to move on in life."

Does a commitment to "cultural diversity" mean we have to accept such an attitude?


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons License.