San Antonio Polopó


In San Antonio Palopo families are large and tight knit. Many families and extended families live either in the same house and share kitchens and bathrooms or live nearby  in the same neighborhood. 

 Not long ago it was common for a woman to have seven to twelve children in her lifetime. The children were needed in the families to help their parents with farming, building, cooking and other such chores.  While the parents grow older the benefits of having many children are numerous. The children often take care of their aging parents.

Family members, children of San Antonio Palopo
Child of San Antonio Palopo

 For the Maya of San Antonio Palopo having a large family was and still is a form of secure retirement. 

When a family member is sick or needs care, the families will work together to help pay and look after whoever in the family is sick. Sometimes the family cannot afford to assist so they rely on the neighborhood to help in any way they can. Neighbors, family and friends come together to help assist each other.

In San Antonio Palopo there is no such thing as a nursing home. The Maya take care of their own!!



Childbirth is still frequently done at home with a local midwife. The nearest hospital from San Antonio Palopo is in Solola, the department’s capital. This is almost 45 minutes away by car. Finding transportation to rush to the hospital at night is very difficult for the locals. Just recently a clinic and an ambulance have been provided to San Antonio Palopo. Due to traditions, many of the women still prefer to have birth at home.  

Fatalities of the women or babies while giving birth still remain a very high risk.  Midwives are for the most part poorly trained and provide only the most basic assistance. Often when the women goes into labor a family member will be sent off to fetch the midwife. Sometimes this is long walk up the steep mountain slopes at late hours at night.

The local clinic provides services such as birth control but the most of the women are shy and reluctant to enter the clinic and ask for such services, so unwanted pregnancies remain high. 

Most couples in San Antonio Palopo are having fewer children and this provides some benefits and some downfalls. The benefits are parents can spend less money on feeding and clothing the children and are able to spend more money education. The downside is that they will have less family to help assist them as they age.

                                                                             Love and commitment              

        In the past marriage was sometimes arranged by the parents and mates were often chosen based on social status of the family of the young man or woman who would be married. This is no longer a common tradition. Relationships for the Maya here in San Antonio Palopo are  similar to relationships to those in the United States or Europe. Courting a potential mate is often a long drawn out process and courtship begins when the young man or woman is about fifteen to sixteen years old. 

Young men sometimes arrive to the girls house late at night when the parents are presumed to be asleep. They will toss little pebbles or rocks at the window to get their attention. She would then open the window and the conversations will begin, sometimes for hours. Sometimes the female will sneak out of the house to accompany the young man. If the parents find out, they will get very angry and sometimes the father will chase the young man away, threaten him and his daughter.


After marriage it is typical for the young woman to live with the man and join his family. She is expected to assist in chores that will help the mans family. Sometimes this can be very difficult for the young woman because her mother n law may not be very kind to the new daughter.


In relationships in San Antonio Palopo the man is still expected to earn the money and the woman is expected to take care of the house and children. For many it remains a very macho place. Sometimes men do not allow the women to leave the house, the men can be very controlling and abusive. 

In recent years there have been improvements to woman's rights. But progress has been very slow. San Antonio Palopo is one of the last towns around the lake to except this change due to its strong traditions and isolation.

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