Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Bolivian Baby Shower

I went to a café in the popular Montsenor district of Santa Cruz, Bolivia with my colleagues from work. We were going to attend our co-worker's baby shower. In the blocks heading away from the giant Christ statue, the streets are filled with one café after another, as well as a selection of great restaurants – Italian, Mexican, duck, frozen yogurt. About 20 people got together to celebrate the baby showers of two women, both named Claudia, and due in August and September respectively.

I was really curious to see what a Bolivian shower is like. The fact that they refer to it as a “baby shower,” in English, made me think it was probably imported from the States. For much of the time, it wasn’t much different from any other gathering of friends at a café, except that two of the attendees were visibly pregnant. Both males and females came, they ordered coffee, tea and snacks, and chatted amongst themselves.

At one point they presented congratulatory cards to the two women, which everyone had signed. And they presented them each with an attractive green baby carrier, purchased through a collection. There wasn’t too much planned or personalized about it – no games, no stories, no pictures.

Toward the end, the Claudia who is due in September made the rounds around the tables with a gold chain. She swung it over the palm of both men and women to predict the number and sex of the children that person would have in the future. After raising and lowering the chain toward the palm three times, she let it move of its own accord. If the chain swung up and down, it would be a boy, if it swung in a circle, it would be a girl, if it didn’t move, there wouldn’t be any children.

My colleague Maria was upset, because when she’d had it done the previous day, it hadn’t moved at all over her right palm.

“I’m never going to be a mother!” the 29-year-old, currently without a boyfriend, lamented. “Try my left hand,” she insisted.

There, she received the answer that she’d have one girl. They explained that since Maria is left-handed, her energy came only from her left hand.

When they did it to me, they told me I’d have a boy, then a girl. The third time it didn’t move, which meant two biological children would be it. I told them I’d get back to them in several months to let them know how accurate their predictions were. But they seemed to believe pretty strongly.

Only my German colleague, Helen, refused to be tested – either not believing in the game passed down by Bolivian grandmothers, or not wanting her reproductive future to be made public knowledge.