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Ears Pierced at Birth for Latin American Girls

Latin American Girl’s Ears Pierced at Birth SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico- “I have never seen my girls without earrings,” a mother of two once explained to me in Antigua. She said that she would bring a set of earrings in with her to the hospital as she went into labor and then pass [...]

Latin American Girl’s Ears Pierced at Birth

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico- “I have never seen my girls without earrings,” a mother of two once explained to me in Antigua. She said that she would bring a set of earrings in with her to the hospital as she went into labor and then pass them off to the nurse. When her babies returned to her after being extracted, spanked, and washed down, they would already be sporting earrings in their little wobbly heads.

This seemed to be a common affair: newborn baby girls in Latin America get their ears pieced right after being shot out from their mother’s undersides. Their umbilical cords are cut, they are taken away to be washed, and their ears are pierced with little shiny studs — all before being placed into their mother’s arms for the first time.

Mexican baby with ears pierced

Mexican baby with ears pierced

I must admit that I have never really looked at other babies before I had my own. I traveled the world and I don’t think I have ever really acknowledged any babies anywhere — well, except for a two year old boy that I watched smack the shit out of his grandpa in China one year. Funny stuff. But when I first began traveling with my brand new daughter, Petra, in Latin America I noticed something:

I began noticing babies. I noticed that many little girl babies already have their ear’s pierced. I found this an interesting state of affairs, as many of these little girls were too young to even stand up, speak, or do anything other than shit and gurgle — but they were decked out with sparkling bling dangling from their ears.

Dominican Republic baby with pierced ears

Dominican Republic baby with pierced ears

How was it that a 6 month old baby could have its ears pierced? Did the mother take it to the mall and try to set the wobbly little thing up in the boutique piercer’s chair to have its ears blasted?

No, these piercing are done at birth.

Like my friend in Antigua, many mothers throughout Latin America have never seen their own daughters without earrings. Baby girls often come with pierced ears in Latin America. I suppose it is only fair for the girl’s to get their ear’s pierced at birth if the boys must be circumcised. It is only a pity that the boy’s birth-right modification does not end up looking as pretty.

Young girl in Guatemala with pierced ears

Young girl in Guatemala with pierced ears

As I walk through the streets of Latin America, I take it for granted that the little girls will have their ears pierced — it is not a choice, it is culture. I made a gest to my wife about getting Petra’s ears pierced when she was around 8 months old. My wife said no way, that needs to be a decision she has to make for herself when she is older.

Perhaps she was on to something: piercing a baby’s ears at birth is a lot different than at 8 months. Just as removing the foreskin is probably also better done right after being born. I could only imagine Petra pulling and tugging at a new set of earrings at this age, which would have been much different when she was a new born who did not even really know yet how to move her arms.

El Salvador baby with pierced ears

El Salvador baby with pierced ears

If you are going to pierce a little kid’s ears, birth is probably not a bad time to do it — as the little know-nothings are so shocked at being in the world that a fresh set of shiny earrings are probably the least of their worries. So the piercings are probably not often manipulated, and probably heal pretty easily.

Earrings just seem to be a part of the Latin American woman, they are truly not an additional accessory — they are there from birth.

Baby in El Salvador with pierced ears

Baby in El Salvador with pierced ears

Little girl with pierced ears in Latin America

Little girl with pierced ears in Latin America

Baby girls in Latin America have pierced ears from birth

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Filed under: Central America, Culture and Society, Mexico

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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13 comments… add one

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  • craig | travelvice.com September 13, 2010, 7:30 pm

    Tatiana (my Peruvian wife, for those visitors reading) says that this is customary here in Peru as well, citing that it’s yet another way to set apart a female baby from a male.

    “What, you mean all the pink they’re wrapped up in isn’t enough? You’ve got to pierce their ears, too?” I replied to this.

    When girls are born it’s common in this country for her to receive a gift of 18 or 24 carat gold earrings. They’re usually little balls of gold with a special clasp that’s for their delicate skin. In your first image (above) this is probably an example of this.

    Frankly, I think young girls are in a rush to grow up too much as it is (particularly Latinas who develop physically at very early ages compared to Caucasian girls), and would vote against such practices.

    Tatiana’s mother thought it savage, so she didn’t get hers done until much later in life, but says she resented not having them pierced.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 14, 2010, 10:31 am

      Haha, people here are really big on boy/ girl differentiation — even more than in the USA and some other places. Petra does not have her ears pierced and when she is not decked out in pink everyone thinks she is a boy. No big deal for us, but when we say that she is a girl we get some pretty odd looks and a sign, “Oh, you are a foreigner, it shows, weirdo.”

      Right on about girls growing up fast here. I went to a chicken restaurant and this girl — who was probably actually in her late teens — told me that she was 10 years old. She was joking, but I initially believed her — it just seemed normal in the context haha. Plus I have no idea how to gauge the ages of women here, no idea at all.

      I can imagine it sucking when all of your other friends had their ears pierced at birth and you are the only one without. On with the barbarity!

      Haha

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  • Caitlin September 13, 2010, 10:27 pm

    Ok

    I enjoyed the post but… what I really have to say is: did you know that your current ad on this post is for Scientology???

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    • Bob L September 13, 2010, 10:50 pm

      Sorry Caitlin, the only ad I see is for free babies. It says “Free Baby Coupons”. I have heard that Americans go to Guatemala and Mexico to steal babies, maybe this is an ad for an easier way than stealing.

      Bob L

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      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 14, 2010, 10:13 am

        Haha, get them while you can, going fast. My family got one from China — I think they had to pay $20,000 though. Perhaps they could have used one of these coupons.

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    • Bob L September 13, 2010, 10:53 pm

      And for those newer visitors to this site, I am just kidding. My GF says that some people take what I say seriously and could be upset by my comments. I don’t know why, I never take myself seriously, and I seldom am seriously offended by what I say.

      Bob L

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      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 14, 2010, 10:12 am

        I take you seriously, but this is what makes it funny haha.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 14, 2010, 10:17 am

      The ads revolve in accordance to reader location, keywords on the page, what keywords the advertiser is bidding for, and a bunch of other criteria. I have little control over it. The advertiser bids to be put on my pages or for the content that I put up. I don’t know how babies getting their ears pierced relates to Scientology, maybe I need to pay a million dollars to sequentially get the books to find out haha.

      A question for L. Ron I am afraid.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 14, 2010, 10:33 am

      Caitlin,

      I have Scientology ads here too. They must really be going after Mexicans or people traveling to Mexico. It sort of makes sense, as many of the foreigners traveling here seem to be cosmonauts.

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  • bicycle luke September 14, 2010, 3:52 am

    I think these ads at the top vary depending on where you are in the world? The ad I see is for a regional australian state promoting its tourism. I doubt this is shown in the USA.

    Wade, is this the case that the ads shown are country or area specific or are they all the same?

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 14, 2010, 10:10 am

      The ads search for keywords and blend relevancy with the location of the viewer. So if you are in Australia, you get targeted ads about “travel” — keyword — and “Australia” — your location. The ads determine what a page is about and then tries to match their content with it and the location of the viewer.

      So, you are correct, the same ads are not shown all over the world. I think I get ads about Mexico here, and you get ones about Australia haha.

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  • bibi September 14, 2010, 3:52 pm

    I’m from NC, and when my first daughter was born over 21 years ago, I was disgusted that the nurse at the hospital refused to pierce her ears! What safer place? And I had the gold earrings in my hand! As soon as we left the hospital two days later, I asked my mother to stop us off first at the mall to get the job done at the piercing pagoda. This was 1989, remember. The girl said she wasn’t sure it was legal, and wanted to call her manager. I nipped that idea right in the bud with a ten dollar bill and a coupon for Orange Julius. The only downside was that they had to use the kind that fit into the piercing stapler, which weren’t as cute. The first one didn’t bother her, but the sound woke her, so she was awake for the second one, and seemed startled but not pained. That’s how Bianca showed up at home already wearing earrings, and my protestant brother accused me of turning her into a Christmas tree. The following year I had my second daughter in Peru, and took the same gold earrings I’d had ready for Bianca’s birth to put in Celeste’s ears. Celeste came early, though, and escaped my womb in the back of a VW taxi just blocks before reaching the Advent Clinic in Miraflores. Nonetheless, the nurse took the earrings and the baby into the nursery and placed Celeste into an incubator and the earrings into her lobes on the spot. I got to sit in a rocking chair next to her, so I can tell you that their skin is so delicate at birth, that the nurse simply pushed the posts through and the baby never felt a thing. My daughters both had babies this year, one boy and one girl, Donovan and Diamony, and they went to the mall together to get their ears pierced at the same Piercing Pagoda. The rules are followed more strictly now, and the babies had to have had their vaccines first, but now all my offspring are fully pierced and beautiful. And my daughters? They are more than fully pierced and tatted so, to my brother: We don’t do Christmas trees anyway. Grand-bud’s old manger scene is still fine.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 14, 2010, 5:21 pm

      This is a really funny story. It is interesting that people in the USA view piercing a newborn babies ears as something strange and abusive, as it is probably the best time for a piercing. It is difficult to touch and manipulate a new piercing if you don’t even really know that your arms are a part of you yet. Probability also states that most girls eventually want earrings anyway — it is culture, it is normal, so why not just do it at birth, get it done and over with.

      I was serious when I wanted to pierce Petra’s ears a few months back. But it seems to be a bad idea, as I am sure that she would keep grabbing and tugging at them, and would probably take to the piercing incident as some sort of trauma (it is, I suppose). So I guess we will just wait until Petra wants earrings on her own — which probably won’t be too long from now haha.

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