Spanish culture contains a spectrum of customs and traditions surrounding the giving of jewelry to newborn babies and infants. Some of these traditions hold that the giving of jewelry will afford supernatural or spiritual benefit to the children, while others consider it a right of passage, or simply for aesthetic gain.
The traditional giving of jewelry to support the health and well-being of a child begins well before birth in Spanish culture. According to the Hawai'i Community College, different types of jewelry can be given to the mother by her family and community to prevent malformation of the unborn child and to promote a healthy baby. Some traditional items include red balls, medallions or rosaries that are pinned to the mother's clothes. Women are discouraged from wearing anything around the neck during pregnancy, as they believe this may increase the risk of the baby becoming strangled by its own umbilical cord.
In Spain and other Latin American countries, it's customary to pierce the ears of baby girls, anytime from moments after birth to several weeks afterwards. This practice is used to distinguish baby boys from baby girls and is considered a mark of feminine beauty. According to the Baby Centre, family members will often pitch in to purchase gold studs for a new baby girl to be worn after birth. While having the piercing done this early is customary, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents wait to pierce the ears until the child is old enough to administer care for the piercing site herself.
Baptism is a very special time in Latin American culture, when young babies are ushered into the early stages of their religious life in the Catholic church. Special gifts are often given to babies for their baptism, some of which can specialized jewelry including crosses, rosaries, bracelets, medallions of saints, heart lockets, baby pins, etc. Usually these items are purchased specifically for babies to make sure that they're made out of baby-safe materials and won't put a baby at risk of swallowing, choking or strangling.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe is an important cultural and religious image for the people of Mexico, following the story that a woman appeared to a peasant in 1531 just outside of Mexico City and ordered him to build a church on the ground where he was standing. According to an article published on the Mary's Touch Website by Coley Taylor, Our Lady of Guadalupe is understood to be the Virgin Mary, and is today revered as the Saint of Mexico and America. Many Latin American children are given depictions of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the form of icons, medallions, bracelets, necklaces, lockets and statues, and are taught about her story early on in life.
Parents should be aware of the risks involved with purchasing jewelry for babies and infants. In addition to the risks of strangling, swallowing or cutting themselves, many types of baby jewelry can cause toxic poisoning. According to an online article published by CBC News on January 12, 2010, companies in China use dangerous metals such as cadmium and nickel as metallic alloys in bracelets, necklaces and pendants. Sucking or biting on jewelry can cause low-levels of cadmium to leach into children's systems, and long-term exposure to cadmium can result in kidney damage, high blood pressure and reduced bone density. It's best to use sterling silver products for young children, so research where your jewelry comes from and what alloys are used in it before purchasing.
- Hawai'i Community College: Hispanic Cultural Views on Pregnancy, Prenatal through Postpartum
- American Academy of Pediatrics: What Is The Best Way to Avoid Infection After Ear Piercing?
- BabyCenter: Piercing Your Newborn Baby's Ears
- Catholic Faith Store: Baptism Jewelry
- Mary's Touch: Our Lady of Guadalupe, "Empress of the America's" and "Mother of Mercy"
- CBC News: Toxic Chemical Found in Kids' Jewelry
- DebateWise: Should Baby Ear Piercing Be Banned?
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