Growing up in the United States, young girls are told they can be anything they want to be, from princesses to doctors. They are constantly reminded of just how much they can do.
Women have been empowered by movements such as Me Too, Lean In and the Women’s March. They have been encouraged to prioritize their education so they can live successful lives.
But in Latin America, young girls have different priorities. They sometimes focus less on education and more on becoming wives and moms as soon as possible.
“By the time I was 23 years old, I was married and had four kids,” said Elva Ramirez, age 75, who was born in Peru.
Starting a family so young was and still is the norm for Ramirez and her generation of Hispanics. In other countries, such as the Dominican Republic, Peru and Cuba, it is normal to marry and have kids at a young age.
Millennials born and/or raised in the United States feel pressured to start families young, but many don’t understand the urgency. These younger Hispanics are prioritizing other parts of their lives, such as school and careers.
“I want to focus on building my career before settling down,” said Rashely Brito, age 22. “There’s so much time in the future for that that I don’t even think about marriage or having kids any time soon.”
Millennials such as Brito and Stephanie Sanabria, 24, are choosing their own futures.
“I’ve never been in a serious relationship, so I’ve never brought a boy home, and my family used to remind me of that any chance they got,” said Sanabria. “But they now understand my priorities and respect them. They are proud of my academic accomplishments.”
Brito comes from a big family with 10 cousins, a handful of aunts and uncles, and five siblings and stepsiblings, all of whom live in the Dominican Republic and throughout the United States. While Sanabria’s family isn’t as big, marrying and starting a family young is not a crazy concept for her. Her grandma had 10 siblings and then had her children young, so Sanabria knows that it’s common in Latin countries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a survey in 2014 that showed the birth rate was 25.5 percent per 1,000 Hispanic teens between the ages of 15 and 17, which is higher than other ethnicities who have a birth rate of 14.1 percent. There are many reasons why the birth rate is higher for Latinas. These include religion, finances and lack of health and sex education.
While teenage birth rates and teen marriages remain the highest for Latin teens, those numbers are decreasing. Millennials are continuing to break from Hispanic tradition for other priorities like college, careers and other passions.