Patagonia and the Role of Women

I have spent this entire spring semester in the beautiful country of Argentina.  On this faculty led study abroad program, we have spent time in Bariloche, Patagonia and Buenos Aires.  The things I have learned being abroad is extremely life-changing and totally gives you a new view on life as a whole.  One thing that really interests me in this country is the different cultures and social aspects of being a member of a Latin American society.  I am focusing my global theme on the idea of social inequality with a focus on discrimination of indigenous groups.  This aspect of my studies has been mainly relevant among Argentinians in Patagonia.

One of the really interesting ideas that I have been really thinking about lately is the role that women play within these groups.  In the indigenous cultures of Patagonia, the Mapuches and the Tehuelches, the role of women was very clear: take care of the family and home.  However, women were also responsible for making goods of materials that were hunted by the men.  We had the opportunity of visiting a store in Patagonia called El Mercado de la Estapa.  This was a store of hand-crafted goods made by women who are ancestors of these indigenous tribes.  They make products including gloves, ponchos, hats, sweaters, socks, and more with wool from the sheep.  They also have pelts from rabbits and other animals.  These women continue to live in their native land and obey their responsibilities held by their ancestors who were in their same positions.

Seeing this kind of place really put my topic into play and how the social aspects of certain members of indigenous cultures are all important for different reasons.  I think it is important to include all roles present in native groups because they all play a part in the kind of community the natives have.  I think the specific role of women within these groups could be something I can focus on within my final project because I think their role is just as important as any others.

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