Pierced-ear Princesas

pierced-ear princesaWhen both of our daughters were babies, we wanted their ears be pierced. I’d had my ears pierced as a toddler (and as an adult, find it nearly impossible to leave the house without earrings…I feel like I’m going out desnuda), and I wanted to keep with Latin tradition of piercing them as young as possible. Their madrina was thrilled to go with tradition, get the procedure done at the pediatrician, and get the girls their first pendientes.

After their adoptions were completed and we brought them home to Pennsylvania, we got a lot of remarks about their pierced ears. Actually, more than remarks, we just got a lot of looks. In a number of waiting rooms, I was asked with dirty looks if their ears were really pierced (no, with 3 kids, I have time to just put stickers on my seven month olds’ ears!) Around the neighborhood, a number of tween girls still without pierced ears themselves peered into our stroller and gave our girls jealous, sulky looks before launching more pointed complaining at their own mothers.

I’ve heard some non-Latinas decry baby ear piercing as cruel and vain (and even vulgar!), but to my mind, it is a safe (if done at a reputable place, and kept clean, and screwback earrings are used), beautiful way to pass along one Latina tradition, and of adorning your princesa.

I say this even after we’ve experienced a downside of ear piercing at a young age. A few weeks ago, my girls were down at bedtime when I heard from downstairs my older daughter say, “I have an idea!” At those words, I started running up the stairs. When I got to their room, I heard, “Oh, it baaaad idea.” Apparently, my older daughter asked my younger one to switch out her earrings for her (why?!) and my younger one, not being able to manage screwbacks (and that being the point), just ripped the earring out of her ear. In spite of this fiasco, there was no crying from my older daughter…not for the ripped ear lobe then, not for the four stitches put in in the E.R. later that night, not for the reconstructive ear surgery that had to be done a week later by our E.N.T. when the stitches didn’t work.

What did make her cry? When, because we have to wait a year to get her ear re-pierced, I told her we’d take the other earring out, so both ears would match. Suficiente berrinche that she’ll be rocking the one pendiente until she gets the other back.

Maybe cruel, or vain, or vulgar in the eyes of some…but the pierced-ear princesas prove to be capaz of stunning beauty and strength.  At every age.

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By Violeta on August 11, 2009 · Posted in featured, headline, the habla habla

16 Comments | Post Comment

Carrie says:

This story makes me want to cry and smile at the same time. So glad your girl is OK and you do now know that non-Latin women will be using this story of yours to further explain why we shouldn’t pierce ears before puberty? LOL…oh, and I can’t leave the house without earrings either. Same naked feeling.

Mine were pierced at 3-months, and just by the ped. sticking the earring into my tender flesh. My mom had to walk out onto the street to avoid my screaming. A bit savage, indeed… pero, I wouldn’t trade having earrings as a kid.

Posted on August 11th, 2009

Veronica says:

I love your story and I am sorry about the ER visit. I have to say that I got both of my girls’ ears pierced by 3 months old…only because they would not do it before that. You see I am from Venezuela and the baby girls get their ears pierced before leaving the hospital, and the boys oh well…they get circumcised ouch!
I actually think that it is an advantage to have the ears pierced as a baby because the babies are not able to constantly grab their ears yet, allowing the healing process to work perfectly. Plus, they just look adorable and as you said we used special earrings (screw back with round ends) that won’t fall and will not hurt the baby. Yes I got lots of comments about their pierced ears, but I could not imagine growing up without earrings…seriously no mis princesas

Posted on August 11th, 2009

class factotum says:

I am not latina, but my mom had my ears (and my sister’s) pierced when we were 8 and 5, respectively. Why? Because we were living in Spain and that’s how all the girls were and my mom thought it was OK. Then she got hers done the same day. The pediatrician at the base clinic did it for us.

The only reason I can think of not to pierce a baby’s ears is to save it as a negotiating chip for her teen years. But I sure do like being able to tell boys and girls apart in latin countries. And baby girls with pierced ears look so CUTE.

Posted on August 11th, 2009

Liz says:

I had my Daughter’s ears pierced the day after her first set of shots, what…2 months??!!??

I had my TIA go with me, cuz I don’t think I could have handled it myself. She had to stop the guy(doing the piercing) a few time, just to calm me down. Of course I cried, my tia cried, Heck, even my son cried!!! I know, I know, we are a bunch of “cheones” But, I don’t regret it. Got it over and done with. lol.. Loved the post!

Posted on August 11th, 2009

Carla says:

My abuelo loves to tell the story of how he pierced my ears as an infant with nothing but a ice, needle and thread (ouch!). Every time I’ve left the hospital with my girls he’s taken a peak to see if their ears are pierced but we’ve obliged with our pedi’s request to wait until 3 months. I love my girls with their little earrings! Hope your baby is feeling better =)

Posted on August 11th, 2009

Meli says:

As a non-Latina growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan my sisters and I were the only girls we knew in the neighborhood without pierced ears. I was sooo jealous of those girls with the flashes of gold on their ears. My mother had actually wanted to pierce our ears as infants, but my father refused. One of the first things that she did after they divorced was to let my two sisters and me get our ears pierced. By this time we had also moved to the Pacific Northwest. Strangely, we were now among the few girls who DID have their ears pierced & the other girls were now jealous of us!

Posted on August 11th, 2009

Melek says:

Great post Violeta,

I also left the hospital with my ears pierced … and like you all had to wait until our daughter was 3 months old to have hers pierced (the pediatrician explained about a baby’s inmune system…)

This really highlights cultural diversity & traditions. Like you and Carrie, I can’t leave home without earrings! I also feel “naked” LOL!!! In our culture is a given that as soon as we can, girls will have their ears pierced. I actually received several earrings as baby gifts … I was glad that in the Turkish culture (my husband is Turkish)this is also common!

I remember a neighbor whose daughter started wearing make-up way early (by 11 yrs old) and when our daughter told her that she was too young to wear make-up at 11, our neighbor pointed out that wearing earrings was equivalent to wearing make-up … go figure!!!

I wish you well :) Melek

“Tradition does not mean that the living are dead, but that the dead are living.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

Posted on August 11th, 2009

Chela says:

My sisters and I also had our ears pierced at the hospital a very young age. But I grew up in NYC where, with so many immigrants, it’s not unusual to see at all! I’ve also noticed that people from India and at least some non-Spanish speaking Caribbean countries do the same thing, so we’re not as “odd” as some people may think. And I don’t think I’ve ever left my house without earrings! You might as well tell me not to wear a shirt…lol

Posted on August 11th, 2009

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Posted on August 13th, 2009

Ana Lilian says:

I’m an advocate for ear piercing at the earliest age possible! I actually took the two pair of earrings that were given to my girl by her familia when she was still in my womb to the hospital. Those were some crazy looks I got by the nurses who thought I was still high on whatever they gave me for the C-section pain.
Almost 6 months later I could still not find a ped to do them for us. I was even scared to ask my mom groups for help. There was no way I was taking her to the mall to be handled by a teenager working behind the counter…no, no.
Finally found an amazing Dr. who decided to do it himself after he got tired of treating babies who came in with infections from poorly done piercings. And, he agrees that the younger the better so they don’t have the temptation to pull on them.
My princesa looks beautiful and when we get the looks I just say..we’re Latinas!

Posted on August 13th, 2009

SAHMami says:

I had my ears pierced several times as a small child. The first time, I don’t remember, but my parents didn’t get those screw on posts so I’d take them out as a toddler and then the holes would close up. Maybe mami didn’t notice they were gone. I don’t know. But each ear piercing, was done by a tia, comadre or some respected Guadalupana from church.

The first time I remember having my ears pierced was when I was four. We drove to a Guadalupana’s home and she sat me down in her living room, armed with sterilizing alcohol, a book of matches, her sewing needle and red thread. She wiped my ear down with the alcohol. Then she lit a match and ran the needle through it to sterilize it. I don’ t know if the thread was actually in the needle or not and I don’t remember feeling any pain. But I do remember when it was all done, I had a little loop of red thread through each ear and was told to return in a few weeks to have the real earrings put in.

It didn’t seem like a big deal to me or unusual because my cousins all had their ears pierced too. But when I entered school, it became a big deal, even more so as the years went by and my pre-pubescent friends anxiously awaited their ear piercing.

Fast forward to the birth of my daughter. My mom wanted to have her ears pierced immediately so that the Virgin de Guadalupe would recognize her. But, my husband, who is mostly not Latino, was adamantly opposed to piercing mija’s ears. I argued for a while but eventually gave up. He felt that the child was pretty enough as she was. So when my now four year old daughter whines for earrings, I send her to her father. At times, he has come close to caving, on one condition, that my two year old son be allowed to pierce his ears too.

Posted on August 17th, 2009

Cindy says:

Does anyone have experience with a hole closing on a child after wearing earrings for 2 years? My 8 year old has worn her earings for 2 years but they tend to close if you forget to put them right back in. Since they are uneven and one is at a bad angle I am wondering if we should let these close and she does when he is a teenager by a more credible person. I do not know if the hole will close and I make the matter worse or if I leave them alone she will get a second chance to make them right.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Posted on September 15th, 2009

Pam says:

I decided to take both my daughters to have their ears pierced at about eight weeks old. We have had no problems with them and they looked really cute – especially when they are babies. They are now seven years and five years old, love wearing earrings and we are really glad we decided to have them done when they were little. If you are seriously thinking about it, I would say definitely go for it !

Posted on April 25th, 2010

Janene says:

I’m going to get serious negative feedback about this remark, but I’m willing to risk it. A child should be old enough and responsible enough to take care of their OWN ear piercings before being allowed to have the procedure done. Not everyone WANTS to have their ears pierced, my 22 year old daughter is one of those. If you pierce your ears and then let it grow back, there is scar tissue that forms in your ear lobe. It’s a small hard knot.
Ear piercing is a painful procedure that isn’t necessary. It’s sheer vanity in a baby. Who cares if it’s tradition? Some cultures have been known to do all sorts of painful procedures all in the name of tradition and culture. That doesn’t make it right. My niece suffered from infections and painful healing times because her parents thought she looked more like a girl with her ears pierced. Why is that not abuse? I can’t swat my child on the bottom for doing something dangerous that could harm them like trying to touch a stove, but I can poke a hole through their ear and call it tradition???

Posted on August 1st, 2010

Elena says:

I got my daughter’s ears pierced when she was 3 months old. My husband who is African American was upset at the idea. He wanted to wait till she was 3 yrs old. Fortunately for me, we had this argument at the local mall and an elderly woman overheard us and interrupted and told him it was really good to get it when they were little. He reluctantly said it was ok, but he didn’t want to be there or have to clean them.

It was a breeze and although she cried,it was only for a brief 20 min or so. Then she was back to smiles and giggles. She got no infections and I cleaned them when she napped and she never knew the difference.

Question for everyone though. Does anyone know the difference of the red thread in the ears? A friend of mine grew up in CA and always wanted to know. Growing up in PA, we never did the piercings with red thread and I never heard of it. Just wondering though. I noticed someone else said something about red thread in one of the other postings. This site is great BTW, I’m glad I came across it. It’s wonderful to talk about our Latina experiences with others. It is certainly different growing up in a Latino household in America.

Posted on August 29th, 2010

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Posted on August 30th, 2010