Culture, Customs, health

The Fajado of the Babies or Wawas in the Andean World vs The Modern World

In the Andean world, the affection felt by parents towards their children is manifested through caring for them and one way to take care of them is to dress them properly. According to Andean thought, a baby should be bound with a belt called Chumpi, which in the Quechua language means belt.

Before using this belt you should wrap the baby with a blanket. Once wrapped you fasten the belt, immobilizing the baby’s whole body. It is neither tight nor so loose. This way the baby’d bones will be formed good and strong. You do this this from birth until 3 months of age, although in some communities it continues for a few months longer.

The Fajado of the Babies (foto: Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco)
The Fajado of the Babies (foto: Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco)

When you ask people in the communities why children are wrapped, they say that because they live in the high places where the cold is very strong, the band helps to shelter and protect them. They call it to waltarlos. Once bound the babies are carried on the back and thus prevented from burning themselves on the stove (small clay oven to cook with wood). People usually build it on the floor and it is within reach of children. Binding the children also prevents them from getting sick by crawling on the floor, from the humidity, or because on the floor peoplr raise guinea pigs.

According to the rural people, the motor development of children who were bound is superior to the children who have not been swaddled. Babies are more skilled when they perform body movements and stronger.

Nowadays, in some communities with the influence of the cities, the mothers have left this practice, however, there are many where this ancestral tradition is still maintained. Many times when they see a child with their legs arched, they begin to murmur among themselves “This child has not been bound, who could be his mother”.

Some other inhabitants say that formerly in the magical religious aspect, the weavings were used as protectors against evil spirits and curses. For his reason they use the chumpi which is an ancestral fabric with a high cultural content and not another textile to wrap around the body of the baby.

The modern world has another opinion about binding the babies. According to them the old habit of wrapping the baby is not advisable. Others say that binding the babies is a sign of ignorance, that wrapping the baby like a tamale can diminish his ability to wake up.

Another version is that if it is tightly fastened it can cause dysplasia, the dislocation of the baby’s hip. For all these reasons and more in our modern societies nowadays babies are not bound, although in some cases mothers-in-law are the ones that by their insistence make this tradition continue to be maintained. In the end it is the parents’ decision to wrap their babies or not.

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