Macuna - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Consonant with the prescriptive kinship terminology, the ideal Macuna marriage takes the form of a sister exchange between bilateral cross cousins. Most marriages today involve actual, genealogical cross cousins. Owing to the close genealogical ties between the families involved, the immediate exchange aspect of the marriage is not stressed. The guiding principle in the Macuna marriage system is the continuation of established marriage alliances over generations. No marriage ceremony is performed; marriages are negotiated between senior men of the families involved. Today most marriages are local. Bride-capture was common in the past. Polygyny is considered a prestigious form of marriage but is not common in actual practice. Virilocal postmarital residence is the norm. Traditionally, divorce in established marriages was extremely rare or even legally nonexistent. Annulment, implying the dissolution of a marriage before it is fully completed, is increasingly common.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear family traditionally formed part of the larger residence unit inhabiting a single maloca. The nuclear family was the basic domestic unit, although certain productive activities (like clearing forest) involved the cooperation of the entire residence group. At least one meal daily was consumed jointly by the residence group, and most fish and game were shared among the families of the maloca. Today each nuclear family tends to form an independent domestic group, inhabiting a separate house. Food sharing and cooperation are consequently reduced.

Inheritance. There is little property to be inherited. Land is not individually owned, and most traditional artifacts—household goods, tools, and weapons as well as the house itself—do not enter a formalized system of inheritance. Only the ritual wealth—the sacred feather headdress and other ceremonial paraphernalia—seems to be formally inherited, ideally from father to eldest son.

Socialization. Children are raised permissively. Young children are taken care of by the mother and elder siblings. By the age of 10, the children already know the rudiments of their distinct sex roles; girls accompany their mothers and elder sisters during garden work and domestic chores, whereas boys accompany their fathers and elder brothers on hunting and fishing trips. Today there are government-sponsored primary schools in most villages, attended by most Macuna children. Formal schooling was introduced into the Macuna territory in the late 1970s.


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