Azoreans - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Village or island endogamy has been customary. Girls are protected by close surveillance until an arranged marriage. Cousin marriages are not uncommon. Postmarital residence with or near the bride's or groom's parents is customary. Padrinhos traditionally attend the couple at the sacrament of marriage. Because of absent men and husbands, spinsters and "living widows" ( viúvas dos vivos ) are critical to family and property maintenance. When the Azorean government gained regional autonomy in 1976, it assigned spouses equal rights and duties for the support and education of Children. Job opportunities and fertility control for women, better schooling, improved communications with the outside world, and the loosening hold of the church have also expanded choice for men as well as women. Divorce is still uncommon.

Domestic Unit. "Family members" are those who share a domicile and contribute to its survival. As few as two to more than a dozen people may constitute a family, depending on how the nuclear core is extended. A domestic unit is, in effect, a subsistence (usually farming) unit, with labor shared according to traditional sex roles. 1f children opt to leave school at age 12, they normally remain in the household and are employed locally—girls in craft workshops and boys in farming or trade apprenticeship—until marriage.

Inheritance. Property is inherited without regard to Gender. An unmarried daughter, the usual caretaker of aging Parents, may be designated the major heir and is the likely legatee of the parental home. Upon her death, the home reverts to the family line.

Socialization. Child care has been the overwhelming responsibility of domestic women living in the household (mother, cohabiting sisters, aunts, grandmothers) and of female kin living in close proximity. Church and family exercise strict control over major rites of passage, but secular education and widening access to European-American culture are loosening many traditional ties. Vestiges of the old ways remain, such as debutante daughters of prominent families and rigid surveillance of adolescents.

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