Cape Verdeans - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage relations focus on race as a central organizing feature. Marriage ideally occurs between social and economic equals, as defined by skin color and racial heritage. Premarital sexual relations for women are considered a dishonor, no matter the race of the sex partner. For men, an active sex life is an expected element of "manhood" and knows no racial bounds. Men are supposed to marry within or above their class and within or lighter than their color. The different islands traditionally had slight variations in marriage customs. In Brava and Fogo, the preference for first-cousin Marriage was a strategy for maintaining resources within a family and therefore was practiced among the wealthy. Preferential first-cousin marriages also ensured racial purity. While Marriage norms discouraged racial, class, and kindred exogamy, everyday life gave people opportunities to rebel against or reject such norms. Among Protestants, religion—rather than race or class—defined status, allowing the expansion of mixed marriages. Finally, economic means could transcend all other barriers to marriage. Wealthy men of color found white and "aristocratic" marriage partners. Remittances from immigrant family members enabled traditionally impoverished people and people of color to move into higher status categories.

Domestic Unit. Stem families are common and reflect the poverty under which many Cape Verdeans subsist. The size of a household unit depends on the number of children. Matrifocal households are common, a phenomenon related to a poverty that forces men to seek work elsewhere.

Inheritance. Traditionally, land was inherited on the basis of primogeniture, a norm that continues with exceptions in Santiago. In Fogo, the preference for marriages between first cousins in the landlord class has kept landholdings among wealthy families.

Socialization. Children are very much loved and live within a wide network of family relations that tie together Individuals spread out over many parts of the world. Adults teach children class and race consciousness to help them function properly in Cape Verdean society. Rites of passage related to Roman Catholic traditions prevail.

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