Portuguese - Kinship, Marriage, and Family



Kinship and Domestic Groups. Although all Portuguese reckon kinship bilaterally, the structure of domestic groups and the kinship links that are emphasized vary by both region and social class. Portuguese kinship terms have Latin roots, with the exception of the Greek roots of tio (uncle) and tia (aunt). In northern Portugal, nicknames ( apelidos ) are extremely important as terms of reference. Some anthropologists have suggested that they connote moral equivalence in otherwise socially stratified rural communities. In the Northwest, nicknames serve to identify localized kin groups linked through females. In this region there is a preference for uxorilocality and uxorivicinality, both of which can be linked to male emigration. At some point in the domestic cycle, Households in northern Portugal tend to be complex, many of them composed of a three-generation stem family. Some villages of the northeast follow a custom of natalocal residence for many years after marriage. In southern Portugal, however, a Household usually is a nuclear family. The obligations between friends sometimes are felt to be more important than those between kin. Among the rural peasantry, particularly in the northwest, household headship is held jointly by a married couple, who are referred to as o patrão and a patroa. By contrast, among urban bourgeois groups and in the south the concept of a dominant male head of household is more prevalent. Spiritual kinship ties are established at baptism and marriage. Kin are frequently chosen to serve as godparents ( padrinhos ), and when this arrangement occurs the godparent-godchild relationship takes precedence over the kinship relationship.

Marriage. The marriage rate has demonstrated a progressive rise during the twentieth century. Age at marriage has been characterized by both spatial and temporal variation—that is, marriage generally occurs later in the north than in the south, though differences are slowly disappearing. In southern Portugal there are significant numbers of consensual unions, and northern Portugal has had high rates of Permanent spinsterhood. Although it has declined since 1930, the illegitimacy rate formerly was high in rural northern Portugal. It remains high in Porto and Lisbon. Marriage has generally been class-endogamous and there is a tendency, though by no means a rule, for villages to be endogamous. Although the Catholic church traditionally prohibited cousin marriage within the fourth degree (inclusive of third cousins), dispensations as well as unions between first cousins were by no means unusual among all classes of Portuguese society. This kind of marriage was traditionally associated with a desire to rejoin divided properties.

Inheritance. In accordance with the Civil Code of 1867, the Portuguese practice partible inheritance. Parents, However, have the right to dispose freely of a third share ( terço ) of their property, and women share the right to both receive and bestow property. (The Civil Code of 1978 did not significantly change the articles pertaining to these practices.) Among the peasants of northern Portugal, where inheritance is generally postmortem, parents use the promise of the terço as a form of old-age security by marrying a child, often a daughter, into the household. At their death, this child becomes the owner of the house ( casa ). The rest of the property is divided equally among all heirs. Partilhas, whether in the north or the south, can be an occasion for friction between siblings since land is variable in quality. Some peasants hold land under long-term lease agreements; traditionally these agreements also were passed on "for three lives" in one piece to one heir, their value being calculated against the total assets. The Civil Code of 1867 eliminated the system of entailed estates ( vínculos ) that made it possible for wealthier classes to pass on property to a single heir, usually by a rule of male primogeniture. Wealthier landowners have been able to keep property intact by having one heir buy out the interests of his siblings.


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