Chatino - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The Chatino are monogamous. Technically, the Chatino practice two types of marriage: civil-religious and common-law. The latter is a marriage not performed by a priest nor legally recorded. This is not to say that such unions do not involve religious rituals or that they are not recognized socially. A civil-religious wedding is a union sanctioned by the state, and the civil wedding is a legal prerequisite for an optional church ceremony. Both civil-religious and common-law marriages involve periods of sexual abstinence, rites of bathing, lighting candles, planting crosses, presenting rosaries, ritual blessings, prayers, and feasting. Making marriage arrangements involves initiating a complex set of social and economic exchanges between the families of the bride and groom. Marriages are generally arranged at a young man's request. Usually, these arrangements are initiated by a go-between, an older relative of the groom. If the girl's parents agree, a series of formal visits commences. The prospective groom comes bearing gifts—baskets of bread, chocolate, mescal, wine, cigarettes, beans, maize, firewood, and money. After these initial visits, the groom may do a year of bride-service. Each day, the young man is expected to bring gifts for his prospective inlaws and help his father-in-law in the fields. Wedding feasts themselves usually last three to four days. After the rituals of the first day, the feast turns into an ordinary fiesta, with the emphasis on drinking and dancing.

Domestic Unit. Because postmarital residence tends to be virolocal, Chatino households are frequently composed of a three-generation extended family. Even where nuclear households are formed, couples often live in close proximity to the husband's family and may even live in the same compound.

Inheritance. Among the Chatino, inheritance is bilateral and partible, and sons and daughters are supposed to receive equal shares of the property to be divided.

Socialization. Chatino children grow up surrounded by an extended family. Parents, although loving, are strict disciplinarians and demand obedience. Deviations from the norm are taken seriously. Children are often disciplined physically and severely, not only by their parents but also by older siblings. Children begin learning and doing chores at an early age. Babies as young as 1 year old are given dull machetes to play with. By the age of 5, boys are fetching firewood and helping their fathers in the fields, and girls are helping their mothers make tortillas. As children approach puberty, parents worry about their son's drinking, fighting, or keeping bad company, and about their daughter's moral conduct. The authoritarian stance of parents must be understood in the context of households that often live at the economic margin. Mistakes can be costly, and poor decisions may have dire consequences.

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