Cubans - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. Prerevolutionary kinship ties and social ties of the Cuban upper class were based in part on patrilineal descent from the Spanish colonial aristocracy. The ability to trace family backgrounds sharing common names and patron saints became somewhat less significant in the decades following establishment of the republic and declined even more significantly after the 1959 Revolution and the exodus of large numbers of the upper class. Lower-class Cubans demonstrated much less regard for lineage than had the middle class but continued the Latin tradition of godparenting and maintaining close relationships with and responsibility for the extended family.

Marriage. In the prerevolutionary period, within the framework of a Catholic-Latin society and rural/urban economic polarization, church-sanctioned marriage and baptisms assumed more importance in the cities than in the countryside. A relatively low marriage rate, cited as less than 5 per 1,000 in the late colonial period, reflected emphasis on common-law marriages in the countryside. Since the 1959 Revolution, rates of both marriage and divorce have tended to increase and become more similar for rural and urban areas. The marriage rate declined somewhat in the late 1970s, however, as the housing shortage limited the establishment of separate households. Postmarital residence tends to be patrilocal and has at times required doubling up of families. In 1979 extended families resided in 40 percent of Cuban households. Various types of birth control, including abortion, are available.

Domestic Unit. Efforts to strengthen family solidarity, stability, and female equality include the enactment of the 1975 Family Code, which identifies the nuclear family as the essential social unit responsible for improving the health and welfare of society. The code calls for equal sharing of responsibilities in household work, maintenance, and child rearing, as well as equal commitment to respect and loyalty in marriage. Legally mandated child-care centers and maternity leaves are among the projects and policies intended to reduce gender inequality and modify traditional gender-defined roles.

Inheritance. The Rent Reform and Agrarian Reform Laws of 1959 and subsequent legislation aimed at redistribution of wealth focused on limiting rent charges, foreign ownership of property, and private landownership, as well as nationalizing rural property, establishing cooperatives, and transferring land to sharecroppers and tenants. Legislation enacted with the objective of progressing toward abolition of private property has restricted the sale, mortgaging, and inheritance of land and has successfully increased state purchases of land. Other personal property assets may be inherited with some restrictions.

Socialization. In addition to social conformity reinforced by traditional family relationships, Cubans find both overt and subtle pressures to conform to the values of revolutionary socialist ideology.

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