Cuicatec - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Among the nonelite, spouses are expected to be from the same settlement and to be of equal wealth and in the same age range. One should not marry bilateral kin up to the second degree of collaterality; spouses beyond the fourth degree of collaterality are preferred. Where there are Spanish surnames, one should not marry someone with the same surname or the surname of one's mother's father. Indian customary law recognizes common-law marriages and, in rare cases, polygyny. Among the mestizo elite, marriage is preferentially class endogamous.

Domestic Unit. Data gathered in San Andres indicate a strong tendency for households to be nuclear. Households are organized into clusters, usually linked by siblings of the same sex, preferably females.

Inheritance. In groups with kindred, property tends to be controlled by men. A woman is incorporated into her husband's household at marriage, and she loses her attachment to her natal group and her claim on its property.

Socialization. Cuicatec children are subjected to the conflicting goals of the local community and the Mexican nation-state. At home, they are given lots of time for play, and antisocial behavior is tolerated through adolescence. The assumption of household tasks is gradual and informal, suited to the individual development of the child. By contrast, classroom learning is rigid and highly formalized. Children are taught Spanish, Mexican national history, and modern methods of farming, often by a mestizo or an upwardly mobile Indian who is intolerant of local Indian culture. Such a teacher, who represents Mexican national culture, is not someone with whom most Indian children can identify.

As children become an economic asset to the household, their primary responsibilities are to fulfill the demands of the agricultural cycle. And because classroom learning is irrelevant to these demands, children are not pressured by their parents to attend school. This lack of interest in formal education reinforces the teacher's negative appraisal of Indian culture. Thus, far from promoting integration, the Mexican school system ultimately reinforces the boundaries between Indians and mestizos.

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