Mixtec - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Parents traditionally selected mates for their children. Often people married before they were sexually mature. Today, marriage occurs much later, and the young people involved have much more influence over the decision about who and when to marry, although the older pattern can still be found in some areas. Bride-wealth payments are made, and in some places can amount to the equivalent of several years' wages. Bride-service, with residence by the groom in the father-in-law's house, is also required in some areas. Community endogamy is the predominant pattern, although members of the growing Mixtec middle class are as likely to marry someone outside their community as they are to marry an insider. Polygyny is practiced by wealthy individuals. Residence is usually virilocal. When divorce occurs, the woman returns to her parents' or brothers' households. If it occurs relatively soon after marriage, a portion of the bride-wealth must be repaid.

Domestic Unit. The ideal domestic unit for most Mixtec peasants is a husband and wife, their unmarried children, and their adult married sons, who bring their wives to live with them in their father's house. Often separate houses are erected, forming a residential compound, for each of the different nuclear families. There is, however, much variation in the composition of Mixtec households, depending on the phase of the developmental cycle, selective mortality, divorce, and other factors.

Inheritance. Traditionally, all sons inherited equally. Daughters inherited land only when a man died without any sons. In many places today, women are given the same rights to their parent's estate as their brothers.

Socialization. All members of the household help raise children. Females with nursing infants may breast-feed one another's children, and older children often spend as much time caring for their younger siblings as do the parents. Once children reach the age of 4 or 5, they begin to leave the compound to play with other children. Boys are encouraged to roam freely with their peers, but girls are expected to stay near the household. Both sexes are given productive tasks to perform from a very early age. Marriage is often a difficult time for young girls, who are suddenly separated from their home and kin.

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