Nahua of the Huasteca - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage customs vary according to degree of acculturation. In more remote communities, a couple may elope without the permission of the bride's parents, usually following a villagewide ritual or social occasion held for other reasons. Sometimes the bride's father feigns anger upon learning of the elopement, but he is eventually reconciled to the inevitable union. In some communities, marriage is a more formal affair in which an older kinsman of the husband-to-be acts as a go-between with the family of the potential wife. Gifts are exchanged, feasts may be held, and the two families enter into ritual kinship with each other. Weddings derived from Catholic or Protestant traditions are increasingly common in Nahua communities throughout the Huasteca. Postmarital residence is ideally patrilocal, but actual practice is in fact more flexible.

Domestic Unit. A majority of the domestic units in Huastecan Nahua communities are nuclear families. Related household heads often build their dwellings near one another, thus forming nonresidential patrilocal extended families. After marriage, young couples may live in the household of the groom's parents until they are able to build their own place of residence. This creates a temporary extended family living in the same household.

Inheritance. In theory, property is passed equally to male and female descendants; however, family lands usually pass to male heirs under the assumption that it is they who will farm them. Daughters acquire access to land through their husbands. In the absence of male heirs, daughters inherit land rights. In cases where arable land is scarce, the eldest son or daughter inherits the bulk of the estate, leaving younger siblings to face the problem of gaining access to additional fields. The house usually reverts to the youngest son with the expectation that he will care for his surviving aged parents.

Socialization. Nahua children are provided much attention, love, and support by both their fathers and mothers. Often an older sister cares for her younger siblings during the day, freeing parents to pursue their work unhindered. A child is normally surrounded by many relatives who are nearly the same age, and children have the run of the community and surrounding areas. Parents usually value education for their children and support local schools.

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