Nahua of the State of Mexico - Kinship, Marriage, and Family



The most common family unit is the nuclear family; the extended family can be considered only a temporary phase before the formation of a nuclear family. Generally, when a son marries, he lives in his parents' home for two or three years, during which time he will build his own home on land given him by his father. A married daughter generally lives in the home of her in-laws, if her husband is of the community. In any case, the bride always leaves her paternal home—it is said that she "se ajena" (becomes separated from the community). Only in isolated cases—for example, when there are no male siblings—will a woman remain in her parents' home with her husband and stand to inherit a piece of land from her parents.

In the 1970s there was still a tendency toward endogamy within the communities, or at least there were matrimonial relations only between members of neighboring communities. Nowadays there are indications that women are marrying men from outside the local region.

The custom of sponsoring as godparent the most important ritual events in a family's life—marriage and baptism—creates the bond of ritual coparenthood ( compadrazgo ). In fact, compadrazgo derives not only from these rituals, but also from other, less intimate, sponsorship, such as confirmation, the celebration of a girl's fifteenth birthday, and school graduation.

The community is in essence a collection of nuclear-family households. The social or political participation of an individual in community life is based on his or her membership in a household, in this sense representing the special interest of a family.

The nuclear family is the fundamental unit of production and consumption. Within the family, there is a clear sexual division of labor. Men devote themselves to agricultural activities, the collection of mushrooms, the extraction of forest products, and the sale of flowers, mushrooms, cattle, and handicrafts. For their part, women attend to domestic chores, the care of their children, raising penned animals, and the cultivation, harvesting, and sale of medicinal plants. Among the family-unit activities in which both sexes cooperate are the making of handicrafts and floral arrangements.


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