Nahuat of the Sierra de Puebla - Marriage and Family



Marriage. One may not marry anyone who is a blood relative or ritual coparent, but most communities are highly endogamous. A boy customarily begins marriage negotiations by asking an old and respected woman ( cihuātanqueh ) to convey his intentions to a girl's parents. The boy and his family deliver to the girl's family a bride-gift, usually consisting of turkeys, spices, alcohol, cigarettes, and some money. The cihuātanqueh directs the couple to embrace in front of the family altar and surrounds them with a cloud of incense. A second celebration takes place several months later in honor of the godparents of the marriage, who often become the godparents of the baptisms of the couple's children.

Domestic Unit. The most important kin group is the household, identified by the expression cē coza tequiti ("work for one thing"), referring to the communal organization of labor to fill a common granary and purse. The majority (80 percent) of couples begin married life in the household of the groom's parents, but a substantial number (20 percent) live matrilocally. Many young couples move several times between the two parental domestic groups. The men of a household work together on a common milpa; women cook either at a common hearth or at separate hearths.

Inheritance. Most privately owned land passes patrilineally from parents to sons, but Sierra Nahuat inheritance exhibits a wide range of variations. Bilateral bequests are more frequent in families and communities where land is abundant and when the mother has acquired property from her own parents.

Socialization. Parents teach their children to work. Children develop very strong filial loyalties because of weaning practices and sleeping arrangements. A mother weans her nursing infant during the sixth month of her next pregnancy by applying a bitter herb ( chichicxihuit ) to her nipples. The weaned infant, who is usually about 18 months old, is moved to the sleeping mat of the father, who provides the child with warmth and comfort at night for several years. The father-weaned infant sleeping arrangements help form strong father-son loyalties, which reinforce the bonds of the patrilineally extended household.


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