Otomí of the Valley of Mezquital - Kinship

Kin Groups and Descent. Families are nuclear, and residence is patrilocal. When an Otomí man marries, he takes his wife to live in his paternal home until their first child is born. At that point the couple will build their own house on land that has either been purchased or given them by the husband's father. Descent is reckoned bilaterally, although the paternal line is predominant, and the father's family name is inherited.

Family ties through consanguinity and affinity tend to be reinforced by compadrazgo, an institution that is of vital importance to the Mezquital Otomí because it creates a network of relationships and obligations of great permanence, which unite families during an entire lifetime. Compadrazgo is associated with Catholic sacraments, particularly baptism. The two baptismal godparents become the child's new spiritual relatives, who will guide him or her and be a substitute for the father, should this become necessary. The Otomí term for godparenthood is shatsi.

The compadre, the godparent of one's child, is a central figure in situations of mutual help; in family matters, he or she acts as an adviser, offering moral support, settling controversies, and participating in the solution of diverse problems.

Kinship Terminology. In several of the Otomí communities in the Valley of Mezquital, native kinship terms are still used. There are terms for mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, grandfather and grandmother, grandson and granddaughter, compadre and baptismal godfather. In several of these terms there is a marked recognition of sex as a referent, including the sex of the speaker, which is recognized in terms for brother, sister, father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law. The word for cousin ( primo ) has been adopted from the Spanish. There is no differentiation among cousins. No distinction is made between parallel and cross cousins, whether from the maternal or paternal side.

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