Tojolab'al - Marriage and Family

Marriage. There are six types of marriage: traditional marriage ( chak'abal ); a series of long marriage petitions accompanied by continuous gift giving; elopement ( yiaj'nel ); "dragging off ( sjoko'ajnel, wherein the bridegroom forces his bride to follow him, interrupting the process of "petitions"); abduction ( elk'anel ), which is frequent among young couples who are not betrothed; and marriage either according to the Catholic rite ( nupanel ba iglesya ) or before the civil registry, which is becoming ever more frequent among those converting to some of the Protestant rites or sects. The choice of one or the other method is influenced greatly by the economic situation of the bridegroom. The chak'abal is becoming ever less frequent, especially in the jungle, but questions of prestige also play a role in choosing a marriage type.

Domestic Unit. Daily life is structured around extended-family groups, which in communities in the highlands, valleys, and riverbeds continue to live together virilocally. The mother acts as the domestic authority and is the jealous guardian of traditional values, whereas the father is the primary authority within the family and the community.

The kind of family unit that predominates shows important variations: in Agua Azul, in the jungle, nuclear families make up 62.80 percent of the total, compared with 36.70 percent in Veracruz, in the higher lands, where extended patrilocal families predominate (40.80 percent versus 8.57 percent in Agua Azul).

The variation in the percentage of these family types apparently stems from economic differences. Oriented toward the cultivation of maize and in great measure dependent on men's wage labor, the Veracruzan family requires group work. On the other hand, the cultivation of coffee in the jungle, which requires labor beyond that which it is possible for the family to offer, has accelerated a reduction in family size in Agua Azul.

Variations are also observed in the type of postmarital residential pattern: in 1981 in Veracruz 54.7 percent of the male population had lived with their parents for over seven years; 61.8 percent for over 5 years, and 97.4 percent for over one year. In Agua Azul, however, 72.5 percent of the married ejidatarios had built their own houses before spending three years in patrilocal residence, and 100 percent had left the paternal home before five years of marriage. Of the present-day inhabitants of Agua Azul who formerly lived in Veracruz, 89.20 percent lived with the husband's parents; 3.57 percent with those of the wife, and barely 7.14 percent lived in their own homes. Among them all only 11.80 percent owned land in Veracruz.

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