Tzotzil of Chamula - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Although the Chamula consider monogamy to be the moral way of life, many Chamula men have more than one wife. Polygyny has always been an option in this community. To contract marriage, a young man, assisted by his family and especially selected petitioners, goes to a woman's house to request her hand. Ideally, bride and groom have never spoken to one another, although they may have exchanged looks or words that signal their mutual interest. The young woman has a say in the decision, but parents may pressure her into accepting. Three weeks to a month go by from the beginning of the petition to the actual marriage (the "house-entering" ceremony), the process taking place according to Chamula tradition. Church weddings, in accordance with Catholic sacraments, are rare.


Domestic Unit. A household compound consists of several domestic units. The primary domestic unit consists of a couple, their unmarried children, their married sons, their sons' wives, and their son's children, all sharing a single maize supply and a house altar. This situation is changing because of the lack of land and other resources that supported the father's claim to his sons' and their families' labor; domestic units often manage their economy in an independent manner. The relationship of a woman to her in-laws may be strained; she tries to get her husband to build a new house for her and move out of his parents' house as soon as possible. Separation and divorce are common, especially during the first years of marriage. Major causes cited are the husband's drinking and domestic violence, his quest to acquire a second wife, the husband's or wife's laziness, or either spouse's conflict with in-laws.


Inheritance. Houses, land, and personal property are bequeathed in equal measure to male and female children.


Socialization. Children are viewed as sources of joy and important economic assets. Socialization takes place mainly within the domestic unit and extended family, with mothers, sisters, grandmothers, and aunts being the main socializing figures, given that men leave for months at a time for wage work. Fathers take their young male children with them to the fields in Chamula and to the farms or rented fields in the lowlands when the children are around 10 years old. Although more children are attending school now than were in the 1970s, children still participate actively, from a very tender age, in the household economy. They fetch water and wood, tend the sheep, help their parents at home and in the fields, grind maize, cook, spin, and weave. They start earning money from about age 15, when girls start selling their woven and embroidered goods, and boys begin wage work.

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