Marriage. Marriages are strictly monogamous, but marriage is not regarded as a permanent, lifelong relationship. Separation or divorce followed by a long-term relationship with a new partner is extremely common. For first marriages, marriage in San Bartolomé traditionally was arranged by a ritual exchange of visits and gifts between the parents of the bride and the groom. Girls usually were 14 or 15 at the time of an arranged marriage; boys married at 18 or later. Traditional arranged marriage is now rare, and marriages occur later. Marriage today includes civil marriage before municipal authorities, and church marriage, which by law requires civil marriage first. The relationship of a man and a woman who live together openly without any marriage ceremony is legally and socially equivalent to marriage with regard to the property and inheritance rights of both the couple and their children, as well as in the establishment of affinal links. If such a couple later separates, the rights of their children to support and inheritance from both biological parents continue. Despite Catholic doctrine, divorce and remarriage are as common for couples married in church as for anyone else.
At first marriage, newlyweds move in with an established domestic group, almost always that of a close relative of the bride or the groom. Preference is given to virilocal residence, but other arrangements are possible. Residence with relatives usually is for a limited time only, and most couples move to their own separate residence after the birth of their second child. For second and succeeding marriages, residence is usually neolocal.
Domestic Unit. The basic domestic and economic unit in San Bartolomé society is the household. A household usually contains a married couple at its center, together with their never-married children. Other spouseless adult relatives of the central couple may also function as members. Some households do not include adult men, but every man belongs to a household that includes an adult or nearly adult woman. When more than one married couple resides in a single house, they form separate households. Two coresident households under the same roof cook and eat separately and control their own funds and stored maize.
Inheritance. All children, male and female, of a deceased property owner are regarded as being entitled to equal shares in inheriting land, houses, and personal property. The spouse is usually excluded from inheritance as such, but title to jointly owned property remains exclusively with the surviving spouse. The spouse's children by another marriage, even if they were living with or being supported by the deceased at the time of death, are not entitled to a share of the estate. Older individuals may convey real estate or major possessions to individual heirs while alive, but both custom and legal practice hold that other heirs are entitled to equivalent shares of property when the owner dies. The anticipatory heir may keep the property without division if the transfer was in payment for services rendered.
Socialization. At about the age of 3, or when their next younger siblings are born, children are given over to the care of siblings aged 5 or 6 or more. When newlyweds move in with relatives, children of other coresident households are available for child care when the time comes. Neolocal residence is sought when a couple's first child is old enough to care for a younger sibling. Deference to one's elders is fundamental in all social interaction. At all ages, younger people are not supposed to initiate interaction with their elders, or ask questions unless conveying the request of an older person. Discipline usually is by scolding or ridicule, but physical punishment is sometimes used.
Children are expected to learn new tasks by observing others and by following instructions and orders from their elders. Boys are taken to the maize fields beginning at age 10 or 11, where they work under their fathers' direction. Under virilocal residence, a mother-in-law is a disciplinarian to her coresident daughter-in-law, but also is responsible for teaching her the fine points of weaving and other domestic skills. In the late twentieth century most Indian children have been expected to attend formal school at least through sixth grade. School classes are conducted in Spanish, and most teachers do not speak Tzotzil.