Zapotec - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Most Zapotee communities are endogamous, although this is by custom, not by rule, and there are exceptions in most locations. Monogamy is generally practiced. The Zapotee discuss at least two types of marriage: free union and church marriage. Divorce is not permitted by the Catholic church, but sometimes spouses simply separate and take other spouses. Young couples sometimes live together prior to a formal marriage. Often they are later married by the church, but sometimes they separate. A pregnancy often will prompt a marriage, either through the church or through common law. The most common residence pattern is patrilocal for young couples, but neolocality sometimes follows patrilocality, perhaps after the birth of the first child. Less commonly, residence may be matrilocal; for example, when a bride lacks brothers, her husband may come to live with her and assist his father-inlaw in the fields.

Domestic Unit. Depending on his or her stage in the life cycle, a Zapotee may live in a nuclear or an extended family.

Inheritance. The rule is that all children should inherit equally, but in actuality, younger offspring who are still living with parents at the time of death may inherit more. Additionally, sons tend to inherit more land than do daughters. Land may be inherited at the parent's death, at an offspring's marriage, or when a parent becomes too old to work the fields.

Socialization. There is considerable variation in socialization practices even among closely situated Zapotec communities. For instance, parents in two adjoining valley communities may have very different beliefs about the use of physical punishment on children and also have different expectations about their children's conduct. Generally, young children up to the age of 3 years are treated affectionately, but often, corresponding with the arrival of the next sibling, parental affection is curtailed. Parents regularly frighten children by threatening that outsiders will take them away or eat them. Children are rarely instructed in how to accomplish a task or how to behave; rather, children are expected to observe, practice, and consequently learn. Older children are regularly the caretakers of younger children, which allows the adults to tend to their work.

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