Afro-Hispanic Pacific Lowlanders of Ecuador and Colombia - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Legal marriage is very uncommon in Afro-Hispanic culture, and the governments of Ecuador and Colombia are vague or inconsistent with regard to common-law relationships. Men "have a woman" or "have women" and a woman "has a man." It is in the asking of a man and a woman to be coparents at the birth of a child, for its baptism, or prior to embarking on a long trip, that a given couple is denoted as "married." The fundamental intrahousehold unit is the mother-child dyad (and with increasing frequency the mother's mother-mother's child dyad); the next important dyad is the mother-husband dyad. These dyads configure and expand into networks of relationships that receive symbolic form by ritual-kinship and cooperative-work relationships.

Domestic Unit. The kitchen area with abutting back platform is the fundamental beginning of the physical developmental sequence of an Afro-Hispanic house. This expands to a large front platform that, when enclosed, becomes a big one-room living space that is compartmentalized into other rooms as the number of residents expands. The house resembles neither colonist houses nor those of indigenous people. It is an independent aesthetic outgrowth of a long period of Afro-Hispanic residence in this region. Although patrifocal households are preferred, matrifocality is common.

Socialization. Boys and girls accompany male and female parents and other relatives in their quotidian routines and attend all ritual and ceremonial functions. In Ecuador, many go to school from the age of 6 through 10 years but otherwise are reared within a nurturing kindred in which experiential knowledge is complemented by the transmission of cultural information. Girls are taught by women to be free, independent, and self-supporting. Boys learn to cope with the vicissitudes of changing and shifting expectations emanating from the external capitalist economy. Breast feeding and weaning are casual, and children seem to learn to eliminate in the kitchen garden without the need for many verbal reminders or reprimands.

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