Amuesha - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Cross cousins or classificatory cross cousins are preferred marriage partners, but there are many marriages between nonrelatives and some with neighboring Asháninca and Ashéninca or with colonists. Polygyny-often sororal—is seldom practiced today. The prospective groom usually approaches his mother's brother or father's sister's husband to ask for the bride, but a mature man is sometimes approached by the prospective father-in-law. Formerly, the bride's father had the couple kneel before him in a simple ceremony before the groom moved into his in-law's household. Currently, some couples have civil or religious ceremonies, but there is often no ceremony. Matrilocal residence was the norm—at least until the first child was weaned. The groom, as part of his bride-service, was expected to bring in firewood and game as well as help his father-in-law clear new fields. When the in-laws started nagging about his inadequate service, he knew he was expected to leave. The death of one child after another is also a common cause for divorce. Some Amuesha have had as many as five or six spouses in succession; other marriages have lasted a lifetime.

Domestic Unit. Formerly, matrilocal extended families were the most common domestic unit. Today there is an increasing tendency toward nuclear families. Aged parents usually live with a married child.

Inheritance. Traditionally, when an adult member of the family died, the house and fields were abandoned so there was almost nothing to inherit except a few bead or seed ornaments. Since many have entered into a coffee-based market economy, a shaman is often paid to keep the spirits of the deceased away so that the family does not lose everything and have to start over. Inheritance patterns have not yet emerged, but the tendency seems to be toward patrilineal inheritance.

Socialization. Children are raised very permissively until there is a younger sibling. Punishment with nettles once or twice usually suffices to make the threat of their use an adequate sanction. Threats of injections or being attacked by cattle are also used to control children. Education is highly valued; most young people now complete primary school and many are enrolled in high school. Approximately SO percent of those under age 30 are literate in Spanish and about 50 percent are literate in their own language as a result of the government's bilingual education program, which began in 1953, and the efforts of some monolingual Spanish schools that were established a few years prior to that in Amuesha territory.


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