Araucanians - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The ideal marriage was and continues to be the "mother's brother's daughter" marriage. Sororal polygyny, sororate, and levirate marriage customs were common. The basic marriage process involved negotiations over a bride-price, a dramatized capture of the bride-to-be, the payment by the prospective groom, and then the marriage ceremony. Divorce was common, most often occasioned by sterility, infidelity, desertion, or ill-treatment. In all cases, the bride-price was returned to the husband. At present, these traditional practices have been almost completely replaced by monogamy.

Domestic Unit. Until the nineteenth century the domestic unit was a patrilocal extended family composed of a central male, his wives, and their children and grandchildren. Currently, a domestic unit is generally consists of a couple and their children and may include one of the couple's parents.

Inheritance. Position and inheritance were patrilineal, passing from father to son. Before settlement on the reservations, inheritances consisted mainly of herds and movable goods. Now the importance of land ownership has made property the most consequential inheritance, and both men and women inherit land.

Socialization. In aboriginal times boys had to sleep outside, bathe daily, and abstain from certain foods in order to toughen themselves. They were trained in the use of arms, swimming, horsemanship, and oratory and accompanied their fathers to drink with the rest of the men. Today oratory and farming skills are taught to young boys. Girls are taught to take care of the home and their younger siblings. Datura stramonium and Latua pubiflora are used by the Mapuche and Huilliche as personality tests for their children; a mild tea is brewed from these plants and the parents observe the child's reactions and draw conclusions regarding the character traits she or he will develop.

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