Awá Kwaiker - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The Awá Kwaiker generally marry between the ages of 15 and 16. This is used as a mechanism to limit family size, and the practice is reinforced by moral and social sanctions. In addition, their standard of beauty in women is closely related to the physical characteristics of youth, so that after this age a woman might not be able to marry. The fact is that, in a simple economy at a low level of subsistence, more workers are not needed, and so the older children, who are large consumers of family resources, have to leave the family group. A prospective groom speaks to the father of the prospective bride, who usually accepts him, depending on the amount of land that his father has. Marriage is a way to increase property holdings and, as a result, fathers carefully control the movements of their daughters. Also for property reasons, residence is patrilocal. Initially, the couple lives together for a period of about one year in a relationship called amaño (test period), during which the woman must demonstrate her dedication and ability as a housewife. If they decide to marry at the end of this period, the relationship is quite stable, although there are some cases of infidelity among both sexes. If they do not marry, the woman returns to her parents in disgrace: if she has children her chances of being able to amañar again are even more reduced.

Domestic Unit. The family is the primary social unit: it is a patriarchal organization composed of parents, sons and their wives, and grandchildren.

Inheritance. Although inheritance was traditionally from grandparents to grandchildren and under the control of kinship groups, it is at the present time from parents to children. It is now a more commercial transaction and involves legal documents. Nonetheless, parents have the power to divide property according to their personal preferences and affection for their children, which guarantees them good treatment in their old age.

Socialization. Awá Kwaiker children are not overprotected, nor do they receive special treatment. On the contrary, they are exposed to various risks. At about 6 or 7 years of age children accompany their parents to work and have their own duties: in the community, every one has to earn his or her own living. The formal education available is not adequate for the needs of the group; there are very few schools and these are poorly equipped. In addition, the teachers are strangers to the community who do not share the cultural background of the children.

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