Barí - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Traditionally, Barí men first married at around 18 to 20 years of age, women at around age 14 to 16. When polygyny occurred it was usually sororal, but most marriages were monogamous. A girl was free to take a lover when she wished, but was not legitimately married until "turned over" by her parents, often during a seasonal migration from one house to another. Only partners in the okjibara category were legitimate mates; all sagdojira were covered by the incest taboo. In the most common form of marriage, the groom left his natal local group and found a bride in another longhouse, joining her family's hearth group after her parents agreed to the union. Young men preferred to marry within their own longhouses, however, in which case the bride often joined the groom's family. The small size of the local group made this preferred form of matrimony difficult. Most marriages were between people with no known genealogical link, although cross-cousin marriages (father's sister's daughter-mother's brother's son being considerably more common than mother's brother's daughter-father's sister's son) were not rare and even mother's brother-sister's daughter marriages were known and legitimate. Divorce seldom occurred, especially after the birth of a child; widow- and widowerhood were more common; and remarriage after such an event was virtually universal. Remarriages sometimes produced couples of widely disparate ages. Adoption of a new spouse's dependent children was automatic and so complete that, when fieldworkers discuss genealogies, many Barí are surprised to discover that they have stepparents.

Domestic Unit. The traditional hearth group, the production and consumption unit, comprised the people who cooked at the same hearth, ate together, and hung their hammocks in a given section of the longhouse periphery. It ranged in size from a married couple with a single child to a dozen or more people—usually a married couple with their unmarried siblings (including half and step siblings), surviving parents, and children, as well as occasional unrelated individuals. Contemporary Barí domestic units tend to be smaller than the maximal hearth groups of the longhouse days, approximating the size of the criollo nuclear family.

Inheritance. There was little to inherit; items usually went to the same-sex children of the deceased. Nowadays, insofar as land and cattle are concerned, Venezuelan and Colombian law governs transactions.

Socialization. Barí men engaged in a good deal of child care, although primary socialization of the infant rested with the mother. Grandmothers were often helpful, even nursing the infant; girls, from only 4 or 5 years of age, helped with their younger siblings. Physical punishment was never used, and even toddlers were not coerced to do anything they resisted. Today children are coerced and sometimes hit, particularly at mission settlements.

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