Cinta Larga - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The Cinta Larga are polygynous. The preferred form of marriage is between a man and his sister's daughter, who is generally given in marriage before reaching puberty (between 8 and 9 years of age). It is then up to her husband to continue her socialization and to initiate her sexually. This marriage is different from others because it involves a ceremony that is rich in ritual. It is still common for a boy to begin his adult life by receiving one of his father's wives, one who is not his own mother and generally rather older than he. The young man is then initiated sexually by that woman and will have his first children with her. The circle of marriage exchange tends to be limited to two subgroups. Each subgroup's exogamic rules are respected, although there are some marriages with the Suruí (Paiter) from Rondônia. According to the traditional pattern, women have a large number of children (around 6 to 7 per woman), and infant mortality is high (40 percent).

Domestic Unit. The smallest domestic unit, evident especially in times of food scarcity, is composed of a man, his wives, and their children. In normal daily life, however, the domestic unit is larger and encompasses a group of brothers, with their wives and children, who collaborate in activities of collective production like tree felling, planting, hunting peccaries, and fishing.

Inheritance. When someone dies, all of his or her belongings are burned inside the house or on the grave. When the owner of a house dies, it, too, is destroyed by fire.

Socialization. The main goal in the formation of an individual is the creation of an independent, self-sufficient person. Until 3 or 4 years of age, a child is its mother's inseparable companion. When it can move about easily and talk intelligibly, it will join small bands of children who imitate adults in their harvesting activities and in the capture of small animals and fish. Daily it becomes clearer that the challenge is knowing how to defend oneself in order to be on one's own. The result is the development of a bold and somewhat turbulent attitude, which makes the children ready to react to anything that displeases them. It is in young men of around 16 that this attitude is most evident. Fearless, aggressive, sometimes uncivil and gruff, the young Cinta Larga seems to accept no limitations, impositions, or orders from anyone. He demands what he wants directly, without beating around the bush, and at no time is he obsequious or servile.

Gradually, young girls and boys prepare for adult life, becoming skillful in the kind of work that is proper to their sex. After the age of 7 they submit to the perforation of the lower lip, where a small resin plug is inserted as an ornament. Young girls go into seclusion in their own homes during the first menses. As a young man begins to be successful in hunting in the company of adults, and, a bit later, in participating successfully in war raids, he begins to compose his own songs, which relate his successes. Finally, when a man marries his sister's daughter, taking the final step into adult life, the passage is marked by a ceremony in which he gives ritual presents (richly adorned arrows) to his father-in-law and promises to care for and treat his wife well, the latter in a discursive dialogue with the bride's father and her classificatory parents.

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