Cotopaxi Quichua - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Marriage does not imply the merging of ownership of land or other assets; each partner retains control of his or her own property. The primary economic function of marriage, besides propagation, is the creation of work groups, since land is worked and animals are cared for collectively by households and extended families. Most marriages are patrilocal, although a significant number adopt a matrilocal residence. The young couple travel frequently to their in-laws, in order to work the land owned there by one spouse and to assist in agricultural labor there. Divorce is infrequent, whereas remarriage after the death of a spouse is common.

Domestic Unit. The residential unit, which includes several married couples and unmarried adolescents living in separate domiciles but sharing many tasks and activities and clearly dominated by an elder couple, is considered both typical and ideal.

Inheritance. Inheritance is bilateral, with all children ideally inheriting equally from both parents; in practice, however, the situation is always complicated and fraught with difficulties. The basic criteria for making decisions about inheritance include the degree to which the child was raised by a particular person rather than biological paternity/maternity, and a second, reciprocal issue, the degree to which the child has supported the parent in old age; the latter consideration often makes a youngest child or grandchild, who lives with an elderly person after their other children are married, the principal inheritor.

Inheritance is a gradual, lifelong process, beginning with the gift of a baby animal or a few rows of plants in a field to a very young child and progressing to major gifts of land after marriage and as the parents' health begins to decline.

Socialization. Socialization takes place within the context of the large extended family, including both those who are coresident and the parents' frequently visited affines and siblings. Children learn by attempting to do what older siblings and adults are doing, rather than by formal instruction, a strategy that makes children eager to prove themselves by sharing work.

Infants are given great amounts of affection and attention, and the youngest child of a household is indulged in every whim. When a new child is born, the displaced idol often reacts with temper tantrums and destructive fits, but these are ignored and gradually disappear. On the whole, adults and especially mothers avoid disciplining very young children, although older children may be chastized very harshly for failing in their responsibilities. Young children are dressed and treated as androgynous beings; it is only with the boy's first haircutting or girl's ear piercing that the child achieves a gender.


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