Huarayo - Marriage and Family



Marriage. In the past, a young man had to work in the house of his parents-in-law for one or two years. He had to help his future father-in-law in hunting, cultivating the chacra, or building canoes. This tradition is partly maintained today. Polygyny was and still is the privilege of chiefs and shamans. Owing to exogamy, women were often kidnapped and raped, and women are sometimes obtained by rape today. In 1973 a case of sororal polygyny was observed. Marriageable age is between 17 and 18 for men and between 14 and 16 for women. The marriage ceremony no longer exists. The young couple simply moves to their new house, which is built with the help of their parents. According to a former custom, old men were to marry young women, and young men were supposed to marry old women. The common practice of placing children with childless families to be raised and educated gave men the possibility of taking small girls into their households, where they were then raised by their future husbands. Divorce is equally easy for men or women; one or the other leaves the house. There is also some evidence of levirate and sororate in the past.

Domestic Unit. In the past, a number of extended families occupied a single communal house, with each nuclear family assigned a place on the perimeter of the maloca. Now the Huarayo use separate dwellings for each extended or nuclear family. It seems that bilocal residence prevails.

Inheritance. Men and women "own" things that they need for their activities. In the past, when a man died, all his belongings were destroyed: his weapons were broken, his dog killed, his chacra destroyed, his house set afire. The corpse was wrapped up in his cushma, deposited in a canoe, and shipped down the river. Today, owing to missionary influence, the dead are buried. The corpse is wrapped in his cushma and put in a grave together with his diadem, food, and favorite animal (e.g., a monkey). The Huarayo no longer burn the deceased's house, but smaller articles such as utensils or weapons are still destroyed.

Socialization. Children are socialized at home and according to the situation (in the bilingual missionary school in Riberalta or in a Spanish Adventist school in Palmareal). Only babies are looked after by their mothers; other children are in the care of their older brothers and sisters, who teach them customary behavior and how to behave in the forest.


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