Marriage. A person is not considered an adult until he or she marries, and marriage is the norm. It appears that aboriginally there were trial marriages; children resulting from such unions were considered legitimate. There is still no stigma attached to children born out of wedlock nor is virginity in either partner particularly valued. Until the mid-twentieth century most marriages were arranged by the couple's parents. Today young people meet and court at the Otavalo market, while running errands in town, at fiestas, or while attending high school. They generally marry between the ages of 18 and 24. The traditional giving of food by the groom's family is still practiced, together with the procession of the young man's parents to the home of his prospective bride to discuss the marriage. The food does not necessarily represent bride-wealth, since the bride's family does not lose her labor and the young couple may reside with them. Nor is a dowry given.
Exchanges of food between the families after marriage as agreed upon are a recognition of the reciprocity and the complementarity of opposites, which are core values in indigenous society. Appropriate marriage partners include anyone of the opposite sex except a first cousin or closer consanguineal relative. The mayor of the community places a rosary around the necks of the couple in a short ceremony and the union is recognized. Later, civil registration of the marriage is followed by a church wedding and fiesta if the man's family has the money to pay for the celebration. Divorce is rare.
Domestic Unit. Neolocal residence is the ideal, but until a young couple can build or buy their own house, they live with either set of parents depending on the families' resources; extended families are common. Unmarried or handicapped adults usually live with their parents or another relative, and orphaned children live with relatives.
Inheritance. Land and property are divided equally among all children, resulting in successive divisions of landholdings and a proliferation of tiny plots. The youngest child usually is given the parents' house while they are alive, with the understanding that he or she will care for them in old age.
Socialization. Children are given much attention and affection and are raised relatively permissively. They are included in all activities, but they are also expected to help with household, farm, and textile chores; to obey adults promptly; and to respect them. Physical discipline, such as spanking, is infrequent. Ridicule, stern looks, or harsh words are usually sufficient to ensure proper behavior. Most children attend primary school. Increasing numbers are going on to high school and some to the university.