Palikur - Marriage and Family



Marriage. As in ancient times, monogamy continues to be rigorously observed. Not only are marriages between members of the same clan forbidden, but also those between close relatives who belong to different clans. As is typical of most Guianan tribes, the acquisition of a bride was traditionally preceded by bride-service performed by the bridegroom-to-be for his future in-laws. Nowadays, this practice is no longer observed, and it is not unusual for a boy and girl to begin living together after a dance. Divorce used to be frequent but has diminished considerably owing to the influence of the Pentecostal church. The traditional rule of virilocal residence, which existed because of clan endogamy, lasted until at least the middle of the twentieth century but was limited to cases involving the marriages of the sons of chiefs. Nowadays, temporary uxorilocality is practiced.

Domestic Unit. Traditional domestic units composed of extended families have now been replaced by nuclear-family households.

Inheritance. Upon the death of his wife, the widower generally keeps all her possessions. A widow keeps the dwelling, garden and other planted areas, domestic utensils, and agricultural tools. The most important valuables (including purchased items) do not accompany the man to his grave but generally go to the firstborn son or, in his absence, to his oldest brother. If the couple was separated, the division of goods varies from case to case; the male interest usually prevails, especially when a woman does not have relatives to support her claim.

Socialization. When there were extended families, relations between husband and wife were generally satisfactory because of the rigorous obedience demanded of sons-in-law by their in-laws. After this type of family disappeared, however, husbands frequently began physically punishing their wives (although only very rarely their children). In the latter half of the twentieth century, men's behavior has undergone change owing to the incorporation of Western norms and the influence of religious institutions and agencies. Both children and adults have begun enthusiastically to attend school to receive instruction either in Portuguese or Palikur and to learn about the Bible.


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