Panare - Marriage and Family



Marriage. There is a positive rule of marriage that obliges an individual to marry someone from a category that includes cross cousins as well as certain members of the generations two above and two below. Marriages of the latter kind are usually between distant relatives, but a number of marriages of men with their "real" daughter's daughter have been reliably recorded. Such marriages are seen as means whereby the wife's father can pay his father-in-law back for the daughter whom the latter gave him as a spouse. An emphasis on the importance of reinforcing marriage ties between families through reciprocation also influences marriages within generations, with the result that there is a high degree of sibling-group intermarriage.

There is no clear break between courting and marriage and there is no associated rite of passage. A man simply moves his hammock to his prospective wife's family hearth and begins to supply her and her family with food. The union will simply be consolidated by time and/or children. Once children arrive, the new couple will establish an independent hearth within the longhouse and eventually move out altogether, either to found their own collective house with their siblings or to join the husband's residential group. Divorce is relatively rare, but men sometimes take more than one wife, in which case the first union tends to become less significant.

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit typically consists of a nuclear family. Between them, a man and a woman can carry out most subsistence tasks by themselves, but there is usually some degree of collaboration between nuclear families and pooling of the food produced within the residential group. The principal occasion for this collective consumption is the joint meal, one for each gender, which takes place on most evenings in a Panare settlement.

Inheritance. Individuals have very little personal property other than their clothes, hammock, hunting weapons, and tools. All these are buried with the deceased or destroyed. Dogs and other domestic animals are killed. Modern goods such as shotguns, cassette players, and motorbikes, which are expensive and difficult to replace, are usually sold to someone outside of the community, preferably a criollo.

Socialization. Shortly after birth, a child is given certain body adornments that vary according to gender. No name is given a child until at least the age of 2 years, when she or he is assigned one of a long list of names specific to children. Children lead a carefree life, doing largely what they like and rarely receiving any reprimand. Social and technical skills are learned by example rather than by formal instruction. It is noticeable, though, that from a very early age boys and girls play separately. This gender division is accentuated when a boy is about 10 and leaves the family hearth to sleep alongside other bachelors in the center of the collective house. Shortly thereafter, he is initiated by being dressed in his first loincloth during a special public ceremony. He will then adopt one of the six possible adult male names, but he is unlikely to get married until he is at least 18. A girl's initiation ceremony takes place shortly after her first menstruation, but this is a private event, for her immediate female relatives only. She will then adopt one of the four possible adult female names and marry within two or three years.


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