Shipibo - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Rules stipulate that one should not marry descendants of grandparents, who are distinguished as kikín rárëbo (true family) rather than ochó rárëbo (distant family). In the past Shipibo marriages were arranged by both sets of parents. The future bride was expected to deliver beverages to her future husband's family each day, and he to contribute fish and game to her family and sleep with her each night. This trial period usually lasted six to twelve months, after which time the two were married. Although young men and women seem to enjoy more freedom to select their own mates, marriage has never had an elaborate ceremony; a man, or his mother, merely moves his mosquito net to the house of his wife's mother and he assumes residence there. Marriages dissolve just as unceremoniously when men simply leave their wives and return to their own families.

Men traditionally tended to marry between the ages of 19 and 25, whereas women usually married when 14 to 16 years of age, after completing the female initiation ritual. Girls are no longer initiated, and there is a trend for men to marry at a younger age (15 to 20 years); thus they are marrying women closer to their own age. Polygynous marriages are not as common as they once were, possibly because of the influences of missionaries and resident government officials. There is also some evidence of levirate and sororate in the past. Marriage is most common among people living in villages located along the same river.

Domestic Unit. In the past, large extended families lived together in the same house. In the early 1980s, smaller extended families were becoming more common, and some men were establishing nuclear-family households, albeit in the vicinity of their wife's family.

Inheritance. Men and women each "own" those things that they tend to use most. In the past, when a man or woman died, he or she was buried under his or her house and then the house was set afire. AU articles that belonged to the deceased were disposed of, usually by burning them or immersing them in the river. This was done so that relatives would not suffer the heartbreak of thinking of the deceased one so often. Now that adults accumulate money and objects purchased with it, items are left to one's spouse and children, which, according to some informants, has caused disputes. These days, the scarcity of building materials prevents many from burning the deceased's house, and some corpses are even buried in cemeteries.

Socialization. Children are socialized at home and in their bilingual school. Infants are always in the company of their mother or matrilineal kin, whereas fathers have less direct physical contact with their children. By Western standards, parents tend to raise their children in a permissive fashion. Social codes of behavior, particularly between certain classes of kin, are well recognized among the Shipibo—a child learns these early in his or her life. Corporal punishment is rarely administered; when it is, it is usually by those who have spent more time with mestizos and Whites. Most Shipibo place a high value on formal education, and at about age 5 children begin school.

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