Terena - Marriage and Family

Marriage. In traditional Terena society marriage between consanguineal kin was not permitted. There were cases of levirate and sororate as well as cases of simple or sororal polygyny. Today, owing to the influence of Christianity, these unions are uncommon and are also condemned by the Terena community itself; monogamous unions are most common. Marriage traditionally implied certain socially consecrated behavior, which consisted of states intermediate to marriage. The bridegroom was taken by his parents to the bride's house and remained there for some time. Before the wedding, the groom's and bride's families cooperated in the collection of mopó (honey used in the preparation of drinks). The marriage was authorized by the father of the bride. Today these intermediate stages are no longer practiced. Nonetheless, the parents of the bride still exert much influence over the choice of the husband. Interethnic marriages are frequent, generally between a Terena woman and a "civilized" man.

Domestic Unit. The Terena originally lived in communal houses, in extended-family units. The houses were located around a central square. When the Service for the Protection of Indians (SPI) built the indigenous reservations, the familial pattern changed. At present domestic groups are generally made up of nuclear families.

Inheritance. In the past an individual's personal belongings were buried with the corpse. Today this practice is still followed in a few villages, but now that the Terena are part of a market economy, the deceased's children and other close relatives usually inherit his belongings.

Socialization. Children are socialized at home. At age 7 or 8 they start going to the schools on the indigenous reserves. In some villages there is bilingual instruction. While still at home the children are raised by the mother and other women in the family, the men having less contact with them. The treatment of children is generally quite permissive, corporal punishment being rarely used. In traditional Terena society mothers would nurse their children until they were about 6 years old.

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