Courtship and Marriage

In Zapotec communities in the Valleys of Oaxaca, traditional engagement parties involved the young man's family coming to petition for the bride at 4 a.m., bearing large baskets of chocolate, bread, and giant candles. This ceremony is one of several ceremonies associated with traditional weddings performed over a period of years. After the official engagement ceremony, a young woman will go to live with her future husband and will often have one or two children with him before the church wedding. Even this formal set of ceremonies exhibits an interesting disjuncture between virginity and formal marriage. The other prominent form of engagement is por robar (by theft), which usually means a carefully planned voluntary elopement. Most women in the community, whether young or old, are concerned with protecting their sexual reputations. Many girls are still strictly watched and not allowed to walk the streets alone after the age of 10 or 11.

Most older Zapotec women (over 40) have been married either by a traditional set of engagement and wedding ceremonies or by elopement and a smaller wedding ceremony—the former being dependent on access to financial resources. As the number of female migrants increases, more and more younger women are entering into common-law marriages that follow a pattern of serial monogamy in the places where they live outside of the community—Mexico City, Tijuana, Rosarita, and Los Angeles. After some years, a couple may decide to return to their community of origin (if both are from the same town) and go through the traditional series of ceremonies culminating in a wedding.

Isthmus forms of Zapotec marriage can include a marriage petition which involves a groom by way of his parents and a group of respected old men asking for a woman's hand in marriage. An elaborate speech and petition follow in which the young woman is asked whether or not she agrees to the proposal. If she answers yes, then a wedding date is set and a 3-day fiesta follows. Proof of a woman's virginity is usually presented on a sheet or handkerchief on the Monday following the consummation of the marriage (Henestrosa, 1993, p. 130; Ruiz Campbell, 1993, pp. 130-133). A second form of marriage known as rapto (when a man carries off a woman to be his bride) may occur when the request for marriage is denied. This can involve taking women against their will, and some women have described it as extremely shameful and den-igratory action for women. Obdulia Ruiz Campbell writes of her mother and other relatives being abducted with such "violent force, that they received blows to their legs so that they could not resist so much and were later pulled by their hands to the houses of their boyfriends where they were deflowered" (Ruiz Campbell, 1993, p. 138). Younger women take pains to avoid rapto.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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