Courtship and Marriage

Tarahumara marriage is generally monogamous and almost ubiquitous. Few people never marry. It is not uncommon for people to have had several husbands or wives in a lifetime, owing to deaths or separations. Most people start looking for partners and marry between the ages of 15 and 20, and if separated or widowed, will usually start looking for a new spouse within a few years (there are no specific rules or preferences for remarriage). Love is considered important in successful marriages, though mutual respect and companionship can also lead to satisfactory unions. To be alone or single is considered intrinsically sad, and as sadness is dangerous and contagious, it is in some ways considered the responsibility of the whole community to make marriage matches. It is also difficult in practice for a man or woman to make a living alone owing to the many tasks involved; single adults often remain in or return to their parents' households. Nowadays most courtship is undertaken by unmarried men and women themselves, especially among those teenagers who attend school together, but in the recent past (15-30 years ago) matches were often made by an elected official, the mayoli ("mayor") (Kennedy, 1996, p. 199). In the past most families lived in greater isolation from each other, and youngsters may have had very little chance to interact with unrelated peers. The mayoli is approached by the parents of youths of marriageable age and asked to find appropriate mates for them. Suitable matches must be unrelated (no traceable blood connection) and usually partners of similar ages, though this is flexible. It is not uncommon for young men to be married to women twice (or even three times) their age; it is less common for young women to marry much older men. Men or women identified as cross-gendered may cohabit with and marry members of either the opposite or same biological sex, depending on personal preference. Marriage with another Tarahumara is preferable to matches with other ethnic groups, though partners may be sought from distant communities to fulfill the unrelated rule. In the past marriages were often forced against the will of the youths, even to the point of sending soldados (soldiers) to capture dissenting girls or boys, who sometimes managed to escape by running away to live with other relatives. In the event that a ceremony is performed, it is integrated into another public celebration, commonly Easter or Epiphany. The couple kneel together before the siriame (governor), who gives a speech about correct married behavior. The couple may hold hands. The ceremony is short and simple, and the couple are expected to dance later on in the celebrations. Polygynous marriages are very rare, accepted but considered feasible only for wealthy men. In such cases the wives (usually not more than two) live in separate households.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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