Culture of Guatemala - history, people, clothing, women, beliefs, food, customs, family, social
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The girl's family replied that they would be ready. The delegation for this fourth and final visit was made up of Tono's parents, an older brother, Milcher, and the latter's wife. This time the visitors were given bread and hot chocolate, a drink reserved for ceremonial occasions. After eating, Milcher made a formal speech. Then the bride's father spoke and wept. The remaining three parents as well as the wife of the witness each spoke.
The hostess handed over her daughter's clothes to Tono's mother; everyone bade everyone else goodnight; the bride cried and said goodbye to her weeping parents; and they, in turn, told her to be well behaved as she reluctantly left the house. The party now proceeded to the home of the waiting groom where all were served coffee and bread. Milcher instructed Tono and Anita to drink from the same cup and eat from the same dish and concluded the formalities of the evening by offering them solemn advice.
He reminded them of their duties as man and wife and warned them against quarreling. It was late in the evening but in the kitchen women of the house were busily grinding corn for festive tamales. Anita wanted to help with the grinding, but Milcher's wife told her to make her husband's bed instead. Tono's mother showed her where they would sleep. Early next morning gifts of food were sent to Anita's ' I family, a basket of bread, chocolate, and two pounds of sugar.
Bread and chocolate were also sent to Milcher and, his wife in partial payment for his good offices in acting as witness and intermediary.
More food was sent at noon, two cooked turkeys, and two baskets of tamales to the home of the bride, and a cooked chicken and a basket of tamales to Milcher's house.
But in addition, Milcher and his wife were invited to eat the midday meal with Tono's family. Everyone kissed the hand of Milcher and of his wife in respectful greeting. Again Milcher enjoined the newlyweds to eat from a common dish, and again he delivered words of instruction both before and after sitting down to eat.
In honor of the occasion gifts of meat, tamales, and bread were sent to the homes of all the relatives of the groom.
This case differs in detail from others, but the essentials recur in most instances of marriage by formal petition: Sometimes there are witnesses on both sides. In many cases the petitioning parents bring along bottles of liquor. Willingness of the bride's parents to join them in drink is construed as an augury of eventual consent. Preliminary negotiations are always carried on under cover of darkness. People say they would be ashamed to do otherwise. In effect this means that the public should not become aware of the petitioners' intent lest their efforts result in failure and the petitioners lose face.
Moreover, the practice of evening calls guards against the interference of malicious gossip which might prejudice the outcome. Seldom are marriages recorded in the civil registry or sanctified by a Catholic priest. However, it can be seen that the participation of the honored outsider is the social and moral equivalent both of a legal act and a holy sacrament.
Should trouble arise between the partners in marriage, kinsmen can be counted on to use their influence in settling the difficulty. Having been active parries to the agreement, they hold themselves responsible for the success of the match. Should the girl leave her husband, her in-laws can exert pressure on her parents to persuade her to return. If she is maltreated or neglected by her husband, she can appeal to her parents to take her back or defend her cause in case of a civil suit.
Or the officiating witness may be called on to compose differences between the spouses of the two families.
In short, the elaborate negotiations and interchanges between the two contracting bodies of kinsmen and the involvement of an outside arbiter not only serve to impress the couple with the seriousness of their new responsibilities, but also set up moral machinery to help stabilize the union. This machinery does not always hold the marriage together, but it helps. The system relies more on force of parental authority and fear of shame than on independent judgment and the dictates of conscience.
Sometimes it is the groom who moves in with his wife's family. Such cases happen quite frequently owing to special circumstances which favor such an arrangement. A girl may consent to marriage only on condition that she and her husband live with her parents.
If the boy is especially smitten with the girl and can overcome the protestation of his own parents, he complies. But more often the reason is one of expediency. The boy may be an orphan living with relatives or a laborer originally from a neighboring village and may welcome a home with in-laws whose land he can work for a living. Or may come from a poor home and look forward to a greater inheritance if he establishes himself as a good worker in his father-in-law's household, especially if the wife has few brothers.
But whatever the motive, the marriage is again arranged by relatives and witnesses, there is sharing of food and drink, and the newlyweds receive lectures on duty and deportment. Initiative in the negotiations remains with the family of the groom who go by night to the home of the girl and who deliver the boy rather than call for the girl. Before the marriage is consummated, the groom shows his good faith and demonstrates subservience to his in-laws by sweeping their patio in the morning and bringing to them a load of freshly- cut firewood in the evening.
The formalities are less complex than in the more conventional type of marriage described above, but the family obligations and the influence of the witnesses are similarly designed to make the marriage last. As a matter of fact this alternate pattern is the more likely to insure domestic stability. Adjustment is now the problem of the incoming husband there is less likelihood of friction between a man and his father-in-law than there is between a girl and her new mother-in-law.
The two women are thrown into close and continual contact, and, if the new-comer is not by nature accustomed to complete submission, tension may well build up to the point of eventual explosion. But a man working for his father-in-law has more freedom of movement if not of decision; as a man he has contacts outside the home to engage his interests; he does not venture to compete with his mother-ill-law in directing the routine duties of her daughter, and he has every reason to avoid trouble with his father-in-law lest he lose his means of livelihood and jeopardize his eventual share of the inheritance.
These then are the two types of family-sponsored marriage in San Pedro. The less frequent form in which the boy takes up his residence in the girl's home may lead to greater harmony but the reverse arrangement remains the more orthodox, since it fits in with traditional inheritance practices by which land is transmitted from father to sons. Moreover, it is consistent with the spirit of a male-dominated culture, that the burden of adjustment be thrust upon the woman.
But most marriages today conform to neither traditional pattern. Most girls prefer to elope, even at the cost of antagonizing their parents. This always involves conspiracy I against the girl's parents and at least the tacit consent of the boy's parents who must receive the girl into their home. On their final day of courtship on the playa the boy and girl who plan to elope agree on an hour and signal.
The girl goes home with her jar of water and keeps herself busy at the usual tasks to forestall suspicion. Around bedtime or later she finds a pretext to leave the house, and takes along a bundle of clothing secretly prepared beforehand. Once outside, she gives the signal, usually by tossing a pebble, to inform the boy that it is she and not another woman of the house.
The boy knows there is no surer way of precipitating trouble for himself and the girl than to reveal his presence to the wrong person. When he hears the signal the nervous suitor comes out of his hiding place and the two scurry away as fast as darkness will allow, the girl falling behind the boy and carrying her own bundle of clothing. They try to reach the protection of the boy's home before being overtaken by the girl's parents.
With a head start they generally succeed. Indians with thirteen or more years of education earned about one-third less than did Ladinos with a comparable level of education. Symbols of Social Stratification. Dress varies significantly by class and caste. Professional and white-collar male workers in the cities usually wear suits, dress shirts, and neckties, and women in comparable pursuits dress fashionably, including stockings and high-heeled shoes. Nonemployed upper-class women dress more casually, often in blue jeans and T-shirts or blouses.
They frequent beauty salons since personal appearance is considered an important indicator of class. Poorer Ladinos, whether urban or rural, buy secondhand clothing from the United States that is sold at low prices in the streets and marketplaces.Dating & Life Skills : American Marriage Customs
T-shirts and sweatshirts with English slogans are ubiquitous. Many Mayan women, regardless of wealth, education, or residence, continue to wear their distinctive clothing: The huipil is hand woven on a backstrap loom and consists of two panels sewn together on the sides, leaving openings for the arms and head. It usually is embroidered with traditional designs. Shoes or sandals are almost universal, especially in towns and cities.
Earrings, necklaces, and rings are their only jewelry. Indian men are more likely to dress in a Western style. Today's fashions dictate "cowboy" hats, boots, and shirts for them and for lower-class rural Ladinos. In the more remote highland areas, many men continue to wear the clothing of their ancestors. The revitalization movement has reinforced the use of traditional clothing as a means of asserting one's identity. As ofthe president and vice-president and sixteen members of the eighty-member congress are elected by the nation as a whole for non-renewable four-year terms, while the remaining sixty-four members of the unicameral legislature are popularly elected by the constituents of their locales.
Despite universal suffrage, only a small percentage of citizens vote. There are twenty-two departments under governors appointed by the president. Municipalities are autonomous, with locally elected officials, and are funded by the central government budget. In areas with a large Mayan population, there have been two sets of local government leaders, one Ladino and one Mayan, with the former taking precedence.
Inhowever, many official or "Ladino" offices were won by Maya. Leadership and Political Officials. Political parties range from the extreme right to the left and represent varying interests. Thus, their numbers, size, and electoral success change over time.
It generally is believed that most elected officials use their short periods in office to aggrandize their prestige and line their pockets. Most take office amid cheering and accolades but leave under a cloud, and many are forced to leave the country or choose to do so. While in office, they are able to bend the law and do favors for their constituents or for foreigners who wish to invest or do business in the country. Some national business gets accomplished, but only after lengthy delays, debate, and procrastination.
Social Problems and Control. Since the signing of the Peace Accords in Decemberthere has been continued social unrest and a general breakdown in the system of justice.
Poverty, land pressure, unemployment, and a pervasive climate of enmity toward all "others" have left even rural communities in a state of disorganization. In many Maya communities, their traditional social organization having been disrupted or destroyed by the years of violence, the people now take the law into their own hands.
Tired of petty crime, kidnappings, rapes, and murders and with no adequate governmental relief, they frequently lynch suspected criminals.
In the cities, accused criminals frequently are set free for lack of evidence, since the police and judges are poorly trained, underpaid, and often corrupt.
Many crimes are thought to have been committed by the army or by underground vigilante groups unhappy with the Peace Accords and efforts to end the impunity granted to those who committed atrocities against dissidents. Inthe army numbered 38, In addition, there is a paramilitary national police force of 9, a territorial militia of about , and a small navy and air force.
Social Welfare and Change Programs Guatemala has governmental and nongovernmental agencies that promote change in agriculture, taxes, banking, manufacturing, environmental protection, health, education, and human and civil rights.
Since the government has provided social security plans for workers, but only a small percentage of the populace has received these health and retirement benefits. There are free hospitals and clinics throughout the country, although many have inadequate equipment, medicines, and personnel.
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Free or inexpensive health services are offered as charities through various churches and by private individuals. Among both Maya and Ladinos, women are associated primarily with the domestic world and men work in agriculture, business, and manufacturing. However, well-educated professional women are accepted and often highly respected; many are owners and managers of businesses. More of these women are Ladinas than Mayas. Statistically, women are less educated and lower paid than their male counterparts.
Their numbers exceed those of males in nursing, secretarial, and clerical jobs. The teaching force at all levels has attracted women as well as men, but men predominate. In rural areas, Maya women and men may engage in agriculture, but the crops they grow are different.
Men tend to grow basic grains such as corn and beans as well as export crops such as green beans and snow peas. Women grow vegetables and fruits for local consumption and sale, as well as herbs and spices. Handicrafts also tend to be assigned according to gender. Pottery is most often made by Indian women and Ladino men.
Similarly, Indian women are the only ones who weave on backstrap or stick looms, while both Indian and Ladino men weave on foot looms. Indian men knit woolen shoulder bags for their own use and for sale. Men of both ethnicities do woodwork and carpentry, bricklaying, and upholstering. Indian men carve images of saints, masks, slingshots, and decorative items for their own use or for sale.
Men and boys fish, while women and girls as well as small boys gather wild foods and firewood. Women and children also tend sheep and goats. Rural Ladinas do not often engage in agriculture.
They concentrate on domestic work and cottage industries, especially those involving sewing, cooking, and processing of foods such as cheese, A market set up in front of the church in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. Market-based commerce is still a vital part of the Guatemalan economy. The Relative Status of Men and Women. Indian and poor Ladino women as well as children are often browbeaten and physically mistreated by men.
Their only recourse is to return to their parents' home, but frequently are rejected by the parents for various reasons. A woman from a higher-status family is less likely to suffer in this way, especially if her marriage has been arranged by her parents. While walking, a Maya woman traditionally trails her husband; if he falls drunk by the wayside, she dutifully waits to care for him until he wakes up. Marriage, Family, and Kinship Marriage. Marriages are sometimes arranged in Maya communities, although most couples choose each other and often elope.
Membership in private clubs and attendance at private schools provides a way for middle-class and upper-class young people to meet prospective mates.
Parents may disapprove of a selection, but their children are likely able to persuade them.
Marriages are celebrated in a civil ceremony that may be followed by a religious rite. Monogamy is the rule, although many men have a mistress as well as a wife. Among the poorer classes, both Mayan and Ladino, unions are free and ties are brittle; many children do not know, nor are they recognized by their fathers. Formal divorces are more common than many people believe, despite the disapproval of the Catholic Church. Until recently, a divorced woman did not have the right to retain her husband's surname; but she may sue for a share of his property to support herself and her minor children.
The nuclear family is the preferred and most common domestic unit. Among both Ladinos and Maya, a young couple may live at first in the home of the man's parents, or if that is inconvenient or overcrowded, with the parents of the woman. Wealthy Ladinos often provide elaborate houses close to their own homes as wedding presents for their sons and daughters. Inheritance depends on a witnessed written or oral testament of the deceased, and since many people die without indicating their preferences, family disputes after death are very common among both Mayas and Ladinos.
Land, houses, and personal belongings may be inherited by either sex, and claims may be contested in the courts and in intrafamily bickering. A woman carries baskets of textiles along a street in Antigua. Guatemalan textiles are highly regarded for their quality. The children of middle-class and upper-class Ladinos are cared for by their mothers, grandmothers, and young women, often from the rural areas, hired as nannies.
They tend to be indulged by their caretakers. They may be breastfed for a few months but then are given bottles, which they may continue using until four or five years. To keep children from crying or complaining to their parents, nannies quickly give them whatever they demand. Maya women in the rural areas depend upon their older children to help care for the younger ones.
Babies are breastfed longer, but seldom after two years of age. They are always close to their mothers during this period, sleeping next to them and carried in shawls on their backs wherever they go. They are nursed frequently on demand wherever the mother may be. Little girls of five or six years may be seen carrying tiny babies in the same way in order to help out, but seldom are they out of sight of the mother.
This practice may be seen as education for the child as well as caretaking for the infant. Indian children are socialized to take part in all the activities of the family as soon as they are physically and mentally capable. Child Rearing and Education.
Middle-class and upper-class Ladino children, especially in urban areas, are not expected to do any work until they are teenagers or beyond. They may attend a private preschool, sometimes as early as eighteen months, but formal education begins at age seven. Higher education is respected as a means of rising socially and economically. Children are educated to the highest level of which they are capable, depending on the finances of the family. The national university, San Carlos, has until recently had free tuition, and is still the least expensive.
As a result, it is overcrowded, but graduates many students who would not otherwise be able to attain an education. There are six other private universities, several with branches in secondary cities. They grant undergraduate and advanced degrees in the arts, humanities, and sciences, as well as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, law, engineering, and architecture.
Postgraduate work is often pursued abroad by the better and more affluent students, especially in the United States, Spain, Mexico, and some other Latin American countries. Etiquette Etiquette varies considerably according to ethnicity. In the past, Indians were expected to defer to Ladinos, and in general they showed them respect and subservience at all times.
In turn, they were treated by Ladinos as children or as persons of little worth. Some of those modes of behavior carried over into their own society, especially within the cofradia organization, where deliberate rudeness is considered appropriate on the part of the highest-ranking officers. Today there is a more egalitarian attitude on both sides, and in some cases younger Maya may openly show contempt for non-indigenous people. Maya children greet adults by bowing their heads and sometimes folding their hands before them, as in prayer.
Adults greet other adults verbally, asking about one's health and that of one's family. They are not physically demonstrative.
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Among Ladino urban women, greetings and farewells call for handshakes, arm or shoulder patting, embraces, and even cheek kissing, almost from first acquaintance. Men embrace and cheek kiss women friends of the family, and embrace but do not kiss each other. Children are taught to kiss all adult relatives and close acquaintances of their parents hello and goodbye. Multilateral agreements customs regulations - men looking for a girl in texas.
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