Women in the community usually get married by the time they are 20 years old and they are not considered adult until then. Women have no voice in the reservation legislative issues. Their children perform a ton of chores though. The girls do the work around the house, whereas the boys do the rest, just like the adults. The girls are usually watched by their mothers while they do the housework. However, they do not make any decisions on their own.
For the first six or nine years the Mapuche are monolingual and only after that they start learning Spanish.
The families usually have many children. If a wife can’t have kids, her husband is allowed to leave her. In many cases though he doesn’t do that due to various reasons – or he loves her, or considers too beautiful to give up on. Instead, the husband usually takes additional wives who can give him kids.
The courtship involves all of the notions of virtue, honor, love, beauty and so on. The man of Mapuche can have sexual relationship whenever they please, though they will have to do some explaining if case their wife finds out. When that happens, their wives sexually torture them – it is definitely not a pretty sight. The marriage has to be always approved by the chief. Men are trying to marry ladies from the neighboring reservations in order to avoid incest.
Mapuche marriage is very simple. The groom has to steal the bride from her land, while she is showing some resistance, after that they can get married. The families from both sides then meet and discuss the price of the bride and make necessary wedding arrangements. The wedding ceremony is usually performed on the land of bride’s family. The other family is supposed to bring food, gifts and an animal, killed specifically for the event. Then the celebration is moved to the groom’s land where it lasts even longer. Couple days later it goes back to her land to bring more animals and gifts.
The newlyweds start their married life usually at the man’s land. The woman is often times criticized and henpecked by the new mother-in-law and unmarried sisters-in-law.
Only when she delivers her first child she starts to gain some power. She gains even more power when her mother-in-law passes away. The first wife manages the household and controls other wives. The more children woman has, the bigger power and status she gains in the family and in the community.
If the woman has a daughter, the child is welcomed, but if she delivers a boy, it is greatly celebrated. At the same time, there is no tenderness upon the expecting mothers in this culture. The children are expected to bring the comfort in the old age for the parents and propitiate their spirits after death. Only men are worshiped and remembered after death though, due to the fact that it is women who leave their land.
There is no such thing as a divorce in the community. The closest procedure is a separation without any intention to reunite.
Mapuche people, who are not married, usually end up in the city. Men usually are obligated to serve in the army for four years. If they decide to stay, they end up working as manual labourers or in the police. Women usually end up working on the factory, as servers or prostitutes.
Few months ago my husband and I took a trip to South America. In particular, we went to Argentina to explore the world of Latin America. We visited many little towns as well as dedicated a couple of days to the big and gorgeous Buenos Aires.