i thought i’d start looking at the mating patterns of mexicans. it’s a tall order, i feel, ’cause there are/were lots of different groups of native mexicans: mayans, aztecs (guess we’re supposed to call them nahuas now), zapotecs, mixtecs, and so on and so forth. *whew!* well, may as well get started…

mexicans, today, don’t marry their cousins much (they’re good catholics i guess) — 0.3%-1.3% cousin marriage rates were recorded in the 1960s [pgs. 1-2, pdf]. during the 1500s through the 1800s, the general pattern, i think, was very local endogamy — marriage within what the spanish would call el barrio — and for some groups, like the mayans, regular, repeated marriages between a handful of clans. interestingly, local marriage (within the barrio) still happened at least in some places in 1960s mexico (see The Barrios of San Andreas Cholula, pg. 65+ – i’ll come back to this in a future post) — old habits die hard i suppose.

some groups in colonial mexico seem to have allowed cousin marriage, but not necessarily to have preferred it. there are good indications that the mayans preferred cross-cousin marriage, but i’ll come back to that in yet another future post. right now, the mating patterns/family types of the yucatec mayans during the colonial period.

if the uplanders vs. lowlanders theory is correct, a h*ckuva lot of mexicans ought to have been inbreeders. the mayans living waaay out on the yucatan peninsula should have practiced more outbreeding compared to other mexican populations though, unless they just did what their mayan brethren living further to the southwest (and, therefore, further upland) did:

here’s the mayan territory in dark beige (those are the aztecs nahuas in mint green):

the mayans lived together in extended family groupings, each nuclear family in its own house, with the extended family sharing house-plots and farmland (if they were farmers). what later became known as the barrios — the hamlets or small towns comprised of these extended family house-plots — were called “cah” by the mayans. every extended family was part of a larger patrilineage or patronym group known as a chibal (pl. chibalob). reminiscent of china, you could not marry within your patronym in mayan society. so, you might, perhaps, marry cousins/other relatives on your mother’s side, but not on your father’s (all children took their father’s patronym).

from The Maya World: Yucatec Culture and Society, 1550-1850 [pgs. 17, 92]:

“Within a given cah, members of a chibal — those of the same patronym — formed a kind of extended family, most of whose members seem to have pusued their common interest wherever possible through political factionalism, the acquisition and safeguarding of land, and the creation of marriage-based alliances with other chibalob of similar or higher socioeconomic status. Such marriages were in part necessary because chibalob were exogamous, a principle that seems to have been applied across cah lines, although after the conquest there was no formal organization of chibal members beyond the cah level. Chibalob were closer to exogamous clans than to lineages, bearing similarities to both, although the Maya term more accurately reflects their particular combination of characteristics….

“The maintenance of the Maya taboo on intrachibal marriage reflects the maintenance of the practice of interchibal marital alliance, which created multi-chibal households. The combination of these households was a cah-wide network of chibal interest-groups. The effect was to help perpetuate the class system, since chibal interest groups tended to consist of families at similar socioeconomic levels.”

from The Ties That Bind: Social Cohesion and the Yucatec Maya Family we get some potentially useful population numbers (which i am too tired to think about tonight) [pgs. 363-365]:

“I have noted about 270 patronym-groups in the colonial record, represented in documentation that has survived from almost all of the approximately 200 Maya communites in the province….

Community endogamy is suggested by testamentary evidence from Ixil, where every single one of sixty-eight couples living in the early eighteenth century represented community-endogamous marriages (sixty-six of them, or 97 percent, were natives of Ixil, the remaining two couples having married fellow community members elsewhere and subsequently moving to Ixil). This data contrasts somewhat with evidence from a tribute census of 1721 and that of late-colonial parish registers. The 1721 census show that eighteen of twenty-one communities in one region of the province contained residents born in another community, although they were a definite minority (of these twenty-one communities, half contained between zero and 12 percent of adults born in another community, and the rest had up to 32 percent nonnative adults, with one community showing a figure of 57 percent). Parish records show that while community exogamy was substantial in certain communities, it was neither a widespread nor a random phenomenon, nor did it represent a gradual migration from small communities, to regional centers, to Merida; rather, it was restricted to certain communities that maintained strong ties with a small number of other communities (Sotuta with Teabo and Tiho, for example, and Tecoh, Ticul, and Homun with one particular community within Tiho, San Sebastian). I would argue, therefore, that while data on migration and marriage reveals a wide range of individual community variants, community endogamy was the norm; in the vast majority of communities, the majority of the population married fellow residents, while a minority was subject to migration and marriage patterns that were usually community distinct….”

“Patronym-group clustering meant that a small proportion of the total number of patronyms were represented in any given community…. [A] typical family living in a modest-size community would be familiar with thirty to forty local patronyms — and would also be related to half a dozen or more of them.

“As patronym-groups were exogamous, the family members on a typical house-plot would not all hold the same patronym; women retained their patronyms after marriage, although children took their fathers’ surnames. As children married and some stayed on the house-plot, more patronym-groups would become represented in the household complex. The multipatronym nature of the household might suggest that the latter was more important than patronym-group organization, and that no doubt would have been the case had love’s whimsical nature been the sole factor in marriage choice. However, where the documentary sources are dense enough, visible patronym-related patterns reveal the organization significance of marriage decisions.

“For example, the 1570 Cozumel census and the collections of wills from seventeenth-century Cacalchen and eighteenth century Ixil show that families tended to form alliance groups of, typically, four or five coresident patronym-groups of similar socioeconomic standing in the community. The class structure of patronym-groups within a community can be compiled using testamentary information…. In Ixil in the 1760s, for example, there were forty patronym-groups (as recorded in testaments) that can be placed into eight socioeconomic levels; at the top, the circle of marital alliances tightens (eleven patronym-groups comprise four levels of nobility), and at the bottom, it widens considerably, although practices designed to tighten the circle, while still conforming to patronym-groups exogamy — such as preferential bilateral cross-cousin marriage — remain in evidence.

so, again, rather like china, we have handfuls of patronym groups — clans — marrying and re-marrying one another (but outside the patronym) over the course of, at least, at couple of hundred years. the researcher, matthew restall, found around 270 patronyms in 200 mayan communities. i wonder if he’s published any estimated population figures anywhere? from that we could try to work out actual inbreeding rates/patterns! cool.

(note: comments do not require an email. just when you thought it was safe … death to america!)

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