mating patterns in colonial mexico: the mayans

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!)


mexico city considers temporary marriages

from the christian science monitor:

“Mexico’s ‘temporary’ marriages: till death – or two years – do us part”

“Mexico City is studying a plan to introduce ‘temporary’ marriage licenses – letting couples choose after two years to split or renew the license for life – in an effort to mitigate the effects of divorce….

“The left-leaning assembly is studying a new initiative to introduce temporary marriage licenses that would expire after two years if the couple so desires.

“The proposal, intended to reduce the bureaucratic costs and emotional toll of divorce, has garnered as many fans as foes: Some see it as a pragmatic alternative, while others, including the Roman Catholic Church, see it as an attack on family values. It comes as Mexico grapples with its own culture war in the world’s second-largest Catholic country.

“‘The centrality of family in Mexico is changing,’ says Norma Ojeda, a sociologist at the San Diego State University who has studied the evolution of marriage in Mexico since the 1970s. ‘That is something that is part of a global social change in many countries.’

“To its authors, the proposal reflects social changes in Mexico City, where they say most divorces occur in the first two years. If after two years, couples decide to until ‘death do us part,’ they can renew their licenses. If not, the proposal specifies how children and property are handled.

“‘The proposal is, when the two-year period is up, if the relationship is not stable or harmonious, the contract simply ends,’ Leonel Luna, the assemblyman who co-wrote the bill, told Reuters. ‘You wouldn’t have to go through the tortuous process of divorce.'”

plenty of societies have or had laws providing for temporary marriages. many muslim societies (primarily shi’a ones?) have a temporary form of marriage known as nikah mut’ah. it can be used as a way of covering up prostitution (“get yer four hour marriages!”), but that’s not the only reason the practice exists.

temporary marriage was also an option amongst the early medieval irish [pg. 302]:

“The adaltrach [one type of wife in early medieval ireland] may not have brought much property at all, since in many cases, the primary intention of the union was merely to achieve social acceptance of a sexual relationship and its progeny. Another goal was to set up a temporary working relationship, in which the man supplied the farm and the woman supplied the labor. Where CL [Cain Lanamna, ‘the law of marriage’] discusses spouses who were brought in to live on another’s farm, it emphasized the labor aspect of the spouse’s relationship; this was as true of a man supported on a woman’s farm as it was of a woman supported on a man’s property. CL #28 depicts the woman in this case as keeping half her handiwork, and one-ninth of the milk, corn and bacon produced during the time the couple lived together. The relationship envisaged as likely to end at Beltene, the spring festival of May 1, which was also the time many women traditionally moved with the livestock to the summer pastures. The departing woman was supposed to have ‘a sack (of produce) for every month’ she had spent on the man’s farm.”

the thing is, tho, that no society with temporary marriages ever invented things like science or succeeded with liberal democracy. those seem, for complex reasons, to go along with strong monogamy (not to mention a relatively high iq).

mating practices affect the patterns of genetic relatedness amongst the members in any given society; and those patterns, in turn, affect the historical and evolutionary trajectories of societies.

(note: comments do not require an email. strong monogamy.)

a message for ron unz

i left this comment to ron unz’s latest on what to do about mass immigration to the united states over @the american conservative a few hours ago, but it hasn’t been approved (i can’t imagine why not) so i thought i’d post it here:

“from the description of this article on the front page: ‘Ron Unz asks whether mass immigration will destroy the GOP—and our middle-class society.’

“and, ron said: ‘Similarly, there is overwhelming evidence that today’s immigrants want to learn English, gain productive employment, assimilate into our society, and generally become “good Americans” at least as much as did their European counterparts of a century ago.’

“most hispanics are not ready to assimilate into american middle-class society simply because they do not possess the evolutionary history during which they might’ve developed the traits to enable them to do so.

“it took ca. 600 years of evolution for the anglos to develop the traits (nonviolence, literacy, long working hours and a willingness to save) which facilitate a middle-class society — and it took another ca. 600 years or so of outbreeding before that to change the tribal-natured anglo-saxons and bretons into something resembling individualistic medieval englishmen.

“latin americans have no such evolutionary history. they were tribal and had endogamous mating practices (which are absolute death to middle-class values) right up until first-contact with the spaniards. exogamous mating practices — a prerequisite for developing modern, western-like societies — have only been around in latin america for ca. 400-500 years.

“hispanics, on average, have a long way to go before they will have the capabilities needed to assimilate to our middle-class society — and, yes, the presence of too many of them in the united states is an existential threat to our society.”

but ron unz already knows that there is such a thing as human biodiversity and that our different evolutionary histories underlie that biodiversity.

previously: assimliation is a two-way street (or why endogamy means mexicans will find it hard to become middle-class anglos)

edit: see also dennis’ Social Engineering on an Unprecedented Scale. quite.

(note: comments do not require an email. wait. einstein was wrong?)

assimliation is a two-way street (or why endogamy means mexicans will find it hard to become middle-class anglos)

ron unz is at it again — arguing that, given a little time, hispanic immigrants will assimilate into american society just like non-anglo europeans did a hundred years ago. from his latest article in The American Conservative [sic] entitled “Immigration, the Republicans, and the End of White America” (the front page description of the article says: “Ron Unz asks whether mass immigration will destroy the GOP—and our middle-class society):

“Similarly, there is overwhelming evidence that today’s immigrants want to learn English, gain productive employment, assimilate into our society, and generally become ‘good Americans’ at least as much as did their European counterparts of a century ago.”

well, perhaps they want to become good, middle-class americans, although i’m not convinced of that; but another critical question is are they able to? as steve sailer has repeatedly pointed out, there’s actually a real-life experiment on hispanic assimilation into middle-class american society that’s been running for 150+ years called new mexico and, so far, mexican-americans there have failed to become like your average minnesotan suburbanite — but mr. unz is obviously not bothered by mundane facts like that.

what really irritates me about the thinking of someone like mr. unz, tho, is that he seems to be under the impression that assimilation means that whatever immigrants we happen to be talking about will miraculously drop all of their traditions and (innate) ways of behaving and just become like the population in whatever country they’re migrating to — and that the culture of a receiving country will somehow be left unscathed by the addition of a new, unrelated people with a dissimilar culture.

i mean, does mr. unz really believe that america before and after all of the late nineteenth century immigration from non-anglo european countries is the same? did the italians and the irish and the swedes and the norwegians and the jews start behaving exactly like the founding anglo-americans — even after a few generations? to be blunt, only an idiot would think so.

no. the late nineteenth century immigrants might’ve changed their ways, some of them even becoming quite american-like in their behaviors and culture after a few generations (altho the process was arguably a struggle) — but the newcomers also altered america. many people today might like the changes — but many of the anglo-americans at the time prolly did not. and many of us today might not like some of the changes they brought: the mafia by the italians, for instance, and tammany hall-style politics thanks to the irish.

the italians (very much southern italians) have mafioso tendencies in large part because of their history of and particular pattern of inbreeding; same with the irish and their liking for machine-politics. these two groups are more given to corruption and nepotism than, say, the english simply because they have a longer history of inbreeding (which, due to inclusive fitness-related drives, leads to nepotism); the southern italians also have a very recent history of inbreeding. anglos, on the other hand, have a long history of outbreeding which has lead to an individualistic society based on middle-class values and trust between non-related individuals, a preference for democracy and little nepotism.

so, what are tens of millions of mexicans and other hispanics going to bring to the table? a lot more than tacos, i can assure you. in addition to whatever innate behavioral differences mexicans have compared to europeans (iq, temperament, etc.), there’s also all the stuff related to mating patterns and genetic relatedness that i’ve been exploring on this blog to be considered.

first of all, just looking at mexico alone, if we factor out the more recently arrived spanish and african mexicans for a sec, the base population of native mexicans is not one entity. there were (and still are) mayan mexicans, aztec mexicans, mixtec mexicans, and a myriad of other peoples in mexican that i’ve never even heard of. so, right there from the start, you’ve got relatedness differences that are bound to lead to discordance between so-called “mexicans” (and i’m not even dealing here with all the other hispanics from central america — guatemalans, salvadorans, costa ricans…).

on top of these ethnic differences — and this will not come as a surprise to regular readers — most of these groups also practiced endogamous mating. yes, even cousin marriage. most or all of it seems to have been cross-cousin marriage, the most common form found in the world — like amongst the chinese. the result? societies based on extended-families and clans — not nuclear families espousing middle-class values. here’s a little bit about aztec society, for example:

“Family and lineage

Family and lineage were the basic units of Aztec society. Ones lineage determined ones social standing, and noble lineages were traced back to the mythical past, as the nobles were said to be descended from the god Quetzalcoatl. Prestigious lineages also traced their kin back through ruling dynasties, preferably ones with a Toltec heritage. The extended family group was also the basic social unit and living patterns were largely determined by family ties, because networks of family groups settled together to form calpollis. Lineage was traced through both the maternal and paternal lines, although with a preference for paternal lineage.


The calpolli (from Nahuatl calpōlli meaning ‘big house’) was a political unit composed of several interrelated family groups. The exact nature of the calpolli is not completely understood and it has been variously described as a kind of clan, a town, a ward, a parish or an agriculture based cooperative. In Nahuatl another word for calpolli was tlaxilacalli – ‘a partition of houses’.

“The calpolli was centered around the local chief (calpōleh), to whom its members were normally related and he provided the calpolli members with lands for cultivation (calpōllālli) or with access to non-agricultural occupations in exchange for tribute and loyalty….


“The altepetl (from Nahuatl āltepētl ‘water-mountain’) was a citystate composed of several calpollis and ruled by a tlatoani. The altepetl was the unit that held sway over a given territory and defended and possibly expanded it by military might. The tlatoani was the head of the most influential calpolli, often because of having the most prestigious lineage. The word altepetl, however, did not only refer to the area but also to its population, and altepetl affiliation is thought to have been the primary criteria for ethnic divisions in Mesoamerica – rather than linguistic affinities.”

well, h*ck — change the wording a bit and that could be a description of almost any clan-based or tribalistic society from the clans of scotland to the pre-christian germanic tribes (whatever happened to them anyway?). the important thing to note about the mexicans, tho, is that they were marrying endogamously and living in these clan-based societies right up to first contact with the spaniards and, presumably, their conversion to christianity. so, native-mexicans, like the swedes, don’t have the depth of out-breeding that north-western europeans have, only much more so — mexicans inbred right up until at least the 1500s.

fast-forward to the 1950s and the mexicans appear to be very good catholics, hardly marrying their first-cousins at all. the rate of first-cousin marriage in mexico in 1956-57 (1.3% giving an inbreeding coefficient of 0.0003) is exactly the same as that for quebec in the 1960s-70s. and neither of these are really that far off the rate for catholics in the united states in 1959-60 (0.2%) [pg. 92] (click on chart for LARGER version):

while this might sound pretty good, it really isn’t all that hopeful because, while the mexicans dutifully refrain from marrying their first-cousins, they do have a tendancy to marry very locally — like the greeks — and we all know how well greek society works. greeks marry within their villages (i.e. likely to distant cousins of some sort, so still to family) — mexicans marry within their barrios, formerly known as calpollis (see the bit about the aztecs above — how’s THAT for continuity?!).

here is a quote from “The Barrios of San Andrés Cholula” in “Essays on Mexican Kinship” about the marriage patterns in the barrios of san andrés cholula in the 1960s. while mating patterns might’ve changed in mexico in the last generation or two, mexicans in their 30s and 40s today are the children of those who married in the 1960s, so the effects of endogamous mating in mexico in the 1960s are, no doubt, still very much in effect today [pgs. 78 & 80]:

“Today there is no rigid rule of mate selection in San Andres. Of the 385 married pairs for whom we have information on place of birth for both husband and wife, 35 (9.1 percent) have both partners originating from outside the community. In addition, 43 women have married into the community, primarily in San Juan, Santiago, San Adres, and San Miguel. Thirty men have married into the community, and they reside for the most part in Santiago, Santo Nino, and San Juan. Altogether, 18.96 percent of the married couple have one spouse from outside the community. These couples reside mostly in the natal barrio of the community spouse. The remaining 71.76 percent originated in the community.

“At the barrio level, however, of the 277 couples originating from San Andres, only 172 (62.09 percent) came from the same barrio, with 105 (37.91 percent) marriages uniting people of different barrios. Barrios with the greatest amount of land, cohesion, and traditional customes (San Juan, Santiago, and La Satisima) also exhibit a clear preference for endogamy. In contrast, the barrios of San Pedro Colomochoco, Santa Maria Cuaco, and Santo Nino share a strong tendency toward spouse exchange (see table 4)….

“The present-day pattern of regulating marriage, inheritance, and barrio membership may have existed during the pre-Hispanic and colonial periods. Perhaps theres was a greater tendency toward barrio endogamy when there was a communal system of land tenure. Today, marriage and inheritance practices support the solidarity of barrios.”

72% of marriages in this mexican municipality consisted of couples from the municipality, and 62% of marriages were between couples from the same barrio (really extended family)? that’s huge! that’s some serious endogamy — and, if the rest of mexico is at all similar (and it’s my understanding that it is/was), it’s not surprising that the mexican corruption levels look like those in greece (and italy).

to sum up: you can’t take a clan- (or tribal-)based population with a long history of inbreeding and turn it into a population of individuals with a yearning for individualistic rights and middle-class american (anglo) values overnight. you prolly can’t even do it in a couple of generations of strong out-breeding. the (biological) process that turned a few germanic tribes (the anglos and the saxons and the jutes) into a hard-working, non-violent, frugal, literate population took aaaaaaages — and it started in the early medieval period with the church’s demands for out-breeding. from “The Tribal Imagination” [pgs. 69-70]:

In the West we had to move from tribalism, through city-states and small nations, through empire, feudalism, mercantile capitalism, and the industrial revolution to reach our present state of fragile open universalistic democracy (shrugging off communism and fascism along the way). Athens and Rome had a period of republicanism and democracy — at least voting and elections for free males — but this did not last and succumbed to autocracy and dictatorship with the growth of empire. The English were helped in the shedding of dominant kinship groups by the relative individualism of the Angles and Saxons, with their emphasis on the independent nuclear family. (See Alan Macfarlane’s ‘The Origins of English Individualism.’) Christian monogamy and the banning of cousin marriages by the Catholic Church helped to break down extended kinship groups and encouraged even more individualism.

This breaking up of tight kin groups by expanding ‘prohibited degrees’ (as far as third cousins) is perhaps not sufficiently appreciated. Think what it would have done to the Arab cousin-marriage system. In England the institution of primogeniture — inheritance by the eldest son — also helped prevent the dissipation of family fortunes produced by partible inheritance: division of the patrimony among all sons, common on the continent (and in China, but not Japan). It reduced the power of aristocratic clans by forcing the younger sons into the professions: the army, the law, and the church.

This move away from kinship and into the world of voluntary and non-kin organizations was in turn infused with the Protestant work and reinvestment ethic, and the Miracle happened. It did not happen all at once, but over several centuries of cumulative effort that fed on the new humanism and the growth of science and industry. As labor became ever more specialized and more mobile, family groups became ever less self-sufficient, and individuals became more and more dependent on strangers and on the institutions that made dependence on strangers possible: in particular, the rule of law and the enforcement of contracts.

“And we had to do it by our own efforts, pull ourselves up by the social bootstraps, to make it stick. We have seen in Germany, in Italy, and in Spain how fragile this really is. Russia never did make it. France is always problematic. Latin America and the Balkans continue to be a mess. But in making this move we had to change the entire particularistic, communalistic, ritualistic, kin-dominated society that is natural to us, and we have to keep at it all the time….”

“It did not happen all at once, but over several centuries….”


p.s. – btw, endogamy in new mexico? h*ll, yeah.

previously: recap and “hard-won democracy”

(note: comments do not require an email. they do, however, require a little more thought into the matter of mass immigration than mr. unz has obviously given it.)