Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Marriage Arranged

So yesterday we went out to take part in a marriage arrangement.  Although young couples today have the ability to choose their own mates or accept or decline proposals of marriage, the enagagement process still looks similar to that of yesteryear. 

We arrived at the house of the bride-to-be, greeted by loads of family members--50-60 from her side.  The grooms family arrived in a bus from a town about 1 1/2 hours away.  The arranging consisted of the bride and groom-to-be, their parents and a "Witness" for each side, in addition to other prominant family entering into a specially prepared room. The room had been completely vacated of beds, dressers, knicknacks and others odds and ends stored there normally.  Instead was a large rectantgular room with fresh pine needles spread on the floor, a table at the front for the Witnesses(a church elder or other respected family member), parents and couple, and chairs all around the perimeter for guests.  Guests were allowed to come and go, allowing others to come in and listen.  The two Witnesses act as brokers for the families, first giving advice and premarital counsel, and then arranging the details of the gifts to be delivered by the groom's family and length of engagement period required by the bride's family.  Gifts traditionally consisted in a monthly delivery of meat and vegetables and tamalitos alternated with a basket of bread and chocolate or bags of sugar or soft drinks.  Some just agree upon an amount of cash.  Engagement periods can last from about 3-12 months.  After the famlies agree upon the terms, the couple goes around the room on their knees, kissing the hands of their elders in the family.  We were told that this is to show respect, and also to ask forgiveness of the bride's family for leaving her family.  (Also, if by chance the bride is already in the family way, this is the opportunity to publickly show remorse and ask forgiveness of her family).
The couple, Maria and Sebastian agreed upon 6 months (some say 7 as the deliveries will be made every 4 weeks).  They are an older couple, both 30 years old, and they seem very happy.   The groom is not from a Christian family, but they seemed very respectful of the biblical counsel offered during the half-day ceremony.
After the ceremony, the famlies share a large meal together.  We enjoyed beef and vegetables in a traditional red sauces thickened with cornmeal and complete with tamalitos.  Most everyone ate without spoons, working on the sauce first with their tamalitos and then picking out the veggies and meat with their hands.  But the hosts kindly brought us out two spoons.  Either they are just really sweet to us or they think we're spoiled, or both. :) 

It was a great day, learning more about this interesting culture we live in.  Today, at lunch after clinic in Mactzul I, we asked a few questions about the whole wedding thing, clarifying what we didn't understand from yesterday and them asking about what we do in the US.  Then we asked everyone around the table how long their engagement was, and if they knew their brides before hand or if they were arranged by parents.  Even Gaspar who is our age, said he only knew Juana by sight, and his dad and mom arranged the wedding--as mom needed help in the kitchen not having any daughters of her own.  The younger guys chose their own wives. The older guys said they had been purely arranged marriages--one said his mom found him a wife--probably time for kitchen help there too!  Engagements ranged from 3 months to a year with many of the men with shorter engagement (or waiting periods) less than 3 months laughing about not sure they could hold out for a year.  It was a great conversation that brought out the human side of everyone, great laughs and discussions of cultural differences in different places in Guatemala, the US and around the world, good ones, bad ones and just interesting ones.

The happy couple - Maria and Sebastian.  Maria is the sister of Manuel Sut Gonzalez, one of the health promoters that works with HTI.  We have about 7 pictures of Maria and Sebastian and Maria has the same exact pose in each one, minus the one below as we finally got a smile out of her!  Typical guy going casual and girl putting on her new digs - guys are the same everywhere!

Cute little cousins.  The boy in the green shirt is Tomas and we hope his dad gets to check out the blog since he is away.  :)

Cooking of the stew.

Of course lots of kids who warm up to us more and more every time we are around.

Thanks for checking in and God bless!!

1 comment:

norm said...

Great post. Good cultural information, enjoyed the photos.