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Nuptiality in Latin America

anyway.

Given the complicated situation of there being different peoples, of

homogamy, and of interbreeding, one might well imagine that a formal Church

marriage was only one of a host of different kinds of marriage known to these

varieties

of

people.

But

in

colonial

Latin

America,

there

was

one

and

only

one kind of marriage recognized by the authorities, a marriage blessed by the

Catholic

Church.

Later

in

some

countries,

there

developed

the

institution

of

a civil marriage that could be separate from a Church marriage but even civil

marriage

was

mirrored

after

the

Church

one

in

many

ways.

All

other

unions

of

which there were often many, even ones that could be considered customary

marriages, were lumped together into a ‘free union’ category, and all the

children

produced

by

such

unions

were

called

‘natural’

or

illegitimate.3

That

is, one kind of union was legal and sanctioned by the authorities while all

other

kinds

were

not.

In

a

thought-provoking

article,

Davis

(1985)

suggests

that ‘marriage’ is the only sexual union that commands public recognition

while common-law marriage lacks that recognition, and consensual union also

lacks

an

assumption

of

permanence.

This

is

confusing

when

trying

to

understand the situation in Latin America however, because common-law marriage

is an English concept lacking in Latin American society while customary

marriage is a concept that is foreign to the societies of which Davis was

thinking.

Furthermore,

if

true

marriage

involves

public

recognition

whereas

other unions do not, just who is the ‘public’ supposed to be when Davis

mentions public recognition--a European (and later Creole) administration?

Perhaps instead of common-law marriage, we might speculate that there is a

marriage type that could be called ‘customary’ distinct from both the formal

marriage

of

Church

or

state

and

consensual

union.

But

how

such

marriage

would

be dealt with in relation to the other two types of union is unclear,

especially since many unions that start out as consensual later become

11

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