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Nuptiality in Latin America

not expected to contract them and were thus not bound to the other legally.

The catch is however that the children produced from such unions tend not to

be

legally

bound

to

the

father

either

(usually).

Sometimes

the

men

in

such

unions are step-fathers to some of the children but biological parent to

others

(see

also

Fonseca

1991;

Ingoldsby

1995).

Thus

Greene

(1991)

argues

that women traditionally preferred marriage to consensual union in part

because of the child responsibility issue even if the marital institution

could

hardly

be

considered

ideal.

Although

in

some

places

the

legal

responsibilities of biological fathers may be clear, paternity may still be

difficult to establish and beside a man can “evaporate” if he so wishes, while

mothers

cannot.

This

may

seem

strange

to

people

steeped

in

the

idea

that

children are both prized and furthermore belong to the father’s family, but it

appears that in Latin America, as in the United States, children may sometimes

be considered liabilities rather than assets despite their supposed value and

they

stay

with

their

mothers

when

there

is

a

conjugal

break

up.

Some

men

may

see children primarily as proof of their virility rather than something they

offer to the future (see also Desai 1992), and may see women primarily as

sources of sexual gratification and the mothers of their children rather than

as equals emotionally or intellectually.

If responsibility for children has been a major reason women

traditionally preferred formal marriage over consensual union and its risk of

instability, then one has to wonder about the consequences of more widespread

mechanisms

of

fertility

control.

That

is,

even

in

countries

like

Brazil

or

Mexico that traditionally experienced noticeable increases in formal marriage

at the expense of consensual union (e.g. Nyrop 1983; Ojeda 1987), there

appears now to be a either a rise or stability in the tendency to form

consensual unions (e.g., Greene and Rao 1995; Quilodrán 1993; also Zamudio and

Rubiano

1991).

It

is

also

unclear

right

now,

how

any

overall

figure

may

be

15

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