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Nuptiality in Latin America

marriages today are civil rather than religious, the idea of a Catholic-like

marriage that is very difficult to untie on the one hand, and everything else

that can dissolve “easily” since it is not legal on the other, has obvious

historic

roots.

Ideologically,

these

two

types

of

union

are

very

different,

and predictably have a strong socioeconomic as well as cultural dimension to

them.

Marriage

is

often

preferred

over

consensual

unions

and

is

positively

related to educational attainment, but the two types are both common and well

entrenched.

The

coexistence

of

the

two

types

suggests

an

ambivalent

attitude

toward union formation, union dissolution, and gender relations that has never

been

resolved

in

a

coherent

manner.

For

instance,

many

unions

that

start

consensually end up becoming formalized, even if the children are already

grown.

If

a

marriage

goes

sour,

the

husband

(usually)

may

form

a

consensual

union with someone else while officially staying “married” instead of

divorcing

and

remarrying.

There

has

been

a

coexistence

of

contradictory

machismo and marriage ideologies because men can act “macho” but women are

supposed

to

be

faithful.

Whereas

the

idea

of

the

dialectical

nature

of

union

formation is hardly unique to Latin America, how this has evolved there is.

Traditional demographic interest in nuptiality may have been limited

primarily to nuptiality’s role in fertility, but family demographers have

found union formation patterns to be of interest in their own right because

they consider marriage-like unions to be a fundamental population

characteristic, of similar demographic interest as occupational or ethnic

composition.

However,

they

and

other

social

scientists

have

generally

eschewed studying nuptiality in Latin America, in part because of the

difficulty

in

obtaining

reasonable-looking

data.

Until

recently,

censuses

and

other government agencies have often tried to act as if consensual unions did

not exist although such unions are an important type of union in most of Latin

America.

One

result

is

that

great

strides

have

been

made

contrasting

an

26

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