Trail-Marriage Among the Páez

The largest indigenous group in Colombia is the Páez (or Nasa) people of southwestern Colombia (present-day region of Cauca). They not only resisted the Spanish conquerors of the sixteenth century but they resist certain practices of the Roman Catholic church to which many were converted, such as marriage as a life-long pursuit. Ok, so that is not entirely true because they do marry for life, but first they engage in a trial marriage, called an amaño, or adaptation period. This period takes the place of dating and lasts one year, during which the man will observe the woman and vice-versa, to see if they suit one another.

The way the amaño comes about happens when either the boy or his parents choose a possible wife at which point the girl’s parents, upon consent, will each be offered one half of a bottle of aguardiente, or sugar-cane rum. This is when the trail-marriage begins. They make it sound so simple, although I would think they’d offer up some locally-made and bottled Coca Sek, rather than rum.

While I do think the dating process has its pluses, I also think the idea of the adaptation period could be employed successfully in Western culture. Although there’s always the chance we may just follow the wild animals one day and do a mating dance for our would-be partner in order to ‘conquer’ them.

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