Mayan Family Life

                The typical Mayan family (averaging five to seven members, as archaeologists have guessed) probably arose before dawn to a breakfast of hot chocolate--or, if they weren't rich enough, a thick, hot corn drink called atole--and tortillas or tamales. The Mayan family all lived together. The mens duties including farming and hunting, while the women would cook and weave. The children helped out their mothers with the chores and only went to school if they came from a noble family. 

                Both nuclear and extended families were found among the Maya. Couples would generally marry in their late teens or early twenties. Traditionally, all marriages were arranged, but since the 1950s it has become increasingly common among some groups for young people to choose their own mates. In arranged marriages, contact may be initiated by the couple, followed by negotiation between the two families. Gifts are generally exchanged, and in some cases the bride's parents receive a payment to compensate them for having raised her. Couples often have both civil and religious ceremonies, and they may live with the groom's parents until their first child is born. Family structure may alternate between nuclear and extended, with the addition of newly married couples who will eventually leave to establish their own homes, or elderly parents who come to live with the family when it becomes hard for them to manage on their own.

                The house was usually a one-room hut built of interwoven poles covered with dried mud. Meals of corn, squash and beans, supplemented with the occasional turkey or rabbit, were probably eaten on the run. Most of the Mayan people were farmers. The main staple of their diet was corn also known as maize. Other things that they grew were beans, squash, pear, avocado, sweet potato, guava, chili peppers, cocoa beans, vanilla beans, papaya and tomatoes, as well as a variety of fruit from various fruit trees. The Mayans used a farming technique called milpa, also known as slash and burn farming. They would clear the land by cutting down and burning all of the foliage in the spring before the summer rains. Then they would plant their crops by poking digging sticks into the ground and planting the seeds in the holes. The slash and burn technique meant that the fields would only be fertile for a few years. The Mayans practiced crop rotation to get more growing seasons out of the field. In addition to this type of farming, they also used the method of terracing; which involved building stone walls to level out the land in mountainous areas.

                Their planting methods supplemented their food, as well as dyes and medicinal herbs. The Mayans were one of the best at utilizing all of their resources wisely. In addition to farming, the Mayans raised dogs, turkeys and ducks for food and bees to make honey. They also used the feathers from the turkeys and ducks for clothes.In the wild they hunted deer, rabbits, boar, armadillos and they fished. They also ate turtles, iguanas and insects. The Mayans used every part of the animal for food, clothing and tools, which is is very similar to the Native Americans in our country.

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