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Oaxacans Indignant Over Case of Man who 'Sold' Daughter

Impulso, News Report, Mireya Olivera, Translated by Elena Shore Posted: Jan 17, 2009

The case of Marcelino de Jesus Martinez, the Triqui man who made headlines for selling his daughter into marriage, has generated indignation within the Oaxacan immigrant community who believe their indigenous customs have been largely misunderstood.

According to reports, Marcelino de Jesus Martinez, a 36-year-old man who lives in Pradera, Calif., 140 miles southeast of San Francisco, was arrested in Monterey County on charges of receiving money for allowing his 14-year-old daughter to live with 18-year-old Margarito de Jesus Galindo.

Galindo reportedly had agreed to pay Martinez $16,000 in cash, and give him 160 cases of beer, 100 cans of soda, 50 Gatorades, two cases of wine and six boxes of meat, Pradera Police Chief Joe Grebmeier told CNN.
FIOBFIOB representative Gaspar Rivera Salgado
According to some indigenous customs in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, when asking for a young woman's hand in marriage, a young man must give a kind of dowry to her relatives, a gift that often includes food and drinks.

This is part of the indigenous culture, and according to organizations like the Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations (FIOB) and the Binational Center for Oaxacan Indigenous Development (CBDIO), it is extremely important for these traditions to be understood in California, as various waves of immigration bring members of the indigenous Triqui community from the Mexican state of Oaxaca to live here.

Oaxaca is one of the most diverse states of Mexico, with 16 indigenous towns and different communities coexisting, each with its own language and unique customs," according to the FIOB. "Since the late 1980s, the Mixtecs, Zapotecs, Chatinos and Triquis have migrated to California in massive numbers. The Triqui community is the most recent group to migrate, and tends to face more problems communicating, since many of them are monolingual and only speak the Triqui language.

One of the cultural practices of the Triqui community related to marriage is that parents request a 'dowry' from the man who wants to marry their daughter. In Oaxaca, these 'dowries' consist mainly of gifts of food (such as meat, corn, chili peppers, etc.). After migrating north, some Triqui families have continued this practice, but instead of requesting dowries of food, the groom and the father of the bride often decide on a monetary amount, the Oaxacan organization explained.

Another characteristic of the marriage practices of the Triquis and other indigenous communities is that girls marry at an early age, as young as 13 or 14 in Oaxacan communities.

This is why the FIOB and the CBDIO are calling on the public to reserve judgement and avoid misunderstandings like those that have appeared recently in the mainstream media and are a product of ignorance and distortion of indigenous customs.

The FIOB and CBDIO condemn the sensasionalist 'yellow journalism' that some mainstream media have been publishing in relation to the case of Marcelino de Jesus Martinez, that only contribute to misinform public opinion and perpetuate a distorted image of indigenous communities, the Oaxacan organization announced.

The use of terms like 'sell' is incorrect, because these are dowries that are requested," according to a statement by FIOB representatives Gaspar Rivera Salgado and Rufino Domnguez. "We know dowries are not an exclusive practice of indigenous communities. Other European and Asian cultures used to use them in the past and some still practice the tradition -- yet they aren't accused of 'selling' their daughters."

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Indian Husbands From U.S. Fall Victim To Dowry-Immigration Fraud In India

In India, Dowry-Giving Still Defines Many Marriages

Dowries the Root Cause of Abuse of Women in India

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