Commentary, Customs

Living Together, From Inca Times to Now

Lovers in Cusco (Walter Coraza Morveli)

It is common today to see couples living together without being married. They do so for many reasons. One of which is probably economics, i.e. the cost of getting married. Another is that they do not like the idea of getting married and that living together is good enough to form a family.

These situation seem like an ancient Inca tradition which from times past until today continues in many communities of our country. It consists of living together as a test before marriage an d is called servinakuy. The meaning of this term is mutual services, where the young man would ask for the hand of the woman in order to begin life together and establish a home with her.

People believed that in order to see if the couple’s marriage would be long lasting and would have a future they had to put it to the test. In this way they would take a period of maybe a year in which each would carry out the work expected of them in a family. For example the labors of a woman woman would perhaps be those of the house such as washing and cooking, etc. Those of the man would be ones that require greater strength such as agriculture and cattle raising.

During this time each would observe the character of the other in different moments and actions so that in the future they would not regret and would not suffer problems in the family. If the marriage worked, the couple could contract what is called warmi sunay, marriage. If it did not work then they could return to their family and choose another partner with whom to form a family unit.

This tradition has suffered many changes with the advance of the years up to today. Couples live together for 2 or 3 years or maybe more before contracting marriage. They might have children together or they might not. In any case, the parents no longer have a role in the children’s decision. It is theirs as to whether to live together or get married and when, if ever, to make the change.

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