The Slip Knot: Marriage in Chile

In Chile, marriage remains a ceremony for the young. There is a great deal of pressure on women to marry before thirty and most women tie the knot in their early twenties. Though there exists a growing population of liberals, and unmarried couples have been known to cohabitate, Chileans are deeply rooted in the traditions of the Catholic Church and living together before marriage is thought to be living in sin. For this reason and a myriad of others, the majority of Chileans live at home with their families until they marry. It is quite common for a household to include several grown children still living at home.

Chilean culture supports this idea and families, spending years together as a adults, get to know one another quite well. They eat together, celebrate together and generally spend time as a family on the weekends. On Saturday and Sunday you are hard pressed to find an open store because the weekends are reserved for things other than working. The city parks are full of picnics, the sidewalks overflow with strollers and walkers alike, generations loiter together and talk about the weather, their children and recent goings-on. Birthdays are made to include everyone, so the invited guests can expect to celebrate in the company of the family; aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. There is great importance placed on the union between two people and they are encouraged to procreate extending the family even further.

So, for most young fiancées, getting married is the beginning of a life outside of Mom and Dad’s house complete with independence and responsibility. It is also the beginning of a family of their own. And in Chile, it remains the beginning of forever. It is important to note that forever does mean “until death do us part.” In most countries around the world, it means “until the courts legally dissolve our promise,” as divorce laws have been put into place to legally untie the knot in the wake of admitted miscalculations and heartache. However, in Chile divorce has been and is still illegal. The illegality of divorce has resulted in very high numbers of annulments because Chileans inside of failed marriages have not been left any other option.

Just this year, 2004, a divorce law bill was voted on and passed through by the voting public and it is now being processed by the Chilean government. As with all new legislation, there are the supporters and then there are those who are vehemently against the idea. There have been conversations printed in the newspapers likening this legislation to the beginning of the end of family values. Some believe that given the easy out, many will cease to work on the marriage with the degree of resolve that was present in earlier times. Others have breathed a sigh of relief welcoming the new legislation and explaining that failed marriages are a reality and society should not choose to ignore its reality. In either case, we welcome Chileans to the era of the slip knot. Tie it and untie it as you see fit.

by Rachel Davis

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