Offer Children to Aunts for Inheritance

M: Me, I: Informant

I: another interesting fact children because they had so many children because the life expectancy was shorter, if you wanted your child to inherit a home or do better and you have so many other, they would often gift a child to like an aunt or uncle who had a home so your {insert name} was raised by {insert name}

M: Oh so he was a ‘gifted’ child

I: Yeah, I don’t know if ‘gifted’ is the word, but he was turned over to {insert name} to raise even though his own mom and dad were right down the street. Kind of like an heir for her.

M: Gotcha, now does he, so he was raised by his aunt or the child is raised by the aunt or whoever they are turned over to, so that he can inherit. Um… what does that do to the relationship between the kid and the parents. Are they just the equivalent of an aunt to him?

I: Um.. no he knew

M: or those are still his parents?

I: he knows who his parents are, but he is raised by somebody, I guess it just kind of like common in the mountains you know. Not like in the city area, but like more in the rural areas

M: Rural Peruvian traditions. I’ve never heard of that one

Context: My informant was born in Peru and immigrated to the US as a child. Her parents grew up in a very poor, rural town in Peru. Practically all her family was from Peru. An important thing to note is that big families with lots of children were common because of the high infant And child mortality rate.

Analysis: Out of all my collections, this one definitely shocked me the most. This is probably due to the fact that this custom is so starkly different from anything in the US. Given how many children families would have oftentimes the younger siblings weren’t going to inherit anything. Thus, parents would ‘gift- more like offer-’ a child to a ’spinster’ aunt, uncle, or relative who does have property to raise so that they could inherit something. The child still knew who their parents were and knew their situation, but I think what startled me the most was how casually this was talked about and how I knew people who were ‘offered’ and never knew. I was really interested to find out the dynamics of the parent, child, relative relationship, however that wasn’t truly the focus so I’ll have to investigate some more at a later date. This was a custom only in the rural, mountainous parts of Peru, which tended to be less well off, financially speaking. This just shows the stark contrast between US culture and Peru’s rural culture, as much of the value of ‘parenthood’ in the US comes from raising and growing close to the children, whereas in rural Peru the focus was more on providing for them. However, I don’t think this would function in the US because of how difficult it would be having to deal with the legality of making the custom work in the US. This ultimately would prevent it from being spread and widely accepted in the United States. This custom, as many others, will only work in a particular, given environment.