Community Life and Institutions

Community Life and Institutions

The importance of developing and maintaining effective intracommunity relationships underlies many of the kinship traditions that are universal in Andean and Peruvian family life in small towns. Throughout the Andes, there has been a constant need for peasants to retain strong interpersonal and family bonds for significant socioeconomic reasons. For centuries the peasantry suffered the constant loss of land until the Agrarian Reform Law of 1969 reversed the pattern. The stronger a community is tied together, the greater has been its ability to defend its interests against usurpers, a fact often shown in ethnographic studies throughout the region.

By practice and reputation, Andean villages and towns often enjoy reputations for cohesiveness, community action, and the good, simple life. The tight social relationships in Peru's towns and villages, peasant communities, and small cities, however, are not necessarily based on "rural" or agricultural needs and a positive community spirit. Even in small populations where everyone knows everyone else, or knows about them, there can be marked ethnic and social class differences and rivalries that afford many opportunities for disagreement and feuds. Although people share their culture, values, and participation in a community, family interests often clash over property ownership and chacra boundaries, local politics, and any of the myriad reasons why people might not like each other. Thus, small town life can be difficult when conflicts erupt: "pueblo chico, infierno grande" ("small town, big hell") is the expression used. There are, therefore, two contradicting images of small town life: one bucolic, tranquil, and good natured; the other, petty and conflictive. Both images are rooted in fact.

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