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Desert Diary


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A clash between cultures ensued when the Spanish entered the Southwest. The religious differences, of course, were profound, but there were other cultural divisions equally bound to be viewed by the Spanish as violating the natural order of things. Patriarchy is one of the dominant characteristics of Western Culture and a given in the Christian religion. That is, the man is the head of the household, owns the family goods, and rules over the women. Along with this, descent is patrilineal, meaning that descent is calculated primarily through the male line. This is evident even at present in everyday life--after all, how many families do you know where the man takes the woman's last name as his upon marriage?

On the other hand, many of our Southwestern Native Americans were matriarchal and matrilineal, with ownership falling to the woman, a man upon marriage moved to his bride's home, and descent was calculated primarily through the female line. With the very human failing of considering everything outside one's own culture as an assault against nature, cultural conflict was inevitable.
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.