California Cultural Clash

While driving yesterday I heard about an interesting news story on the local conservative talk radio station. Basically, the Mexican father of a 14 year old daughter was arrested by California authorities for selling his 14 year old daughter’s hand in marriage to an 18 year old man. Apparently in Oaxaca (pronounced Wa-ha-ka), a state in Mexico, such practice is normal.

Marcelino de Jesus Martinez, 36, of Greenfield, California, was arrested Monday and booked into the Monterey County Jail, Greenfield police said in a statement. He faces felony charges of receiving money for causing a person to cohabitate, police said.

Martinez had arranged through a third party to have his daughter marry the older teenager, identified by authorities as Margarito de Jesus Galindo, of Gonzales, California. In exchange, Galindo was to pay Martinez $16,000 and provide him with 160 cases of beer, 100 cases of soda, 50 cases of Gatorade, two cases of wine, and six cases of meat, Greenfield Police Chief Joe Grebmeier told CNN.

In the Oaxacan community, such an agreement is “normal and honorable,” he said. “In California, it’s against the law. [Source]

The story is interesting because the novelty of the situation seems to have forced people to actually think about what it means to be a melting pot or an integrated community.?The questions being asked on the?show?I was listening to were the same questions that are asked of Sikh religious practices: Where do we stop being accommodating and begin enforcing laws that protect people? How do we respect culture and enforce laws?

As the Sikh community is constantly aware of what happens when cultural practices conflict with laws of general applicability. I thought this story would be interesting to share.

In this case, the police investigated before arresting the father, and made sure that they understood the context, even though ultimately the practice is still illegal in America. From initial reports, it seems that the situation was “handled with care.”

The Greenfield area has had a large influx of Oaxacans. A presentation on understanding Oaxacan culture is posted on the Greenfield police Web site.

“Arranged marriages are common in several cultures, and this is not an issue among consenting adults over the age of 18,” police said in the statement. “But California has several laws regarding minors, the age of consent and human trafficking.”

Police are trying to be culturally sensitive, Grebmeier told CNN, but “when I’m in Mexico, I have to respect Mexican laws. When you’re in the United States, you have to respect United States laws. That’s the bottom line.”

In the end, the story above is one of culture and not religion and therefore distinctly different (legally speaking) from situations involving Sikh practices, but it is provocative none-the-less.

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One Response to “California Cultural Clash”

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