This paper presents my understanding of certain
aspects of the spouse and residence preferences of
a small segment of the population of San Antonio,
British Honduras tCayo District). The paper does
not attempt to provide a general picture of San
Antonio society; nor should it be considered a
final synthesis of my total field notes. It is
merely one small part of the initial field problem;
and a first tentative step in the unraveling of
the data obtained1.
The village of San Antonio is composed of Yucatec-
Maya (approximately li25), who are descended from
refugees from the Caste War of Quintana Roo, Mexico.
?ho initial settlement .of the San Antonio "sub-
rocion" of the Cayo District (Hiomney, 1959, P. 190),
in about 1060-1870, was accomplished by small
patrilineal family groups. Thoy were scattered
throughout the sub-region in isolated clusters a-
round available water sources. There is no indi-
cation that settlements were based on old village
ties in Mexico. Of the original settlers of San
Antonio, none came from the same village in Mexico.
By about 1885, apparently under the urging of the
first District Magistrate (appointed in 1882: Waddell,
1961, p. 53), a number of those scattered patri-
lineal groups were persuaded to settle on lands
set aside for then by the government. This settle-
ment was the nucleus of San Antonio.
The village is located in the narrow end of a
funnel-shaped valley some 3 miles in length. The
south and west sides of this valley are formed by
sharp ridges which rise to meet the northern edges
of the 'Mountain Pine Ridge' of west-central
British Honduras. To the east and north are a
series of lower, more gentle hills which descend
gradually to the valley of the Bolize River 9
Thoce 2rosc topographical features are limiting
factors in the spread of the village to the south
and west, but further limitationsare imposed by
private and government land boundaries. These ar-
bitrary boundaries, placed, as it were, on top of
the natural ones, form another funnel. The narrow
end of this funnel lies within tho widest opening
of the natural valley (fig. 1); so that in terms
of land use (either for settlement or for crops
or for cattle pasture) the villagers are restricted
to a roughly diamond-shaped area. The widest
point of this area is about 2 miles.
kt& f atip os ia$1041,
The milpas, cleared by swidden techniques, lie
to the east and north, as do the cattle pastures.
Subsistence crops, such as maize, rice, and beans,
are occasionally sold for cash locally, or traded.
Other cash crops are oranges, grapefruit, pineapples,
and coconuts| but those latter items are, in fact,
seldom sold on the market. 'Groundfruits, (jicama
and meet potatoes, etc.) are grown, but vegetables
are seldom seen.
San Antonio remained relatively isolated physi-
oally, owing to the lack of roads, until the mid-
1950 e. Because of this, no ready market has been
available. Production has been, and remains, there-
fore, primarily for subsistence.
'lage labor has been the traditional means of
supplementing the subsistence economy. It is the
primary source of cash in the village. oney
earned outside the village supports two stores, sup-
ports kinsman, pays for corn and other items (meat,
chickens, garden foods) bought from neighbors, and
furnishes the wherewithal for purchasing luxury and
prestige goods (cattle, clothes, and building mater-
ials for 'non-Maya1 houses). *1age labor has also
brought a number of men from outside the area who
have settled permanently.
STAT:EINT OF THE PROBLEM
d1ooonstruction of past residential alignments,
based on statements by informants, indicated that
residence has always been predominantly patrilocal,
as it is today. Patrilocal hero moans either ini-
tial, temporary residence in the male's natal
household, or establishment, initially, of a sop-
arate unit near that household, at the time of
marriage. Of the 72 households in San Antonio, my
original count showed 12 patrilocal, 14 matrilocal,
and 16 neolocal residences.
Patrilocality is traditionally associated with
the iIaya of Guatemala and aoxico (Rodfield and Villa
Sojas, 1964; Villa Rojas, 1945). Matrilocality,
oithor temporary or permanent, is also recorded for
tho 1'aya, in connection with bride service. The
neolocal cases, I expected, might be the partial re-
sult of increasing independence of sons from their
fathers because of wage labor itself--or because of
a shift in wage labor patterns.
Subsequent information confused this picture
somewhat. It was learned that brido service was un-
hearB of, and considered a ridiculous arrangement
when 'explained,. It was also learned that a father
had no say in the choice of spouse of his son (see,
for example, Villa Hojas, 1945, p. 87).
Since those two features are usually related in
ethnographic literature, and neither was present
in San Antonio, the apparent 'natrilocall examples
bocarm inexplicable in traditional terms.
Kinship data were checked for significant spouse
choices, and the Table in the Appendix was compiled.
It was noted that most of the men listed in this
Table were, or had been, engaged in some form of
wase labor. The possibility that, in some cases,
residence type (i.e., the actual location of the
household, relative to others), choice of spouse,
and wage labor, were related, was suggested by the
observations above. This was especially so, since
11 of the 14 'matrilocal' cases were outsiders;
Z i.e., laborers.
The remainder of the paper presents data in
support of a tentative hypothesis: that the asso-
ciations formed in wago labor activities are a malor
factor behind the choice of spouse of men are wage
laborers from San Antonio. furthermore, men engaged
in similar activities who were not native to ban
Antonio, are suggested to have chosen their spouse
on the basis of their association with laborers
from San Antonio. This choice, it is also suggested,
has consequences for the marital residence preference
kEit.ho have married in. A similar residence
* is suggested for several recent neolocal
_ Wts by men native to San Antonio.
'AGE LABOR AU)D CHOICE OF SPOUSE
lAbor has changed during the last 15 years
o chicle gathering to lumbering. During
a'a synthetic substitute for chicle was
Which has all but eliminated this pursuit
cementt to slash and burn farming. Some
I said they had been chicleros until about
over, no one does so any longer.
| and hauling mahogany for export has long
economic base of British Honduras. TradiM
-a tCreole' pattern, the iaya seem to have
Le Interesting this type of work.
I 1940's also, mahogany reserves had boon
Wb that pine and its by-products gradually
ponomically moro important as a national exa
Wo satwmills wore established in the Mountain
g' to the south of San Antonio, and It is
b most of the wago earners now work.
1 iottrus plantation, near Gayo Town, em-
p men from San Antonio. Originally estab-
a a coffee plantation in the 1880's, this
venture failed, and part of the land was converted
to citrus. It could not be ascertained whether men
from the village were employed by the estate prior
to about 10 years ago.
Several men go occasionally to tho sugar fields
in the Northern (Corozal) District during the har-
vest season. This is a temporary expedient and is
of short duration, and seems to have had no effect
on choice of spouse; nor have any outsiders returned
from the sugar fields with San Antonio men,
Chicle: The collection of chi6le, according to in-
formants, was & tedious, unexciting, but dangerous
job -lasting 3, 4, or often 5 months of the year.
Ideally, four or moro men worked together for pro-
tection, mutual assistance, and companionship.
This description differs from that of Villa
Rojas (1945, p. 68), who noted that a man custo-
marily worked by himself in the areq of his own
village. On the contrary, men from San Antonio have
travelled widely as chicleros; as far as tho Sar-
stoon Itiver in Southern British Honduras, and be-
yond the Peten in Guatemala.
koramey (1989, p. 190), noting that the sapodilla
trees in the San Antonio sub-area were "bled nearly
100 years ago", implies that over-bleeding has ruined
the local chicle reserves; thus perhaps accounting
for the differences betwvicn the tUo patterns in 3an
jatonio and Quintana Hoo,
The chiclero' s work lasted through the rainy
season, during which time the gum ran faster. The
absence did not interfere vith a man' s crops. An
informant claimed that women used to hand week the
mil. during their husband' s absence.
r: The two 'arraills at which men from Lan
Lntonio work handle 'tio different p types of wood;
hence* tv;o different .:ork- patterns exist. One doals
primarily w ith pine; the other, mahogany and hard-
woods. Liohogrny, because of the scarcity of re-
servess is now exported in board form ratherr tlan
whole logo as formerly), and this is the reason for
Both saumillo emplpy crevr of 1 scouts' v, 0o spend
time in the bush locating and marking suitable tim-
ber for cutting. Like the cilclerot the mahogany
scout works during the rainy secson--Septembcr to
January, and April to June--so that marked stands of
timber can be cut and hauled during the dry season.
Li}:e the chicleros, also, scouts operate in groups
over a selected area of forest, not on3y for corn-
panionship and assistance, but so that a greater
number of trees can be marked. Scouting for maho-
Vany is also a temporary, seasonal job; buts unlike
the chiclero, the scout is employed during the dry
season in cutting and other Jobs at the mill. That
is, work at this mill is a p permanent form of vage
'he pine scouts seldom spend as much time in the
bush as mahogany scouts, since pine is cut and hauled
year round. This, coupled with the greater abundance
of pine in the mountains1 means that the men rarely
spend more than two or three days locating suitable
timber. L ahogqany scouts may spend severt.1 v;eeks in
tho bush (chicleros often spent months in the bush) .
In addition to bush scouts, both sav.mills have per-
manent crew of semi-skilled laborers and local
forem-en v'ho are trained to operate machinery, and
maE oversee the various milling processes. These men
are paid a regular salary every two weeks Scouts
are paid according to the number of board feet they
mark; and a bonus accrues for each tree in excess of
a mininmi requirement.
..ith the exception of the mahogany scouts in the
rainy cersons& all or the workers return to San
intonio on the cmnen weekend. 'ot surprisingly,
perhaps, all the sainmill workers-regardless of the
type of work--form an in-group', conspicuous in
the community social structure by their activities.
Ihilo in the village these men (married or unmar-
riod) tend to visit one another and to drink together
in either of the two stores. As a rules they have
and wear better clothes than their non-working neigh-
bors. For the moot part, their houses are built of
board lumber with zinc roofo. They also tend to
marry one another' s female relatives, as will be ap-
CHOIEC OF SPOUSE: The data in this section indicate
that the associations formed between men froman San
Antonio engaged in the same or similar, wage earning
activities, creates a 'category' of women from which
these men ordinarily choose their spouse. Such a
category is post hoc at best and real only in an ana-
lytical sense. It is, nevertheless, an important one
for analyzing the choice of spouse for the men listed
in the Appendix.
This category consists of female relatives of co-
vworkors in seasonal or permanent wage labor. The
category thus created has, for ny purposes, more in-
terest than the individuals who com rise it. By
'becoming' a category of preferred females, they are
set apart from other (here, undifferentiated) groups
of uw equally available females from which a man
might choose his mate4. The choice, then, is not
between two girls in the same category, but between
two girls in two different categories,
Savimill workers: Table I lists those men from San
Antonio twho work at either of the two satmills des-
cribed above. They are arranged according to the
approximate date of marriage. Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4,
6, and 13, appear in the Appendix. The data indi-
cates that choice of spouse and wage labor activities
!Iore specifically, these men have chosen their
spouse from a category of females, consisting of
relative of co-workers (number 7 married the sister
of an WurnaMrried co-'work6r, not listed in the Tables).
The last colu n in the Table indicates the maximum
number of girls available to the man at the time he
married (from all or any category') and the fact
that all chose relatives of co-workers, suggests the
utility of the analytical concept of a category of
females5 (number 14 married before he started ork at
the sa.miill) The age range has been selected arbi-
trarily to include girls wvho were the same age as,
5 years younger and 5 years older than the girl
Chiclero;: Information concerning the number of men
who were chicleros is not complete; however, Table
II shows that many of them are listed in the Appendix.
Against the data suggest that men tended to marry the
female kin of co-workers; however incomplete data
for this earlier period prevented the calculation of
the number of females available to a man at the time
he married (see Table I) Herep the men are arranged,
not only by date of marriage where possible, but by
groups of co-workers. Groups who are knovn to have
been associated together during various chicle seasons
are: 1-3 9--13; 14-16; 39-23 (17 and 3k worked with
both of theso latter two groups); znd 24a-28
Others: Cases G, 15, 17, and 19, in the Appendix can
not be accounted for. ly data does not indicate that
any of these men were chicleros-walthough they may
have been. one work at either of the sawanills but
172 (19b) does work at the citrus plantation mentioned
In the case of the two brothers in G6, there is
some connection (perhaps) between the fact that
their older brother (!la), who left San Antonio short-
ly after marringo, lives in the village where the two
younger men obtained wives, Another brother is list-
ed in the Appendix also (20a). An unmarried bother
has recently moved to the village in question.
The choice of spouse of the men in 15 is a mystery.
Both married girl 15 years younger than themselves-
!U. Ek at the age of 40 in 1933; and his nephew at
the age of 30 in 1963. Although the families of the
four people involved are contiguous, this fact of
contiguous residence does not begin to explain the
other cases in the Appendix.
Information concerning tho combination, 17 and 19,
is completely Iacking. Doth 17a and 17b were mar-
ried in 19L8--and since D. Bak (17a) works at the
citrus plantation, there is a possibility that 1. Akan
The following discussion will deal with the resi-
dence of wage laborers who have ma rTid into San
Antonio (presumably on the basis of the choice of
spouse preferences outlined above) and their rela-
tion to the patriln-k group into which they married.
That is, those cases first considered to be 'matri-
local' v ill be viewed in terms of wage libor asco-
ciations--not in terMn of spouse choice.
Turni-g then to the cases of neolocality among
wage laborers, I will examine the slim evidence in
favor of the suggestion that--whatever the reason
for disassociatica from the natal residence area*
the establishment of neolocal residence by these men
is also based on vWage labor associations.
, aylonalil', s 14 men have married into San Antonio
since about 1920, 13 of uthom were wage laborers, and
11 of t.hom have been classified as 'matrilocal,'
J. Moh (13b) is the only wvage laborer, listed in
the Appendix, who married in. His cerco6 overlaps
that of hia brother-in-l-av;, FI. an (13a) ~ hose
residence is classified as patrilocal. Both of these
men are mahogany scouts.
In Table I two men were classified as notrilocal,
2 and 5. Bak (5) shares a! crco vrith his brother-
in-law, R. Akan (4, Table I; 16a, Appendix). Alkan' s
patril&cal cluster has disintegrated since lnk moved
there leaving only Akan and Bak in the area.
P. Lob (2, Table I; 10a, Appendix) married into
the Lk patrlclustor at a time v;hen this group was
moving to a new location within the village. V. Ek,
having built a lumber house for himself within the
old area remained there and gave his new brother-in-
Iswt P. Lobq his old thatch house. Ek eventually
joined his father in the new location, but Lob re-
mains In the original area.
ULost of the Immi grnto to San Antonio have come
as ehicleros (Table II) Of those listed in Table II,
14 and 15 (brothers-in-law) married the sisters of
two unmarried ohicleros vith whom they worked. Both
14 and 15 settled in the patricluster of their wives,
but both left it as soon as the two unmarried brothers
left the village permanently.
Garcia (17) married the sister of '. lcan (27,
Table II; 20b1 Appendix) while both were chicleros.
lie built his house with' the Akan area and took his
brother-in-law (unmarried) in to live in the same
house. Ils iife died in childbirth the same yeour
and Garcia married the sister of another co-worker,
A. Akan (18). The tw;o built a small store, in front
of Garcia' s house into which A. AIkan moved.
J. Pok (22) and B. Akan (23) worked together and
Pok married E. Yeb' a daughter, whose mother is B.
Paun' s oldest sister. Aknn then married Pok' a sister,
and the three houses are contiguous, However, Pok's
house and are adjacent to the anmll store (hence,
to the residences of Garcia and A. Akman with whom
Pok also worked) 9 and from the first he claims to
have been a partner) in the store.
Doth Yeb (7) and Pix ( ) owere associated as
laborers with tho men in 1-6; and both men built
within the Akan patricluster, into which they mar-
mied-premsumaabsy an the basis of their association
with 6 (3a and b).
C. Chuk (9) who has moved aay from the village,
came as a young man from the north wvorklng his way
out of Cuintana L-oo. because he was young (I. Cob
said about 14 or 15), and had no parents of'his own,
he vas 'adopted' by I. Cob's parents. I:e later
married one of the dugfhtcrs and established his re-
A. Luk (3w) was associated with a group of chic-
loros comprised oif the tt.o Pix brothers (5a and b)s
and two of their first couoins (Lb and 26) Jlthough
both Aan (2C) and Luk married ?ix girls, AJan re-
alwdLd in patrilocal residenco-Luk shares a =erco
with lis Mac brothers-in-law, vjho are p atrilocal.
IdAke (1 although he.. a worked chicle with 11
and 13, may well be the only true itatcilocal case
involving a man nrrying into San Antonio. The
doubt arises from the fact that I have no record of
Sitter of his too brothers-in-law (i.e., ,wife' s
brothers) having been chicleros. Significantly,
perhaps, Ake is a %,-opan Laya from San antonio, Toledo
District, where both bride service and temporary
matrilocal residence are still practice (Gront Jones,
personal coImmnicatian, 1965). The only recorded
matrilocal residence of a native involved one of Ake' s
wife' o brothers.
1Ean (13) worked with 11 and 12, although he in
much younger than either of them. His cra2 adjoins
a small plot of pasture used by /Ao (12) for 3 cows.
However, Kan' s locations within the LU patricluster,
is on the edg;e and also adjoins (at a somewhat
greater distance) a plot of garden land used consie-
tently by I. Cob (11) --a co-worker and brother-in-
laU. Cob, a native, lives patrilocally.
In order to emphasize the co-worker residential
pattern suggested above, the residences of 4 other
immirants will be considered. Two of these men--
P. Lu and I'. Chan--have married in; two have not
(H. Cob and A. Padilla) .1l 4 are classified as
neolocal in residence, and all live beyond the re-
cognized village limits'.
Padilla was a stranger to San Antonio before he
came. lie vwa an itinerant laborer end unr~arried
and had to gain permission from the alcalde before
he could settle in the village.
H. Cob (14, Table I) is a native of San Antonio,
who left as a young man, He returned vith a wife
of Spanish' extraction and began working at the
F. Cimn is 'part Creole and part Liaya'. e came
to San Antonio because of available land for milpa--
gained permission to settle, and then married a
P. Leu works at the citrus plantation as a foreman.
lie married into the village in 1952, persuaded a
brother-in-law (D. Bak, 17a, Appendix) to obtain
work at the plantation; and v/hen Bak married in 1953,
he established bis residence adjacent to lu' s.
Common to these four men is the the fact that
they did not share 'age labor experiences with men
from San u.ntonio before they settled in. Although
Lu and Chan married in, neither choice was based on
associations formed with a native San Antonio 3a borer.
Significantly, all four established initial resi-
dence outside the limits of the village proper, and
have no connection (spatially) vith the patricluster
of the spouse chosen.
ITeolocality: l ong the numerous wage laborers noted
in San lntonio, only 6 were counted as neolocal in
residence. Two of these, .Iu and i. Cobt were men-
E. Ek (12b, Appendix) has recently left his
father' s residence area and built a net: house adjoin-
ing the c of a brother-in-lawR P. Lob (10a).
Lob, it will be noted, established his residence in
the original Ek patricxluter, whosc member moved to
a neve location* There have been no resident Eks in
the area since then, and a Creole man and his family
now' live in V. Ek's lumber house. Lob L. ELk, and
the Creole, all work at the sarnmill*
6 and 11 both established initial neolocal resi-
dence adjacent to one another after they married.
Although they cre not brothers-in-law (like Ek and
Lob), they a.re both mahogany scouts.
The major points of this paper, suggested by the
data presented above, are: (1) men of Uan Antonio
who aret or who have been engaged in similar kinds
of wagc labor activities, have married female reia-
tives of co-workers; (2) Residence of natives of San
Antonio uamnlly conforms to a patrilocal pattern.
The exceptions, for whatever reason they do not con-
formI are noted to have established residence adjacent
to fellow v.age laborers; (3) 1'age labor immigrants
to San rAntonio appear to have chosen their spouse
on the basis of (1), and their residence on the basis
of the exceptions under (2).
Any attempt to discuss those points from the stand.-
point of overall village social organization would
be premature, and little more than guesses based on
not quite 2 months residence in the field. Compara-
tive data from the Ua ya area is lacking, although
Hash (1958, p. G3) bas noted the formation of north
friendship patterns among factory workers in Cantel1
but residence appears to be little effected by the
new economic situation there.
The purpose of this paper has been to suggest that
the use of fnl ethnographic concept traditionally
used in reference to a cultural feature (matrilocality
in this case) might not apply to the sameo situation
over time. The use of such a concept, applied to
superficially similar situations, may conceal sig-
nificant changes in social relationships. '.hat ap-
pears to be 'matrilocal residence in San Antoniog
has been suggested to be based on a2i entirely dif -
ferent set of circumst-ncoB--.':age labor.
1. le original research propoocwal as concerned .with
the conceptualiza.tion amd utilization of space
in San Antonio and its environments. This n-
cluded, among other thii, OP social and spatial
distance between households.
2. Romney (1969) sumgesto that the Laya were too
slight in stature to withstand the hardships
involved in the extraction of mahoaWny from the
forests. It is more likely, however, that the
refugoce, ith no wage labor tradition behind'
them were s imply not interested. I'Furthermore,
irnformait implied that early settlements in
the Gan Anitonio sub-region v'ere unstable, be-
cau.se of '.ar runors tlat reached them as late
as the turn of the century; and many groups
ccntirually searche(4 for isolated spots in
vihich to s title and esca-pe fro- the&c rzuors.
it is CJo pociblte that the Cracle elements
were not interested in allowing the large
numbers of refugacs to tako over their sole
measi of support. UayaO-recoe relations are
still omobi.rat strained in this area today,
3. The difference in house types is primarily due
to Hurricane Iattie in 1961, which destroyed
some 15 or 16 houses in San Antonio. Governrint
tried to introduce the more stable lumber house
by granting a small sum of money to those nho
had lost tbeir on4' house for the purpose of
buying lumiober and zi-nc. Ufortunately, the sum
was much too small, so that only those men who
had a steady income (vmgE laborers) coz-ld af-
ford to purabase the needed supplies. ilever-
theles, these houses are ;still 'prestige'
houses -0cause those w.ho have them are thie only
one who can fcfoard then;.
4. ~h2 only 1retrictio'i to marriage i that between
fi st coudin3o althc u1 2 ; .uch case aze 3mov.n.
Lumber 26 in T-ble 1 is one of them. '.ith only
this restJriction, and no stated pr-efor.-nces or
prescriptionaL it seemed iport-M t to vknaw ho
m n did mar y-hence, the Table ia the Appendix.
No other categories, in fact- were diz ove'ed;
and a check of al1 other spouws choices showed
the widestpossible rnoge of such choices.
5. Available choices were dmternineied on the basis
of the dates of birth of feriales, ad the ap-
proximnte date of marrl.ge of the couple in
question. Thi, an turm, was based on the
birth of the fitrt child to the couple wfaich
everyone questionedd said occurad within the
first Wao years of nmiat~ie. The mean age at
marriage fc?- :.rales iaa 21, and for geramles8 17.
6. Corco is a Sl.nish vocrd ieanin, 'yard'. There
is no Laya voxrd for this in SanI Ajtonio. It in-
c.tidcs tE e houses ead aU adjacent land used for
cultivz-,ic, airticula-'3ly, fruit trees water
ecouree -i af il,.bIe and the normal aswgt
ecroutn: : r ige of ones chickens and bogs--
v0h.ich mea.: that IThre ,arc no definable limits
to a ccr-o0 borond o trooe of daiIr u0se 1 fevr"
Lrce fccc:' to keep hc "o out4 but fevw informant.
.;'c.r abe- *0 o tiia'"lo their o"'n agm..
'Significant' spouse choices, San Antonio, British
Honduraa. These choices represent approximately 30%
of the total recorded unions (123) between the years,
la*. T Ek
b. R. Ek
Sa. R. Akan
b. T. Akan
4ao C. Bak
b. Co. Bak
5a. V. Pix
b. Y. Pix
6a. C. Akan
b. B. Akan
7a. J. Cob
b. D. Cob
8a. J. Ek
ga. D. Lob
lOa, Po Lob
lla. C. Pok
12a. 0. Bak
13a. F. Akan
b. Ro. Akan
9b. J. Cob
lOb. V. Ek
lib. P. Ek
12b. E. Ek
C. TTNCLE-mPNE P
14ao V. Akan (Fabro of b)
b. S. Akan
15a. M. Ek (Fabro of b)
b. F. Ek
16a. R. Akan (Mobro of b)
b, o. Bak (12a)
17e. D. Bak (Fabro of b)
b. J. Bak
18ao J. Akan
b. R. Akan (Fabroda of a)
19a. A. Bak
b. D. Bak (Fabroso of a)
20a. B. Akan
E. Akan (Fabroso of a)
21a. Do Akan
b. N. Pix (Fabroso of a)
S IS TER-BROTHE1
G. Bak (4b)
T. Akan (17a)
F. Ek (Ba)
4--st-ey)- 4"Ns ib lirip-s
TWflL- Il-, mcont,
19. J. Akan 18a
21. A. Pok
22. J, Pok
23. 1. Akton
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