Experts say machismo culture Latino communities

La calle y la casa. The streets and the home. The Institute of Latino Studies University of Notre Dame explains that in Latino culture, la calle is primarily dominated by men while la casa is inhabited by women. In the Latino community, machismo is what often keeps la calle y la casa divided.

According to the Institute of Latino Studies University of Notre Dame, machismo often affirms socially constructed gender roles in Latino communities and takes a toll on the young boys and men of the community.

Originating in Berkeley in 1989, Hermanos Unidos at SF State was founded to break down the barriers within their community and challenge stereotypes and gender roles.

Luis de Paz, 2014-2015 co-chair of HU and outreach specialist for SF State said the organization is often a safe place for both him and his hermanos to safely speak.

HU holds closed door placticas, or talks, to help combat the reclusive and repressive nature that is frequently imposed on Latino men.

“It’s a mission of the org to talk and provide a safe space where everyone is welcome to share their story” de Paz said. “To a lot of us, Thursday nights are our therapy. A lot of guys have stayed in school because of that support that we provide.”

In Machismo, Gender Role Conflict, and Mental Health in Mexican American Men, authors Jose Fragaso and Susan Kashubek-West did a study questioning the ramifications of societal pressures on Mexican-American men.

The expectations and the programmed fear of showing weakness often puts a strain on young men in the Latino community. The stress can lead to depression and weaken the immune system leaving them susceptible to illness and diseases.

“It may not immediately affect us but in the long term it ends up affecting us a lot,” said HU fundraising chair and coordinator for La Raza, Adrian Sahagun. “I know friends that didn’t go to college and don’t have that support system and channel that emotion through alcohol. It definitely takes a toll.”

Marianismo is the woman that forms around a machismo male. She stays home, takes care of the children, stands by her man sometimes through infidelity, and embodies the Virgin Mary.

De Paz said he would often have to step into conversations between his parents and his sister to explain why she needed to be allowed out late at night to study.

“I have to be the voice but I don’t want to be because I’m taking that power away from my sister,” de Paz said. “It’s a thin line. How can I be an ally but also not seem like the representative.”

Sahagun feels what truly makes a man is his ability to express himself without fear to break one of the many stereotypes placed on Latino men.

“It’s also breaking those stereotypes of not going to college, beating our wives which is what a lot of people think about the Latino male,” Sahagun said.“It should be the opposite. It should be getting an education, furthering your knowledge, and being there for your wife and do the best for your family.”

Rosalba Rojas, the 2015-2016 Hermanas Unidas co-chair, believes this generation is taking machismo and changing what it means for the community.

To Rojas, machismo stems from stubbornness, pride, and a lack of education. Though she did see a prevalent machismo influence in her uncles she also observed the its weakening grasp on the men in her family.

“I believe it’s changing due to the fact that millennials and centennials are now changing the mindset of those older generations,” Rojas said.  “I think it’s happening because current generations aren’t trying to fit standards, they’re trying to fit themselves in the world.”

Dani Alvarez, Biology major and Latinx studies minor, identifies as Chicanx. Chicanx and Latinx are gender neutral terms for those who identify as gender nonconforming, trans, nonbinary etc.

The gender neutral term is a way for people who do not identify with either male or female to reclaim their identities by making a term that fits them.

“I don’t need your validation to be who I am, it’s more like validation that I exist and I am resisting the language that was put onto my people.” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said that machismo mata, or machismo kills. Alvarez stressed in a culture where masculinity is rigid those who choose not to conform can often face violence.

“Look what happens with trans women. There’s a thing called trans panic where a person kills a trans person because they got scared, Alvarez said. “Because you got scared it validates killing someone who is trans?”

Latinx and Chicanx started as a movement to be gender inclusive in languages and cultures that were heavily gendered according to Alvarez. Alvarez has also seen it adapted to other languages and cultures.

“Other cultures, other languages are started to use it too. It’s a ripple effect. Of people looking at their language and saying wow it’s not inclusive, Alvarez said. “And I think it’s beautiful. These words are saving people in my opinion.”

 

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