Machismo, or macho, can usually be described as a number of presumably masculine traits, such as aggressiveness, strength, and dominance, that a man identifies with and which form his personality. This personality can dictate his behavior and ultimately affect everyone around him. Although this “manly man” can surely be found in almost any culture, we can take a look at it from a Latino perspective and see how it has influenced women over the generations and see if it has evolved with the changing times.
For a lot of Latinas, their fathers are the first macho people that they encounter and are affected by regularly. “I recall, in high school, telling [my dad] I wanted to leave home to attend college and he wasn’t supportive; if anything, he discouraged me and told me I was a girl [and] I needed to stay close to home,” reflects 32 year-old Linda Flores. Linda also acknowledges that her father was the one to help her with her homework and encourage her to finish high school, which she is thankful for. However, she still felt stifled by the limitations that he placed on her while growing up.
It is not uncommon for a girl who grows up in an environment fueled by machismo to feel limited, to be told that she is not capable of certain things, such as leaving home for college or going to college at all. It is not necessarily the case that this girl is unloved, but rather, is expected to meet different standards than her brothers, for example.
“I grew up with four brothers,” shares 20-year-old Latinitas volunteer Polet Espinoza.
“When our dad would ground us our punishments would be different. I would have to clean the house and the boys would get their phones taken away,” adds Polet.
Although Polet recognizes the machismo nature of her father and how this affects the way the household is run, she also acknowledges that her mother has been the one to teach her that women are capable of leading independent lives. Polet compares her own world-view to that of her grandmother’s, whom she declares has the understanding that a woman cannot be independent, and decides that, in her family, the way women deal with machismo has definitely changed over the generations.
“I grew up in an all girl household. It’s more of my school life…it’s like guys are good at math and science, but I want to be also,” states 17-year-old Alliris Lopez. While she doesn’t necessarily feel the effects of machismo culture in her home, she has definitely noticed the macho tendencies of her classmates and teachers. Alliris is in the Math club at her school and expresses that she and the other few girls in the club have to try especially hard to be acknowledged as much as the boys.
This is the reality that many Latinas over the years have had to deal with in their own ways, whether it has been domestically or socially. Some choose obedience, some choose to rebel, but it is also safe to say that in recent decades many girls have taken the negative influences of Machismo and used that to help themselves grow as strong women.
“I believe…it’s made me stronger, it’s made me want to excel, and show myself it is possible for women to be independent and successful,” asserts Linda.
Above all else, perhaps what we can be sure of is that girls and women will continue to set goals and continue to strive. Machismo influences may have evolved and become less impactful to a great many American Latinas, but is still a factor in certain domestic environments and even in the media. However, what we can also see is that so many girls and women have changed their ideas about their own roles in the world too. “[Since I began college], I’ve started to think I can do anything, “declares Polet. “I have my own voice.”