More Puerto Rican Culture
by Juan E. Rodriguez
The term machismo or macho is commonly used in Latino culture in order to describe men and explain why they act the way they do. Traditionally the man is expected to carry the role of the provider and backbone of the family. Machismo is associated with this role but usually has a very negative connotation. Either way the term being macho or machismo may have a positive or negative meaning depending on how the issue is viewed.
"The stereotypical Hispanic/Latino macho is viewed as strong and dominating: a man who makes all the important decisions regarding his family, who views women as inferior to men, and who reserves certain privileges and prerogatives for himself and his sons." However, one should not think that this "sexist male behavior" only exists in Latino culture because it does not. Being macho or machismo is not hereditary or imbedded in ones genes but part of culture and tradition were the young males learn by example from older males. Commonly machismo is viewed as something destructive instead of constructive. A characteristic that is not appealing or helpful in any way in Latino culture.
Machismo, however, may be viewed as a positive characteristic as encompassing positive behaviors. "A man who is truly macho will look out for and take responsibility for the well-being of his family, sacrificing his own needs and working hard to provide for his loved ones". The male figure will have respect for himself, for his wife and have a good influence on the children. Both teaching the son how to treat female figures and raising the daughter in an environment where she will feel confident about herself. However, this is a very idealistic picture to some in Latino culture because these positive behaviors of machismo are often overlooked and not recognized.
Often women are conflicted by the negative aspects of this issue because of how machismo restricts them from expressing their ides and talents. Since the man is the provider of the family and the role model the female figure is not expected to work or support the family. She is to stay home, bare children, and take care of the house and especially of her husband. The women more or less in Latino culture is assimilated with Virgin Mary, she is to be pure and clean for her husband and just there to serve his needs. However, the man is and many times expected to act very macho. Going out doing what ever he wants and not having to say anything about it. This behavior reflects the negative connotation of machismo, but times are changing and men in Latino culture are evolving and moving more towards playing a more productive role in the household.
Although machismo still exists and its widespread, now more than ever more and more Latino men are holding babies, helping with housework and accepting women as leaders in high political positions. One can not blame men for being this way, "Latino men and women are raised to believe that macho codes of conduct give order and meaning to their families and provide structure and values for young males." A code of conduct which is shared between father and son creating a "positive brotherhood." If this characteristic were to disappear such link between father and son will vanish. For this reason machismo should not disappear but instead men should be educated enough to recognize womenís rights and what is really wrong with traditional machismo.
In Darnell Martinís debut film I Like It Like That machismo is a giant issue. The film gives examples of how Latino culture views machismo either being positive or negative. Jon Seda who reflects the traditional macho in a traditional Latino family plays the leading male role. He holds a job, pays the bills and does what ever he wants. Lauren Velez who plays the leading female role is not expected to work but rather to take care of the family. She has to be loyal to him and is oppressed to the point where he crushes her dreams of becoming a model. This is a perfect example of how machismo restricts women from expressing or achieving anything productive in their lives. Although he is very macho there comes a point where the roles change and the female has to carry out the role of the man.
In the film Chino Jon Sedaís character is put in jail because of robbery. From there on Lissete Lauren Velez character is left with the responsibility of proving and taking care of the family. However, Chino does not want her to work or do anything, instead, to get on public assistance in order to support the family. This is an example of how in Latino culture the male figure can not accept the fact that the woman is left with the responsibility of supporting the family.
The film however, at some point is very successful in pointing out the positive behaviors of machismo and to some extend why it is necessary. Furthermore, expressing the fact that it should not be vanished but just modernized. The idea of how Machismo creates a link between father and son is identified in the film by successfully showing how it could be a positive behavior. In many scenes through out the film Chinoís machismo helps him guide and show his son that the man has to work for a living. For example Chino finds out that his son is dealing drugs, in return he proceeds to embarrass him in front of everyone by stripping him of all his cloths. In return because of this relationship the son starts to develop that sense of machismo. For example while chino is in jail he tries to carry the role of the man of the house by telling Lisette, his mother, that he is able to provide for the family. The son clearly picked up this behavior by observing the ways of the father. As a result of these examples the film very successfully portrays the two ends of this bipolar issue.
The idea of machismo or being macho is widely know in Latino culture. The fact that it exists is obvious but the controversy is whether itís necessary for it to be part of the culture. Machismo has many degrees of severity depending mainly on the individual. It could be taken to an extreme where femaleís are oppressed and put in danger while on the contrary it can be productive in the family. This being a complicated and important issue in Latino culture, machismo should be dealt with instead of just wishing it away.
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Unknown, "Hispanic/Latina Women: Cultural Norms And Prevention", Online. Yahoo (http://www.fadaa.org/resource/jtf/hispnorn.html), 23, Apr. 1998Maclin
William R., "Machismo Sparks Spirited Debate For Latinos", The Salt Lake Tribune 3 Nov. 1996, Online.Yahoo (http://utahonline.sltrib.com/96/nov/03/sat/19594515.htm), 23, Apr. 1998.