The concept of the “macho man” has strong roots in the Spanish and Portuguese cultures. In fact, the word machismo stems from the Latin word “macho” which means male. However, its definition has changed over the years.
The word macho now means strong masculine pride, which is the concept the Latin culture has iconized over the past five decades.
The question is: should Hispanic families continue supporting this culture in their households?
Understanding the Concept of Machismo in Hispanic History
Despite the negativity surrounding the concept of machismo, it’s not really as abusive as it sounds. For centuries, men were the default leaders of a household since they brought food to the table.
Today you may be offended by the outdated concept of men being the leaders of the household, but male leadership may be part of what continues to keep Hispanic families together. Proving this is a statistic from the 2012 U.S. Census America’s Families and Living Arrangements, which states that 72% of Hispanic kids in the U.S. live with their fathers whereas only 49% of African American children have their fathers in their lives.
Going further back in time, manliness in Spanish-speaking countries was associated with honor, responsibility, courage and chivalry.
In Matthew Gutmann’s 1996 book “The Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City,” Latin American males believed machismo to mean taking care of children’s responsibilities, acting polite, respecting their women, and possessing non-violent behaviors.
Because of the dominance of their gender, younger males are spared from chores like cleaning or cooking. They’re also given more freedom, allowed later curfews, and provided with larger allowances.
What Being a Macho Man Means Today
The last few lines you just read are just a little of what being a macho man today means.
Open any dictionary and you’ll see that hyper-masculinity is associated with aggressive behaviors, being oversexed, chauvinistic and committed to gender normative roles. While some mothers encourage these characteristic to a degree, others frown upon them.
However, you need to understand that machismo has a positive and negative side. It’s up to you to cultivate the positive characteristics while avoiding the negative ones, especially those which your children watch on TV.
The notion of male superiority can drive a macho man towards exercising control over their female partners’ life, leading to domestic violence or abusive relationships.
Another newly uncovered flaw of modern machismo is death for gay Latinos. According to Alternet.org, homophobia and label-fear has driven many to lead double lives due to cultural obligations rather than sacrifice their egos by coming out. This, in turn, causes the spread of STDs and HIV/AIDS among all three sides. Due to the lack of awareness, Latino macho men have died and claimed others’ lives as well.
So, before your son embraces the negative aspects of machismo, make sure he understands exactly what this Hispanic tradition meant rather than what it currently means.
Teach your son to be more considerate, helpful and gentle, especially when treating other women aside from you. Only then can you really have a real macho man who’ll always make you proud.