Determination of Man’s Role in Latin America How society describes what is meant by a man’s role is an important definition in every culture. What is right or wrong for men to do in terms of behavior depends on each community, and on people’s own perceptions. Latin American culture has a strict set of values on sexual issues, reflecting a man’s role in society. For all of the communities in Latin America there exists a relation between a man’s role and machismo. The exaggerated sense of manliness that machismo stands for is evident by parents when raising their male children, and by communities and their expectations. Machismo represents a culture of traditions indeed, but how does machismo define the role of a man in his society? XY is the chromosome formula for a male.
Providing these two chromosomes will give the sexual differentiation that causes a man to be a man instead of a woman. However, psychological, social, and cultural factors that have nothing to do with genetics are important to determine man’s role, and to cultivate the sense of masculinity. Masculinity is a process of learning. No child is born a man, so children learn to become men. One example of this are the “wild children” of the nineteenth century whose sexual preference was ambiguous.
Victor de l’Aveyron and Gaspar Hauser grew up without any human contact. For them there was no difference between men and women. A simple definition for masculinity could be the opposite of femininity. What is meant by this simple definition expresses what is demanded for being a man. It must be proof of that sense of masculinity, it “must be acquired, and at a high price” (Badinter 2).
Characteristics such as success, power, control and strength are demanded for masculinity. Masculinity in Latin America goes further than just demanding it. The symbol of masculinity and male sexuality comes from the definition of machismo. Labels and categories are used in order to understand masculinity. Christian Krohn-Has en in his essay Masculinity and the Political among Dominicans describes masculinity as “that of the hombre, the spirited, courageous, and brave man” (112). The symbol of a brave man for many is also considered the symbol of masculinity.
Another idea involves man showing his masculinity in public. Physical movements represent his capacity for being a man. The mannerisms of a man can truly define, according to the Latino culture, the masculinity of a man. Also the image of the Latin man as a womanizer is an important characteristic of machismo. This idea of masculinity is not only recognized by men, but also by women. Moving from one partner to another when men are married is common in the culture.
The necessity of different partners as a part of sexual conquest is important in their masculinity. An evident attribute for machismo is heterosexuality. “Masculine identity is associated with the fact of possessing, taking, penetrating, dominating, and asserting oneself, if necessary, by force” (Badinter 97). Consequently, the feminine identity is connected with its opposite to balance a sexual equation. The inequity between male and female causes the normality of women being dominated by men in Latin communities. The Hispanic culture highlights the abuse of women by men.
In many cases the machismo is transmitted into domestic violence not only to the wife, but their children as well. Violence imposed by macho’s is an excuse for the necessity of controlling, demanding respect, and hiding vulnerability. Also, machismo is directly linked to the authoritarian parenting style. The authoritarian parenting style is conceived as a demanding father who doesn’t give any explanation to their children.
The macho is an authoritarian parent who demands respect from the whole family. The machismo constitutes an explanation for subordination. In addition, the exaggerated male behavior that machismo represents “is assumed to stem from inadequate masculine identity” (Baca Zinn 24), and more important it’s a compensation for inferiority. The economic level is a factor that affects Hispanic men’s behavior. A reason for this is because in most of the cases machismo is represented by the middle, and lower class populations, whose incapability for directing and being the boss is banned in their work places. Consequently, the family sometimes is the only place for macho’s where their power can be applied.
Men with a low income are more likely to commit acts of domestic violence. For example, the United Nations showed that in 1997 31 percent of the middle and lower class populations in Lima Peru had committed acts of physical assault on their partners. This is not a detached fact; it occurs all over Latin America. Although the information provided doesn’t include the upper class population, the percentage of domestic violence in this population is minimal compared to middle and lower class populations.
There exists a connection between machismo and socioeconomic level. It cannot be denied that macho’s are prone to represent a middle class or low class socioeconomic class level. Besides the socioeconomic level another factor that determines masculinity in Latin America is its traditional culture. The influence of Spain and native communities had a tremendous impact in the culture on man’s behavior, therefore machismo. The presence of an ethnic group and the self identification with that group reproduces the behavior.
If the ethnic group believes that a behavior is normal, even though it is considered incorrect for another group, the individual who belongs to that group also would believe it is right. Machismo is an example in which the acceptance of Latin America for such behavior allows it to continue. Socialization is defined by the Webster’s College Dictionary as “a continuing process whereby an individual learns and assimilates the values and behavior patterns appropriate to his or her culture and social position.” Socialization is not the formula for human personality and behavior. However, socialization sends little messages to the individual from the social system.
It exists as an influence between the society and the individual, but only its own criteria can accept or deny that influence. Cynthia Berryman-Fink explains in her book Communication and Sex-Role Socialization, that “sex roles are enacted, manifested, and altered by communication itself” (xiii). What is correct for our sex is assimilated in a high percentage during the infancy period with role models. As an example, parents, teachers, peers and outside communications help to represent and reinforce behavior; which is either appropriate or inappropriate for our sex role. Nevertheless, sex role is not only absorbed during infancy, but throughout the life cycle. Every man has a pattern of behavior during his life cycle.
What is appropriate or not, and what must be done for the age is an important issue during a man’s life cycle. This pattern is similar in most of the cases for most of the men. In conclusion, psychological, social and cultural factors are important to determine man’s role. The masculinity in a man is an everyday issue that has to be proved. The image of a brave, strong, powerful and successful man that masculinity stands for is over simplified by macho’s. Machismo is a reality in Latin America; it’s part of a culture, which it can’t be abolished.
On the other hand, every man decides whether or not machismo is part of his role as a man. All the aspects mentioned before are only a part that can determine man’s role as an individual. Also, only that person can decide if his behavior is right or wrong during his life. In theory machismo represents a man’s role, but in practice it’s not possible to determine it because each individual thinks differently.
Machismo is used in most of the cases as a method of behavior in middle and lower class populations. There might be exceptions in which machismo also affects the upper class population, but the percentage is minimal. In fact, when referring to machismo, it’s more likely to influence low income inhabitants. Machismo is the heritage of Latin communities, and it’s inherited through the culture in every Hispanic man. How machismo influences a man’s role; however, depends on each individual.
Bibliography Baca Zinn, Maxine. “Chicano Men and Masculinity.” Men’s Lives. Ed. Michael Kimmel. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2001. Badinter, Elisabeth.
XY on Masculine Identity. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. Berryman-Fink, Cynthia. “Communication and Sex-Role Socialization.” New York: Garland Publishing, 1993. Krohn-Hansen, Christian. “Masculinity and the Political among Dominicans: ‘The Dominican Tiger’.” Macho, Mistresses, Madonnas.
Ed. Mar it Melhuus. New York: Verso, 1996. “Physical abuse against women by an intimate partner.” United Nations Statistics Division.
2003. United Nations. Nov 27 2004. web House Webster’s Electronic Dictionary and Thesaurus, College Edition. 1994.