Students Discuss Machismo

Students expressed concern over the presence of machismo in Hispanic communities, in a panel discussion on Tuesday.

Co-sponsored by Fuerza Latina, Latinas Unidas, and Latino Men’s Collective, the event is one of many events hosted this week by Harvard-Radcliffe RAZA’s “Semana Chicana” in honor of the organization’s 40th anniversary. Other events include film screenings, open mic nights, and voter registration drives.

“[Machismo] is a problem. It’s very prevalent in the Latino community,” Nelida Garcia ’14 said. “Whenever I go back home, there’s always a grim reminder of that reality. Events like this are great because they remind us of what we’re trying to fight.”

Adrian Aldaba ’12 said that machismo is “best described with the three F’s: ‘feo,’ ‘fuerte,’ and ‘formal.’” He said that these adjectives, which mean ‘ugly,’ ‘strong,’ and ‘proper,’ respectively, in Spanish, form the masculine ideal associated with the Latino culture.

“There’s a sense of hypermasculinity to make up for the oppression and marginalization faced by Latinos on a daily basis,” he said.

Jesse G. Sanchez ’13 acknowledged that this masculine ideal influenced his family life.

“Growing up, I had this view of machismo as something that was not good,” he said. “It brought a lot of pain to my family. I used to think, ‘What constitutes a man?’ I’ve been trying to redefine what it means to be a man.”

The panelists’ examination of machismo was not limited to practices associated exclusively with Latino men and acknowledged that the pervasion of traditional masculine ideals also affect women.

“Redefining what it means to be strong, to be a leader—a lot of that came from my mom,” Sanchez said. “To see her determination as anything but female, I think is very unjust.”

At one point during the discussion, Assistant Dean of Student Life Emelyn A. dela Peña, the panel’s moderator, changed the trajectory of the conversation and asked the panelists to consider what extent machismo is a post-colonial construct.

“The whole notion of the macho is born out of combating the oppressor. You have to be more macho than the españoles,” Aldaba said in response to her question. “That being said, are we still being colonized?”

The panel culiminated with final remarks about what strategies could be most effective in combating machismo. Several participants said that the creation of more equitable gender norms relies on personal initiative.

“It is up to you to bring it to your community,” Sanchez said.

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