Violence: A Component Of
Cultural Chicano Gender Ideals
The Mexican immigrant, those illegal as well as those who hold valid legal documentation, have more than being of Mexican cultural background in common. At this point you are probably wondering just what that might be. It is understandable, given the present situation in American cities and towns today, large and small. Many see this cultural phenomenon as the invasion of those others, namely the illegal Mexican immigrant. What else is a common factor within both groups? It is the overly exaggerated male gender role known as “Machismo.”
“Machismo” is defined by the Webster’s New World Pocket Dictionary, 4th Edition published in 2000, as a ‘Macho’ quality. “Macho,” as defined by the same source, means “overly virile and domineering.” In a draft submitted (2007) to be published in the American Sociological Association journal by Katy M. Pinto and Scott Coltrane entitled “Understanding Mexican American Fathers: Marital Power, Gender Role Attitudes, and the Division of Domestic Labor,” It is stated that this ideal of Mexican manhood, defines the attitude that the husband is the head of his family and should have the ultimate final word in all matters concerning his family. Machismo carries with it the responsibility “to provide all financial resources for the support and protection of his family.” (Baca, Zinn, 1982; Mirande, 1997; Torres, Solberg and Carlstrom 2002).
The ideal Mexican male is also responsible for the reproduction of progeny, as many as he can, both inside the family (his wife or girlfriend) and outside the family group (non-familial sexual encounters) as well. Many Chicano fathers emphasize as well this principle to their male offspring as a sign of manhood to be apparent for all to see from their earliest of their formative years to adulthood. The father’s defense of his personal honor and that of his family, requires that he must be capable of engaging in physical violence to settle all perceived slights and attacks by rival males, recovering his and their personal honor. Honor is the all-important facet holding the family together in a cohesive identity. This overly exaggerated sense of what it is to be male has carried over to the present in many Mexican families, both in families termed ‘legal’ immigrants as well as those labeled ‘illegal’ immigrant families. In Mexican (Chicano) communities, this role still exists. Though today the practices have been muted due to the husband staying home with the children (unable to find work), and his wife working outside the home to earn wages for the family. Perhaps at times this is the reasoning behind the creation of Chicano gangs, young men proving their masculinity. The ultimate example of ‘Machismo’ to the United States is the violence carried out by these organizations (The Latin Kings are but one of these gangs), which have chapters covering the entire United States. The occurrence of some domestic violence in Chicano homes is not unusual, but it is important to emphasize that domestic violence is a factor in all communities, within all ethnicities, and not just in Chicano communities. As more and more Chicanas work outside the home the concept of Machismo is losing some of its power over the decisions made in the home.
“In response to the concept of Machismo there exists the female version known as ‘Marianismo,’ which delineates the role of the mother and female caretaker of the cohesive unit known as the family.” (Stevens 1973; Torres, Solberg, and Carlstrom 2002). All Mexican females within the nuclear family are subservient to their mother. The mother is the one person that is a constant within the home, even to the present day. She, also, can become violent when she perceives a threat to her children. It is important to point out that this is true of all mothers, even the most placid, and not only those of the Chicano community.
While many Mexican women (Chicanas) now are working outside the home to bring in financial capital to assist in the survival of the family, most times it is due to the non-availability of jobs for their husbands. The cultural gender concept of ‘Marianismo’ for women has not changed. These cultural gender roles have held the nuclear cohesive unit known as the family together in good times as well as bad, over many centuries, and will remain to define gender roles within the Chicano identity.