How "Machista" Is Mexico?
This blog is bound to get me in trouble. Many of my blogs are are backed up by research, informed by evidence. This is not one of those blogs. It is completely subjectiive, based on nothing other than personal feelings and experiences, and direct observation.
Certain situations that exist in the U.S. like internet trolls that viciously attack women bloggers online and even elements of the Me Too movement, have made me think about the fundamental differences between men and women’s relationships in the U.S. and how the relationship seems different in Mexico.
No question, Mexico has a machista culture. Domestic violence is a big problem in Mexico. Rape figures are lower in Mexico than the United States, but one cannot help but wonder if fewer rapes are reported given the level of police corruption and their lack of training to investigate all types of crime, including sexual assault.
Attitudes about women in business are behind ours too. My business associate, The Intrepid Elise, has frequently had to deal with contractors in her property management business who did not feel they should be answering to a woman. Want-ads can still request that that only young, single females apply to a job. Women are still expected to be the family caretakers and that does not seem to be changing regardless of how many jobs they have.
To what extent you will encounter machismo depends on socioeconomic background, region, age, religiousness and whether their influences are urban or rural. In my interactions with Mexican couples in my own social circles, I do not notice any more male dominance than I do at home. Relationships seem about the same in terms of power-sharing.
I cannot speak for other women’s experiences. Granted, if I were were a younger, perhaps my encounters with men in Mexico would be different. I am also not looking for a husband and trying to ferret out machista qualities in dates. My interactions with the opposite sex in Mexico are exchanges based friendship, work needs, and shared interests like book clubs, and occasional conversations at social gatherings.
In the U.S. mature women commonly complain about feeling invisible. This prospect has never bothered me. I can see real potential as I shoplift my way though Denver’s Cherry Creek Mall and go into restaurant kitchens and bars to prepare my own meals and cocktails. Every age has its pleasures, is what I always say.
I will not be able to do those things in Mexico. One thing I noticed right away in Mexico was that women are not invisible. All women are seen, regardless of their age (although at a certain point, being seen might mean being helped to cross the street). I will not have to shout, wear purple, or don a red hat in Mexico when it comes time to start casing the local T.J. Maxx at home.
Think about your experiences at wedding receptions, where everyone dances. Get togethers in Mexico usually to feel that way. When I go out on a weekend night with friends in Mexico, I see more people of every age dressed up and dancing regardless of whether they carry a few extra pounds or if they are 70 years old. Mexican women love displaying their femininity, which receives a gentle nod no matter what age she is.
Why is this?
Mexicans have close knit and extended families. While recent generations are having fewer children, it is common for members of previous generations to have many brothers and sisters. (One of my best Mexican friends has 11 brothers). This makes for many older aunts and uncles.
Typically, the family makes up the core of a Mexican’s social circle. Children are generally very close with extended relatives from different generations. Family members tend to mix and socialize a lot. Extended families even take vacations together. The birthdays, posadas, Day of the Dead picnics at cemeteries, and quinceaneras that are all part of a regular Mexican annual calendar that could practically be called family reunions by U.S. standards.
Mexican mothers drag their children, even teenagers and young adults, around with them a lot more than mothers do in the U.S. Children get to know their parents’ friends socially, not just giving them a wave as they pass through. By the time they become adults, they have spent enough time with older people; uncles, aunts, and all their parents’ friends, to appreciate and feel comfortable around them.
I have gone to concerts in Mexico where people of all ages were singing the same songs, multiple generations attending the same concert (not unheard of in the U.S., but it takes a rare performer). Children and teenagers in Mexico do not find it mortifying to be seen out with their parents. In fact, they seem to perfectly content with it. This consistent integration between the generations is the balm of growing older in Mexico. No ice flow awaits you.
Mexican men also have extraordinarily close relationships with their mothers (and often grandmothers). Mexicans are protective of their wives, mothers and sisters. I believe that some of those habits carry over to any woman that a properly-raised Mexican man encounters, including me.
I used to be surprised by the rather easy familiarity I am often shown by younger Mexican men.I think Anglo women tend to misread that. After attending many social events, I notice the same easy familiarity between nephews and aunts in Mexico.
Extended family members in Mexico are not near-strangers. They have in a sense “grown up” together. Their aunts and uncles were at one time were much younger, probably more candid people. Just like men who have a lot of sisters, a man with grandmothers and aunts will better understand them, maybe even like people that age more than those who have not.
I remember my uncle when he was 42. He took me skiing and to my first-ever dive bar, the infamous Little Bear in Evergreen, Colorado. He is 78 now. He will never be an “old man” to me. I imagine that is much how Mexican adults feel about their older relatives, and in turn older people in general, contributing to a less ageist society.
One of the disturbing aspects of living in the U.S. right now is that rather than being the melting pot we always aspired to, studies indicate that we are spending less and less time with people unlike us, who are of different religions, political leanings, or race. Large swaths of our population are “the other’ to us in ways I do not see in Mexico.
An interesting example of one group’s successful fight against being “the other” is the gay rights movement. The gay community pressured members to come out. That led to people having to openly acknowledge their gay family members, friends, or neighbors - people whom they already loved for who they were. It was one small step for us to transfer that acceptance to the overall gay community.
People are comfortable with one another by spending time together. Whether it is age, race, politics, sexual orientation or gender, the more we interact socially, the better we understand and can acknowledge each other appropriately. The more we care.
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About the author:
Kerry Baker is the author of two books. the Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online is a curation of the best free tools for learning Spanish on the web, ones you will not find in Google search, curated into lesson plans and ideas for creating a new lesson plan every day. Boredom with the same tools kills motivation. Use these!
The second book, If I Only Had a Place is about how to rent luxuriously in Mexico and what realtors cannot or will not tell you about renting in Mexico.