“The Warrior Goddess looked down at the men of brown skin and red hearts. She wept. For they were lost to her. They had no memory of their mother.”
The majority of men in Latin America and Latinos in the United States have a particular view of what a man should be, and in consequence, what a woman should be. Women should clean, cook, bear children, raise them, be beautiful, be submissive, so on and so forth. I grew up with this mentality. Latino men in my family, my community, and even in telenovelas had a particular role to play, and so did women. Men were the aggressive breadwinners, drank excessively, were sexual hunters, were hyper masculine, knew how to work land, defend their women (because of course, they could not defend themselves) etc.
There is a pervasive normative behavior that has taken grip of Latino men (and women, in a different sense) that dictates our behavior, most of the time to destructive ends. Machismo, where men are homophobic, patriarchal, and either actively or passively oppressing women, has not changed as much as other normative behaviors in Latin America. But where does this machismo come from? Isn’t it natural to act “like a man”?
I am writing this for my Latino brothers to understand that their “machismo”, or inherent right to act like “un hombre,” is perhaps the ultimate form of weakness. Submitting to accepting male dominance/machismo as a state of nature is succumbing to defeat, and saying that Columbus, the Conquistadors, the Spanish Catholic Church was stronger (and morally just) than the ancestral blood that runs through our veins.This horrific truth has, for the past 500 years, tried to make invisible the beautiful reality of pre-Columbus Indigenous America.
In Indigenous America, women were held in high regard, and in several creation stories that were from pre-columbus era, deities were often times female. According to Mesoamerican Mythos, the earth was a female figure, and water sources, such as rivers, were seen as metaphorical representations of fertility, a divine womb of sorts. The Goddess Teteo-Innan was who gave birth to humans and other beings; a female gave rise to humanity, not a male. Dr. David Carrasco from Harvard, with a team of experts, decoded the Aztec Map of Cuauhtinchan, which has a woman, brandishing weapons and the leg of a defeated enemy, leading other warriors (who are men) out of the Aztec Cave of Origins. Females did not only only give birth to humans, they also led armies into battle. Though these are only a few examples, it is clear women were not perceived as they are today. So what happened?
The conquistadors came to Indigenous America, backed by the Catholic Church, with two objects in hand. The sword and the Bible. Most of us know what happened next. Genocide, and those who survived were taught the teachings of the Catholics church (by force). One consequence of that was the loss of the female Goddess, and the introduction of Adam, a White European-Esque God, and a redefinition of what it meant to be a man and a woman. And so, the birth of Machismo*.
By perpetuating feelings of patriarchy, homophobia, and gender-norms, Latino men are essentially saying that those who conquered the Americas were right, that the Spanish Conquistadors had a correct view of what women were, second class citizens, child bearers, and nothing more.That colonialist mentality is still persistent today. Women in Latin American suffer from high levels of domestic violence, have far less rights, earn significantly less pay, and are still represented in a light that continuously sexualizes them (in an objectifying and dehumanizing way), both in Latin American and US media. The point made is that our ancestral view of women is virtually dead. Women are not Goddesses, they are not warriors, they are not our equals. There is something wrong with this view – if it is not obvious, please read again, or my other blog post on patriarchy.
Latino men, especially in the last fifty years, are consistently shouting about anti-imperialistic and anti colonial sentiments, philosophy, and revolution. Fuck the US. Fuck Capitalism. Fuck it all. And yet, these same men fail to reject machismo norms in Latin America that have oppressed women for 500 years. How can we deconstruct colonialism and imperialism, especially in Latin America, if we cannot reject an ingrained practice of machismo? How can we be honest about wanting to regain our stolen identity if we are not willing to make women a Goddess again, or better yet, give them their rightful place as the leader to our modern warriors, like our ancestors did? Any revolution that cannot do this is a revolution that will fail, because we will not have defeated the deep rooted ideology of the original colonizers.
To reject patriarchy, homophobia, and social normative gender roles in Latin America, is a rejection of the imperialistic and colonial powers that were infused within the newly birthed Latin Amercia with the arrival of the Spanish. This was no act of salvation, but an oppressive use of force that replaced (though slowly) the warrior goddess with Adam, Jesus, and the White European – esque God. If anything, women were far more respected and held to a higher light in the Indigenous America than in Europe. For that reason, machismo is our greatest weakness, because until we defeat it, there is no point in trying to defeat the remnants of colonialism. But how do we break down this machismo? We can start by exploring our identity. And for that, we need look back beyond 500 years. For that, we need to look at what the female was to our ancestors, our indigenous ancestors, because there lay a beautiful, liberating truth.
*The concept of Machismo is complex, as is its origins. This is a condensed version of a topic that has an abundance of literature. This blog post is in some form meant to inspire an exploration of Machismo in Latin America, and should not be considered as an explanation of how machismo came about, merely as a condensed introduction.