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Latin America: The Concepts of "Machismo" and "Marianismo"

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Discuss the concepts of "Machismo" and "Marianismo" over the course of development in Latin America. How similar or different are Latin American women's roles today as compared to the past? If different, what brought about the change? Compare women's roles in Latin American countries with other countries such as the United States?

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Hi,

Interesting questions and topic! Let's take a closer look. I also provided an article at the end of this response and another attached, some of which this response is drawn.

RESPONSE:

1. Discuss the concepts of "Machismo" and "Marianismo" over the course of development in Latin America.

Marianismo is the stereotyped gender role of females in Latin American society. To fully understand the meaning of Marianismo. let's consider Machismo. These gender roles are the direct consequence of the Spanish influence from the time that Spain conquered Mexico. When Hernan Cortes and the conquistadors came to Christianize the indigenous population of Mexico they were full of the courage of errant knights, guided by a determination to spread their faith, and feverish with wild dreams of fame and fortune. This image of the conquistador became prototype of the modern macho male. Therefore Marianismo can be thought of as a reaction to the macho behavior implanted by the Spanish (Gutierrez, 1991, http://www.lclark.edu/~woodrich/Bocchi_marianismo.html).

Machismo is characterized by hypervirility, the aggressive masculine behavior that is expected of the Latin American male. One who is macho is admired for his physical strength, bold sexual advances toward women, great sexual prowess, self-confidence and bravery. Macho men express these characteristics through both their words and their actions. On the other hand, Marianismo, the female counterpart, is characterized by hyper-feminine behavior. "The roots of Marianismo are both deep and widespread, springing apparently from her biological abi.ity to bear a child. The Mariana is pure, submissive to her father, brothers and spouse, and lacks sexual desires. The ideal Mariana is often thought of as someone like the Virgin Mary. Marianismo is not a religious practice although the word "Marianism" is sometimes used to describe a movement within the Roman Catholic Church, which has as its object the special veneration of the figure of the Virgin Mary, (Stevens p. 5). http://www.lclark.edu/~woodrich/Bocchi_marianismo.html

In other words, Marianisomo is the female equivalent of Machismo in Latin American folk culture. That is it is the embodiment of the feminine rather than the masculine. It is the cult of feminine superiority. Evelyn Stevens states: "it teaches that women are semi divine, morally superior to and spiritually stronger than men." The ideas within marianismo are that of feminine passivity and sexual purity, but are not exclusive to these ideas. There is power in marianismo that stems from the female ability to produce life. The term supposedly derives from Catholic beliefs of the Virgin Mary (Maria) as both a virgin and a madonna. According to Christians, she was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. She was eventually given the title Mother of God, thus a subject of veneration and admiration. From this is derived the idea that an ideal woman should be spiritually immaculate and eternally giving. This ideal woman is emotional, kind, instinctive, whimsical, docile, compliant, vulnerable, and unassertive. She has a higher status in the community if she has children and is a caring mother. She is also pious and observant of religious laws. The concept of marianismo gives rise to the virgin/whore concept in Latin culture, where women who are not perfect or inviolate are assumed to be base and vile. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marianismo

Thus, Marianismo is the expected gender role of the Latin American woman. A woman's reputation is determined by how well she lives up to the example of feminine virtue. Only in the last few decades has it been the major focus of Latin American women's studies. It has now evolved into a term used to describe the feminine spiritual superiority, moral superiority and spiritual strength of the modern Mexican woman. http://www.lclark.edu/~woodrich/Bocchi_marianismo.html

See http://web.grinnell.edu/LatinAmericanStudies/this.html.

2. How similar or different are Latin American women's roles today as compared to the past? If different, what brought about the change?

The roles in Latin America have evolved. For example, since the 1970's, Marianismo has taken on a new meaning which "is just as prevalent as Machismo but is less understood by Latin Americans themselves and almost unknown to foreigners" (Stevens p. 4). Many think the women's movement was, at least in part, responsible for this change. According to Steven, Marianismo has evolved into a "cult of feminine spiritual superiority, which teaches that women are semi-divine, morally superior to and spiritually stronger than men," (Stevens p. 4) and have a much greater capacity for sacrifice (http://www.lclark.edu/~woodrich/Bocchi_marianismo.html).

However, it is more than this. Latin American women joined the struggle for equality as the feminist struggle is a struggle for the transformation of society founded on patriarchal values. In Latin America and the Caribbean this is the strain of feminism that has changed life for women. In the feminist struggle the "enemy" against whom the movement's struggle is not "men," but an ideology. In other words, the feminist movement is a struggle, which goes beyond being simply a movement of women for women. It is a struggle for the radical transformation of society so that each person may be allowed to fully realize their capabilities, their talents and interests, instead of these being predetermined by stereotyped roles or unreliable limits. It is a struggle for inclusion, not exclusion. It is a struggle to incorporate and open the way for new possibilities, and not to change the person in power. These tenets of feminism helped in the evolution of women in
Latin America (http://www.epica.org/Library/women/la_women.htm).

Other factors that impacted the evolution of women in Latin America is entering the work force and changes in their sexual activity. No longer is the Latin American woman only developing in the ...

Solution Summary

The solution debates the concepts of "Machismo" and "Marianismo" over the course of development in Latin America and explores the reasons for any changes seen in Latin American women's roles today as compared to the past. These roles are then compared to the women's roles with other countries such as the United States. Supplemented with two highly informative articles, on women's role in Latin America and the United States.

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