Latino Masculinity and Machismo: Hombres y Machos

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I decided to read Alfredo Mirandé’s book, Hombres y Machos, because growing up in a Hispanic family myself, I heard the phrase macho many times in my life. I never really associated this phrase with a negative connotation, but as I grew older, I began to see that others around me did not view the phrase as I did. As I began to read the book, Miranda approached the Cult of Masculinity, Machismo (in Spanish), through a personal level as he sought to find Latino men in parts of Northern California as well as Texas and interview them about their perception of Macho and Machismo. Miranda also seeks to study important events in Latin Culture, specifically Mexican culture, to truly understand the patterns he observed when interviewing his participants. After reading this book, Miranda’s findings and studies have helped me understand the false perceptions present about Machismo before his study and what it truly means to be a Macho.

Alfredo Mirandé was a professor of sociology and ethnic studies at the University of California. He was warded a Rockefeller Foundation research fellowship to conduct a study of Latino men and what they defined as the role in their family. This study would be what would lead the publishing of Hombres y Machos. Before this book was published in 1997, however, Mirandé had already written a book titled La Chicana in 1979 where he explores the oppression of women under the cult of machismo by tracking the role of Chicanas, a woman of Mexican descent, from pre-Columbian society to the present which at the time was late 1970s. After the publishing of this book, Mirandé attributes his writing of Hombres y Machos to the lack of connection he felt towards the Chicana experience and the generalizations made on Latino masculinity based on misinterpreted evidence and lack of research. Mirandé also credits his research from a personal life as a Mexican father of three: “At a deeper and more personal level, I believe that I undertook this study because I was dissatisfied with the images of Latino men and masculinity that prevailed not only in the social science literature but also in the society at large. I felt that these images were used to perpetuate negative conceptions of Mexicans and to legitimate our economic and political subordination” (5). In addition, Mirandé expresses different goals he had when researching for his book. The first was to “undertake a study of Latino men that did not begin with the premise that Latino culture and Latino masculinity were inherently negative or pathological” (6), the second was to “look at Latino men in a way that reflected the richness and complexity of Latino masculinities — a study, in other words, that would incorporate men who were as different and diverse as my father and uncles” (6) and the third to “was to articulate an insider ’ s perspective that would reflect the images that Latino men themselves have of machismo, masculinity, and fatherhood” (6). In studying masculinity in Latin culture, Mirandé focuses on a historical analysis of Latino men and masculinity and the correspondence of data through the Bem (BSRI) and Mirandé (MSRI) scales.

Mirandé argues throughout the book that the contemporary ideology behind Machismo during the publishing of the book is a false perception based on universalism by the white male norm and this norm only reflects the dominant theories and generalizations while forgetting to acknowledge the studies of specific groups. After conducting research and bringing his data from interviews, Mirandé concludes that what Latino men define as a good father is not external qualities such as success and wealth, but internal qualities like responsibility, selflessness, and moral character (115). In the end of his book, Mirandé asks for a deeper understanding of Latino masculinity through the fields of men’s studies and feminist scholarship while criticizing the way in which there has been a larger awareness of Chicanas and Latin Women, but little effort to asses the studies of Latino men and Latino masculinities (118).

Hombres y Machos is divided two major sections. The first section consists of chapter one and two in which Mirandé presents a summation of research on Latino men as well as background info on Bem and Mirandé’s scales and then goes on to present historical information to enhance one’s understanding of the manifestation of masculinity and manhood. In chapter one, Mirandé introduces the reader to the Bem Sex Role Inventory, BSRI, which is a scale designed by psychologist Sandra Bem in 1974 to measure masculine and feminine traits based on responses to different items within the scale (14). In his study, Mirandé did not want to include this scale to measure masculinity in Latino culture because he believed masculinity was defined differently. In the end, Mirandé decided to develop his own scale called the Mirandé Sex Role Inventory, MSRI, which is also a measure of masculinity like the BSRI, but includes traditional and nontraditional items unlike the BSRI (15). In chapter two of his book, Mirandé presents different historical context of Latino culture, specifically Mexican culture, to explain the surge of Machismo. Mirandé directly links masculinity in Mexico to the Spanish Conquest and states that masculinity was either “a response to the intense and persistent feelings of powerlessness and weakness” (34), a characteristic “imposed on the Indian in the same way that Catholicism, horses, pork and deadly diseases” (35) or that masculine displays “have had pre-Columbian origins that predated the arrival of the Spaniards” (35). Each of these explanations has valid argument and helps bring forth aspects of what former generalizations of masculinity in Latin culture lack: studies in the field of Latin culture. By bringing forth these ideals, Mirandé provides credibility to his method of finding data.

The second section of Hombres y Machos consists of chapter three, four, and five where Mirandé explores the perception of Latino men of the words Macho and Machismo, provides a structured investigation of the perceptions found and compares them using the BSRI and MSRI, and develops a thorough analysis of how regional, occupational, income, and language differences were found between the BSRI and MSRI. In chapter three, Mirandé studied the way the men he interviewed perceived the meaning of macho. To hiss surprise, Mirandé states, “Only 31 percent of the men were positive in their views of macho, compared to 57 percent who were classified as negative. This means, in effect, that more than two-thirds of the respondents believed that the word “macho” had either negative or neutral connotations” (68). Mirandé was surprised because he expected the men with greater ties to Latino culture to identify positive associations with the word macho, but that was not the case in the study as more individuals who decided to be interviewed in Spanish had a positive connotation to the word macho than those who were interviewed in English. In chapter four, Mirandé assessed how he came about making the responses into quantitative data. The way Mirandé did so was that he used a statistical method called “factor analysis” to cluster variables, in this case “items”, to be associated in in a predictable way. After this was done, Mirandé used “factor loadings” which, in Mirandé’s, words “tell us the relative strength of a factor by showing how much of the variation in an item or variable is explained by a particular factor” (84). After finding the factor loading within the BSRI and MRSI scales, Mirandé concluded that the MRSI demonstrated that men with a higher education and higher incomes were less traditional in ideas of gender, but the BSRI demonstrated that that men with a higher education and income were more likely to score higher on the masculinity factor than feminine factor (98). In chapter five, Mirandé analyzes his data altogether to conclude the way his participants view masculinity and father hood. Mirandé concludes his research and suggests that the conception of dominant America of Latino culture involving masculinity is radically different from the results he found in his research. In the end of the chapter, he states, “According to this ethic, whether a person is considered to be a successful man or a good father is determined not so much by such external qualities as success, fame, or wealth but by such internal qualities as responsibility selflessness, and moral character” (115).  Mirandé’s conclusion achieves the goals he set at the beginning of his research and go on to prove that the universal generalization of masculinity within Latino culture are no more than false perception lacking knowledge in the field of Latin studies.

The reason I really enjoyed reading Hombres y Machos is that Mirandé did an excellent job in structuring his book. While most authors writing a book on research would go straight into evaluating how they conducted their research, Mirandé begins by giving historical concepts and informing the readers about possible explanations towards Latin masculinity based purely on historical context. Mirandé included this context to not only to inform the people who are not familiar with Latin culture, but also to educate those who come from a Latino background on why negative generalizations on masculinity without proper background exist. Another major strength within the book is the personal connection Mirandé holds to the subject at hand and how his personal life pushes the research forward. Coming from a Mexican background myself, I am able to fully connect to Mirandé’s goals and experiences. It is this personal connection Mirandé holds that let him conduct research smoothly. In the book, Mirandé mentions how easy it was for him to find subjects for an interview when he says “Obtaining confianza (trust) or legitimacy is critical in carrying out research in the Latino community” (21). In addition, by learning about Mirandé’s personal life, the reader is able to understand why the research means so much to him and what his finding mean for the Latino community and the way masculinity in Latin culture is reflected.  This personal devotion towards the research is not only presented in the way Mirandé portrayed the qualitative data within his research, but also in the way Mirandé went through the method of turning this data into quantitative data through his use of the BSRI and MSRI scale. By providing a structural way to demonstrate his findings, Mirandé allowed the reader to observe the many patterns found within the results. For example, the way in which the participants who had more education, higher incomes, and chose to speak in English appeared to be less androgynous than those who ha lower income and chose to be interviewed in Spanish (95). Mirandé not only found the different opinions about associations with machismo, but also sought to find trends within his results and the ways in which language, regional, and economical aspects affected these associations.

With so many strengths within Hombres y Machos, it is hard to find many weaknesses. The only possible flaws I see within Mirandé’s method of obtaining data is the way in which he chose to only interview participants in the U.S and in certain states only. Mirandé mentioned he chose to interview men in Northern California and Texas. I believe it would have been interesting gif Mirandé would have also interviewed men in Mexico and parts of Southern California as well as men who resided in close to the border between Mexico and the U.S. If Mirandé would have done such, I believe he would have come across an even more interesting conclusion. Another way Mirandé could have improved his research would be y giving his participants more open-ended questions and including women in his interviews. Doing so would give a more in depth look on how men and women of the Latino culture view masculinity and what the people of Latin background feel about the generalizations made on machismo. However, I feel Mirandé did an excellent job of uncovering why it is that the generalization of masculinity is falsely perceived and in doing so he was able to accomplish a lot for Latino studies, the perception of masculinity, the goals he had coming into the research, and for his own personal growth as a father.

Alfredo Mirandé productively puts all the generalizations made on masculinity in Latin culture to rest through his research on Latino men, his outline of historical context, his narrative of personal life, and his systematic portrayal of qualitative and quantitative data. Through his work, the reader clearly visions Mirandé’s passion of the subject at hand the way in which the research not only changed the ideas held by society at the time, but the way in which the research changed Mirandé as a person and father. Although I am able to connect deeper with Mirandé on the fact I am a Latino American, Hombres y Machos is a book I would recommend for anyone who wants to learn more of what masculinity means in the Latin community. Before reading the book, I did not have a clear understanding of what it meant to be a macho. I never associated the phrase with a negative or positive connotation because I was aware of the different ways people understood the phrase. After reading Hombres y Machos, I now have a deeper meaning of what it means to be a macho and hope to read more of Mirandé’s works in the near future.

Mirandé, Alfredo. Hombres Y Machos: Masculinity and Latino Culture. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997. Print.