For our two-day Father’s Day tribute, yesterday we took a beginning look at what many foreigners expect the Mexican Macho to be and began exploring how the concept of the Nuevo Machismo is changing attitudes, behaviors and beliefs in today’s Mexican family.
In Walking Stars, Stories of Magic and Power, second generation Mexican American and California author Victor Villaseñor retells the lessons his then seven-year-old father learned while recovering from the nearly fatal injuries he received from the pack of dogs that protected a neighbor's property back in Mexico. As the youngest child of the family, the boy was goaded by the other children into the orchard of the neighborhood "witch" to steal peaches. While the severely injured child was recovering, his mother shared with him her ideals for the man she wanted him to become.
"I've been raising you to be a gentle man--not a lost male who destroys all he lays his hands on because he feels so left out of the joy of giving birth.
"Mijito, (my little son) you must promise me to never do such a thing without consulting me first. You've become a little man, mi hijito, and a man always needs a woman's opinion in order to round out his decisions—like the broken rocks need the river waters to smooth out their rough edges and make the rocks smooth and round and whole. Believe me, no man's decisions are complete without a woman's influence. And no woman's garden can give life without a man's participation."
(Left) the Mexico Charro Federation upholds the tradition of the protection and preservation of home and family along with their rules and regulations for horsemanship. (Right) The San Juan Cosalá coach of the children's dance group is a powerful and positive father figure.
An Ajijic friend recently proclaimed, “These days, men and women, we’re all changing each other.”
His compadre added, "That’s right, it isn’t just a matter of men changing. The women of our generation and the next have changed, too. Now that they are working, they have had more experiences, more options, and more power than our mothers, so they demand more respect.
“That's been a little hard for us. They want us to change even faster and they are so different from our mothers and aunts and grandmothers.
"Friends have told me that when they are angry, now their wives say, "Don't you hit me, not even one time. I'll be out of here. I'll leave and I'll go to my family. If you try to come get me back, I'll report you to Derechos Humanos (the office of Human Rights).
Through television, the church, and the school, human rights and non-violent family campaigns are underway which are designed to effect even more change. The campaigns are promoting ideas and attitudes among children that will help make the next generation of men increasingly fair and just, with greater interaction with and love for their families.
When I asked an older Lakeside man if he'd seen men's attitudes changing, he said, "It's all so different now, but I like how it looks. When my children were little, men didn't take care of babies or even small children. We were macho, and we lived more separate from our families. I wish I had touched my kids more, and kissed and hugged them more. I can see with the younger men that they have a better connection to their kids.
"In my mother's generation, the women were like slaves to our fathers, and they made sure the dinner was on the table when he walked in, but it was from fear. With my generation, I think our wives did those things from love and respect, we were more like friends with our wives, and we did things together and went places. Now, my children and their wives are partners. They share in their lives and make decisions together. I like how it looks."
Not all the news about the change in Mexican families is as positive. Francisco Cervantes, an adult education teacher, is working to positively redefine the concepts of masculinity, fatherhood, and power in family relationships. His articles, talks and seminars help men by providing a new image for the macho Mexican male, yet he also is discovering some downturns in the mindset.
In a recent article, he says, "The Mexican man has exercised masculinity and paternity in an authoritative way for centuries, creating tension in married couples and the family as a whole. Men have been able to reconcile this behavior with the role of provider inside the home, but this family structure has had many negative ramifications in the well-being of their partners and children.
"Daily life in Mexico is changing considerably, to the point where men do not always play the role of the provider, and thus have fewer reasons to exercise authority. At the same time, women have become involved in the social and economic life of the country, and children too are now more independent. Frustration at the loss of their traditional role often leads men to physical and emotional mistreatment of partners or children. "
(Left) Like many other Lakeside foreigners, American singer Glenn Yarbrough (“Baby the Rain Must Fall”) interacts with kids in his Lakeside neighborhood. (Right) The little ones enjoy a ride home with dad on the family burro.
Jerry Tello is a writer, a builder and healer of communities. Tello builds pride with blocks created from the history and culture of Mexico. "In our history, we have created more elements than any other civilization. Our ancient people understood astronomy, astrology, hydroponics, chemistry, and biology so the possibilities are there," says Tello.
Tello, a Mexican-American who lectures throughout the U.S., has written extensively—publishing everything from curriculum training manuals and commissioned papers to articles in Parent Child Magazine, Early Childhood Today and Low Rider Magazine. He has been featured in Newsweek, Time, and People magazines. Recently he related his own experiences with his father:
"My father taught me that my first obligation in life is to my mother and that fatherhood for all of us is first and foremost about honoring women—our mothers, our children's mothers and all mothers."
"Sometimes the notion of machismo is mistakenly viewed as supporting authoritarian and paternalistic behavior, but in reality machismo is about being responsible and honorable and about protecting women—not abusing them.
"In our culture being bien educados (well-educated) is not about schooling so much as it is about wisdom, about knowing and doing what is right and honorable, and about accepting responsibility for the community."
We certainly raise our glass to Mexico’s Nuevo Machismo, and also to our own father, grandfathers, uncles, and to the father of our children (some of whom followed their own brand of machismo): Fritz, Charles and M.P., Bob, Chet, Bar, Bob, George and Dean; and David -- thanks and love to you all and to the lessons you taught us.