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Machismo – A Cultural Incompatibility I Can’t Accept

by on June 9, 2012

in Latin America, Peru

Selling Bread With Other Volunteers

Selling Bread With Other Volunteers

While volunteering for Rayo de Sol in Arequipa, Peru, I was reminded of how much I dislike the macho culture in Latin America.

Machismo can be defined as “exaggerated masculine pride.”

I haven’t said much about machismo despite having been in Latin America for nine months. Only in this article from El Salvador, and this post bidding farewell to Mexico. But it’s omnipresent and is very much at odds with my view of the world, empowerment, and how things should be.

While walking around Arequipa with my fellow volunteers, all from France, selling bread to benefit the children of Alto Cayma, we encountered numerous situations I’d consider completely inappropriate.

Hearing men whistle or cat call as the girls walked by was common.

And I hated it.

It’s just the attitude. He’s essentially saying “You look hot,” but for what? Does he think she’ll throw herself at him then? It is disrespectful and really doesn’t make much sense.

One day we walked into a shopping center and there were two men. In general, when women wanted to buy bread, they usually approached me. When men wanted to buy bread, they usually approached my female colleague. Fine.

But in this case, a guy bought a croissant or some other pastry. She then asked the other guy if he’d like something and replied by saying “No, I just want to look.” And he didn’t mean look at the bread and pastries. It was clear he meant that he wanted look at her. These guys were old enough to be her dad, so it was doubly disgusting.

It’s not like they were flirting. They knew they had no chance. They just got some strange satisfaction in being disrespectful.

An Example Of Machismo - This Image On The Outside Of A Public Bus In Ecuador

An Example Of Machismo - This Image On The Outside Of A Public Bus In Ecuador

I asked her how she felt about what happened afterward. She didn’t seem phased by it. She said it happens all the time so she’s just kind of become use to such bad behavior.

I guess that’s a survival technique because getting upset about such frequent bad behavior doesn’t serve any purpose. But still. It’s wrong and it shouldn’t happen at all.

I’m not sure what the solution is. How do you change a whole culture?

Again, just like seeing the photo shoot in Lima, maybe I read too much into things. Maybe I see victims where they don’t exist sometimes. But I think the case here is pretty cut and dry. Women shouldn’t have to put up with such bad behavior.

Sadly, I know I’ll encounter this throughout my trip. Though there is a convenient Spanish word used to describe this attitude, one that we use in English, machismo/macho is definitely not limited to Latin America.

About Adam Pervez

In mid-2011 I left my cushy corporate job and took the plunge into a life incorporating my passions of traveling, writing, volunteering, learning, educating, and telling stories. I study what happiness means to others, offer what I can from my engineering/MBA background as a volunteer, and try to leave each place better than how I found it. Read more.

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