Mexico is stereotyped around the world. You could ask any foreign person about our country and you would receive a real or a stereotypical answer. If we look for the latter, people would tell you about the spicy food. Hats (called sombreros), piñatas, cactuses and deserts, tequila of course, and parties of holidays along the year. Also: the cruel practices of sexism and machismo.
Almost all of the common stereotypes about Mexico come from the old movies of the first half of the 20th century, also called the “Golden Era” of Mexican cinema. Films like Viva Zapata! (Dir. Elia Kazan, 1952) and the various tapes of the Mexican Revolution era (1910-1917) introduced to the world ideas of how were Mexicans. These movies also created the bases for the later stereotypes. Machismo was one of the principal characteristics that were showed in the films of that time.
In a scene from Viva Zapata, a military base controlled by Emiliano Zapata is attacked. Women and men for equally defended the base. during the Mexican revolution women participated in the war–they were called the adelitas. Women forced by men to fight against the military army of Mexico. In this scene we understand the role of women during that time, and how machismo was strongly present even in the Mexican cinema.
The idea of the tough and strong man, the only one that gets to go to work in order to sustain the family while the wife stayed at home–taking care of the children, cooking, cleaning and doing the house work. The man that had the right of having more than one woman with him. Man had the “right” to hit his wife in order to control her. Showing any kind of emotion was a sign for men of weakness. Alcohol is the drink of the real man. Crying is for “little girls.” Women, at the same time, are no better than men, and so the list goes on.
But how real is it that machismo? Is it part of the regular life in Mexico? Are those stereotypes false or do they hide a little truth? Is that way of thinking really present in modern life Mexican society? Is Mexico a sexist country?. If we take a shortcut in order to answer the questions above, then “no.” Machismo is not part of the regular life in Mexico. Those stereotypes are false. Mexico is not a sexist country, or not entirely, not in the way the first half of the twentieth century movies depicted it.
Throughout the second half of the last century, Mexico, along with the world, passed through different events. Changing society in terms of politics, rights, ideologies and more. Women and students, primarily, led the movements for change, to get rights, recognition and values. These involved in the decisions that were made for the future of their country. For example, the right to vote was achieved by women in 1953. Those changes created the path for things to be improved. And that included the idea of what means to be a man.
Wars have passed, the world began the introduction into globalization, cultures started to mix. Mexicans realized the toxicity of those actions. The right to hit your wife or have different relationships started to vanish. It began to be seen as a taboo. Men found no problem in showing their emotions nowadays, however, in small towns, rural areas or in conservative families, this is some sort of taboo. The house work no longer belongs only to women; men began to take initiative in taking care of the children and the house activities.
In the final analysis, machismo, as it was depicted years before, is no longer part of Mexican culture; however, other types of sexism still exist in the current modern life. It is important to say that this is not only a problem that happens in Mexico. Other countries, such as the United States, also have these kinds of problems. An example is the “Me too” movement, a campaign that showed that many women had suffered in silence for years.
An stereotype as negative as machismo does not define how is behaved a society of a specific country. If that was the case, many other countries would have a negative reputation only given to their history, but it is important to acknowledge these problems and act against them. There are no bad countries, just a few. There are wrong and confused people that make others feel they exist.