Generally speaking there are a lot more Latina professionals than there are Latino professionals; a topic which has been written about ad nauseum. But what happens when you become a Latino professional and find yourself pursuing a field where, traditionally, more women work in? Often times many perceive a Latino professional as a success story by virtue of simply having a professional degree. However, once the degree is obtained the journey towards success is really just beginning.
I have spent quite a number of years interning, volunteering and working with low-income communities at various social justice organizations. Throughout this time there has been one inescapable observation I have made: I am often the only male or one of few, but almost certainly the only Latino male, there.
Now I could list the many reason why this is, such as: gender roles, lack of opportunity for Latino males, the criminal justice system, the education system, etc – but that would be another article. The fact is inescapable, few Latino men become educated and even fewer go into community work. The truth is, mainly due to societal pressures, educated Latino men are expected to go into the most lucrative career path possible, it is not only a societal construct but a notion highly perpetuated within the Latino community. The man is the provider and the more he amasses financially then the more “successful” he is. While this is the archetypical societal construct, many Latino males are bucking the status quo. Insisting that the term “success” should not exclusively be measured by the heft in your bank account but rather placing just as much emphasis in self-fulfillment in one’s work.
When a Latino professional walks into a community legal clinic, an environment dominated by women, he is often met with a range of emotions. It is as if everyone regresses back to that women’s studies class in college; assuming those two lone guys are there for the obvious reasons. But the effect is even more punctuated in the context of the Latino professional. It is almost as if those perceiving that lone Latino male don’t know what to make of him, as if they’ve just made a big-foot sighting, a Latino professional actually interested in community work? It’s impossible!
We often hear about the disparities between the number of Latino men and Latino women who become professionals. However, we seldom discuss the challenges in perception Latino men sometimes face as the lone Latino male in the room. So the the next time you see that young Latino volunteering or working at your local social justice organization welcome him. You may find that not only did he get there by traveling the road less traveled but got there for the very same reasons you did, wanting to succeed through sell-fulfillment in helping others.
Moises Flores, Guest Contributor