by Nick Baez
A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece describing the relationship strife that can occur due to gender differences in annual earnings, specifically when the female is the primary “breadwinner” of the relationship — a growing trend in the Latino community that has come with the rise in the number of Latina females who are much more likely to attend and graduate college compared to Latino males. The purpose of this piece was to initiate a discussion on the nature of manhood within the Latino community, and how we see this manifest itself across multiple arenas.
I was reminded of the notion of manhood when recently, a couple of male high school students I work with were lamenting the fact that their families were reacting negatively to their recent admission into Ivy League schools. These two students were from South Texas, and their families insisted that they instead attend smaller schools that were “closer to home.” Interestingly enough, these two students told a tale of being shamed by their family members for even considering moving out of state to attend college.
This phenomenon has been described as familismo, or the sense of “strong feelings of loyalty, responsibility, and solidarity within the Latino family unit.” In other words, included in the definition of “manhood” within many parts of the Latino community is this notion that one must put the family above all other desires and wishes, even if those desires include college enrollment into prestigious institutions.
However, consider the gender disparity in educational attainment within the Latino community that I alluded to earlier. As a result, within the clinical environment, I often hear Latinas express frustration at their inability to find many Latinos with whom they can be compatible, either for platonic or romantic relationships. These same females often suggest that “real manhood” is defined by a willingness to become more educated and socially conscious, which invariably comes with educational attainment.
But compare this to yet another definition of “true manhood” that often emerges in the Latino community: the notion that a “real man” does whatever he can to financially provide for his family as soon as possible, even if that means entering the workforce much earlier than normal. When you consider that over 5 million Latinos under age 18 live below the poverty line, this pressure to join the workforce to the detriment of higher educational attainment is amplified.
It is evident from a close examination of the data and trends that the lower incidence of educational attainment among Latino males is not simply due to just “being lazy.” Rather, Latino males are constantly bombarded with conflicting messages about what constitutes “true manhood.” In the face of such conflict, they are left with impossible decisions to make, decisions which usually involve some sort of sacrifice. Collectively, the Latino community must take an active role in thoroughly examining why trends such as these exist. Moreover, if we are to take an active role in shaping the trajectory of various social and economic forces on a global scale, we as a community must be willing to thoroughly examine the concept of “manhood.” We must be willing to redefine and transform what it means to be a man in our community, in order that we may strengthen our international influence and produce generations of upwardly mobile men and women who will take the reins of leadership.
To learn more about Nick, find him on Facebook.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.