‘Machismo’. The idea that masculine pride comes from strength and aggression. A concept that is predominantly associated with Latin American culture and customs, but is also prevalent in societies across the globe. Historically and contemporarily, ‘machismo’ is used to justify male sexual, physical, and emotional dominance, primarily over females. It is the stereotype that the man goes to work and makes a living while the woman stays home to take care of children and clean the house, that men do not cry or need help, and that expressing feelings is a sign of weakness. Local, national, and regional feminist movements have been fighting to change these societal roles and customs.
Michael E. Donoghue’s historical study Borderland on the Isthmus: Race, Culture, and the Struggle for the Canal Zone exposes traditionally underrepresented issues in the Panama Canal Zone. The Panama Canal Zone, which encompasses the canal itself, a well-known trade route that splits Panama, also encompasses the surrounding area. This zone was under U.S. control from 1903 to 1979; the canal was returned to Panama in 1999. Donoghue’s book is impressive and particularly strong in its detail concerning themes of race and gender in the Panama Canal Zone.
The 2012 film “Harvest of Empire,” based on the book of the same title by journalist Juan González of Democracy Now, demonstrates how U.S. policy toward Latin America has created political, social, and economic instability in the region. Directed by Peter Getzels and Eduardo López,it discusses the cases of Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. It also addresses the United States’ role in the military and corporate interventions that have triggered mass migration to the United States. Five years later, particularly given President Trump’s recent backing of the RAISE Act, the central theme of the documentary is relevant: anti-immigrant sentiments in the United States reflect a woeful ignorance of the structural forces that have caused millions in Latin America to flee their homes.
With the feminization of labor that has occurred in recent years, it is vital to examine the interplay between labor, gender, and globalization. In the book Disposable Women and Other Myths of Global Capitalism, the human geographer and feminist Melissa W. Wright effectively argues that in today’s global economy, the myth that the third world woman1 is disposable is pervasive. This ethos is tied to a culture of violence that normalizes the mistreatment of women and permits their dismissal and delegitimization in the public sphere. Using ethnographic research and a variety of theoretical frameworks, Wright presents the reader with an intricate and passionate account of the spatialized and corporeal aspects of factory work in the global South. However, a more detailed exploration of how workers perceive their own value and labor as well as a more committed examination of coalition-building and global solidarity would further strengthen her claims.