By Madeline Asta
‘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. The ‘Green Tide’ brought the issue of abortion to the streets of Argentina, #EleNao spread across social media platforms as women resisted now Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and numerous women fought back against violence through politics. Within the last five years, men have also started taking steps to change this culture. Throughout Brazil, groups and centers aimed at starting dialogue between men about masculinity have developed. The film “O Silêncio dos Homens,” or “The Silence of Men,” was made by Papo de Homem as part of a project to bring awareness and open dialogue surrounding machista culture in Brazil.
“Men are always talking, imposing themselves, interrupting women whenever they talk. They are in places of power. How are men in silence? What I hear most is a man’s voice talking. But there is a difference between talking and actually unveiling oneself […] he talks to maintain an image.”
We recently sat down with Nestor “the Boss” Gomez, host of the storytelling podcast 80 Minutes Around the World and 40-time winner of the Moth Grand Slam.
Nestor, who used to stutter, hails from Guatemala and found his voice after migrating to Chicago, enrolling in high school, and learning to navigate a new culture. Currently, he uses his platform to encourage others to tell their stories.
“Every place, person and thing inspires a different story or poem,” he says.
This Q&A has been lightly edited for clarity.
The Journey North
My childhood was a very hard childhood. I was the second of four siblings. Actually, I’m the second of six. Two of my siblings died when they were very young. We were poor and my family made Guatemalan worry dolls [small cloth figures dressed in traditional Mayan clothing] that we sold at the airport and tourist shops.
By Laura Schroeder
This International Women’s Day, as we applaud the political, economic, cultural, and social advancements of half the population, there is much to celebrate in the Americas.
In the past decade, there has been a striking increase in political and economic participation of women. Promisingly, government and NGO agendas alike are increasingly prioritizing gender equity as a cross-cutting, pressing issue, and slowly, collaboration is leading to progress. In Bolivia, approximately half of the legislative body is female. Paraguay recently passed Act 5777, providing protection against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), outlawing femicide, and providing services to survivors of sexual violence. Originating in Argentina, the #NiUnaMenos movement against sexual harassment and assault has made great headway across several countries, and has been followed by the US-rooted #MeToo movement.
This is not to say that women do not struggle every day to feel safe, be heard, be recognized for their contributions, and be valued in government and society. Indeed, experts maintain that the global gender gap will close in 79 years for Latin America and the Caribbean and 168 in North America.
Despite this, change makers are pushing forward, inspiring us to join them in their pursuits or to honor their legacies. Without further ado, here are some of the many she-roes that have confronted challenges to advance the status of women in the Western hemisphere.
By Laura Schroeder
My Big Confession
I am a reggaetón fan. There, I’ve said it.
Nothing gets me dancing quite like the pulsing bass and seductive hooks of popular reggaetón, and there is nothing like a classic Daddy Yankee or Don Omar track to ignite the dance floor with swinging hips and shuffling feet. Perhaps it’s my fond memories of travels in the Dominican Republic and Peru and my Fulbright year in Colombia that feed my affinity to the genre’s dembow beat and frenetically delivered lyrics. Perhaps it’s simply conducive to dancing.