Working effectively with the Latin@ community requires knowledge and understanding of key cultural values. These short vignettes from the life of Freddy, a Latino man, will give you the opportunity to learn and understand some aspects of Latin@ cultures. However, it’s important to remember that not all men are like Freddy and not all of his cultural values are present in the lives of all Latin@s.
After each section, we’ll present a series of questions for reflection to stimulate your learning or conversation with other men (or women).
Freddy will be your guide:
Hello, my name is Freddy, and I live with my parents in West St. Paul, Minnesota. I am 23 years old, single and a senior at the university. I have a stepbrother named Jorge, and he lives with his wife and children in Minneapolis, 20 minutes from my home. I also have many uncles, aunts and cousins in this area. We get together almost every Sunday to have dinner; sometimes there are more than 40 family members gathered at our house.[i]
A few months ago, during one of our Sunday dinners, I realized that my sister-in-law was alone in the kitchen crying. I asked her what was wrong, but she didn’t want to tell me. I told my mother, and they went to the bedroom to talk. Blanca trusts[ii] my mother a lot, and she told her that my brother Jorge had hit her that morning. She said it wasn’t the first time, and that he frequently insulted and degraded her even in front of their children.
When everyone was gone, my mom told my dad and me about the situation. Jorge is my mom’s son from her first husband, and she’s afraid of him because he has a bad temper. My mom asked my dad to talk to Jorge but he said he’d already tried talking to him many times, and besides, this was a private matter between Jorge and Blanca.
Jorge was raised by his father, who is very sexist (machista).[iii] Perhaps that’s where he learned to be very dominating and violent towards women. Luckily my dad isn’t like that. He taught me to be a gentleman[iv] and to respect women. My uncles and cousins are also very respectful and affectionate with my aunts.
I don’t agree with my dad’s reaction that Jorge’s problem is personal and there’s nothing that can be done, but I didn’t want to contradict him in front of my mom.[v], My friend Jack, however, has invited me several times to a men’s group that gets together to talk and organize activities against domestic violence. The truth is that I haven’t wanted to go because I don’t know if there would be other Latinos in the group, but I need to seek help for Jorge and his family. I’m not going to abandon my brother, his wife or their children.
Questions for Reflection:
- How important is family in Freddy’s life? Why?
- What’s your opinion about the fact that Freddy still lives with his parents?
- Why do you think Blanca didn’t want to talk to Freddy but was willing to talk with his mom?
- What do you think of Freddy’s father’s attitude with respect to Jorge?
- What cultural values can you identify at the beginning of the story (without reviewing the notes at the end of the document)?
[i] Family: Family serves as the core support, calling on loyalty and closeness that includes not just the nuclear but also the extended family, and which manifests itself through financial and emotional support.
[ii] Personalism-Trust: Relationships between persons. It’s important that closeness is part of the established relationship. There’s greater loyalty to a person than to an organization.
[iii]Machismo: Can be interpreted as the negative side of masculinity referring to aggression, sexual impulse, seduction, strength, virility, irresponsibility, and control. More positive interpretations align with the valor of caballerismo (see below). Others differentiate between being macho (which could be positive) and machista (which is always negative).
[iv]Caballerismo: The positive side of Latino masculinity, which includes having the power to make decisions, trust in oneself, safety, responsibility, respect, solidarity, courage, and valor.
[v] Respect: Obedience to authority figures, adults, senior citizens, and family, as well as the treatment of professionals seen as experts.