You might have heard of it in passing, or might have experienced it directly, but what in fact is machismo, and where does it come from? Male behavior in Latin America and the Caribbean has been a constant topic of conversation relative to male/female relationships, and the concept of machismo has been the driving force with which to understand those behaviors. In understanding the Dominican perspective we must look at the origins of machismo in relation to the images of masculinity in the Dominican Republic.

Machismo is defined as a strong sense of masculine pride, or exaggerated exertion of masculinity, or male-like qualities. It is derived from the Spanish word macho, literally meaning male or masculine, and through time it has come to be the defining characteristic for males in Latin America. This umbrella term has become the definition, and ultimately the justification, for all acts by males. Masculinity has three main contexts in which it can be understood. It is anything that men say, think, or do and more detailed it is whatever men say, think, or do in order to distinguish themselves as men. Masculinity is, finally, how men understand themselves in relation to women, but doesn’t equate women to the value of men.

The idea of machismo is somewhat vague because it is ultimately so deeply rooted in the behaviors of men and women in the Dominican Republic. What some might consider as machista behavior, here in the Dominican Republic it is seen as normal, by both men and women, because it has been a part of cultural make up for so many years. Everything from the way in which men act, how they dress, how they interact with each other, or women, the roles that women play, and the opinions men hold, are ultimately defined by an unwritten code of behavior known as machismo. But the term, and the related behaviors, are failed concepts here in the Dominican Republic for the simple reason that when speaking of their behaviors men don’t label it as “machismo,” rather as just the way men are supposed to behave. The term, in Latin America, has only recently been introduced as a way to understand the behavior, therefore it is only few within the society who can step outside of the context and see what the behaviors imply. Machismo in the Dominican Republic manifests itself in a variety of ways. Each situation in which machismo is present provides a deeper understanding of how Dominican society plays itself out.

In keeping with the machista attitude, Dominican males view themselves as conquistadores (conquerors), of women. It is a fun game they play to see how many women they can actually “conquer.” Each woman they are able to claim is added as a notch to their belts, which elevates their status as male. The smooth demeanor of Dominican males is carefully orchestrated, with each line, each smile, and each joke, purposefully and carefully delivered to his next conquest. The aggressiveness of Dominican males can be overwhelming to newcomers to the country, but it has become expected by their female counterparts here. The acceptable nature of this adds to the continued behavior.

In traditional Dominican households women are expected to play the submissive housewife role. Though this has changed in the last twenty years due to a variety of reasons, the traditional point of view is that a woman is to be a child bearer and care for her husband’s needs in every way. She cooks, cleans, keeps house, cares for the children, and puts her husband’s needs above hers. If she is an educated career woman she is to put her career aside in order to support her husband’s career, and her voice within family decisions is silenced in the presence of her husband’s. Moreover, extramarital affairs are extremely common within the Dominican Republic, as men feel it is their right, and in some cases their duty as men, to seek the companionship of other women. But women don’t have this same right. A man who is seen with multiple partners is viewed as manly and strong, but a woman who has multiple partners is viewed as easy.
  Next Page -->