“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” -Nelson Mandela
Fear has always been prevalent in everyone’s life. Whether you are a child to when you mature. If we never overcome fear then it sticks with us throughout our everyday life, in our every moment. Fear if not, conquered, is like a sticky piece of gum that sticks on your shoe, the more you walk the more you feel it underneath your shoe. The more you try to take it off the more mess you make if you don’t take it off in one fell swoop. As children we fear monsters, we fear the dark, we fear our parents leaving us alone anywhere especially in a supermarket. When we grow to be adults we fear taxes, bills, not providing for our families; different fears culminate in our everyday life. As we see in the novel by Cristina Henriquez, “The Book of Unknown Americans,” that fear has been brought up between many of the characters decisionmaking. It is the fear of “Machismo” or masculinity that is prevalent in Latino cultures. “ Variations of what is generally perceived as machismo and conventional conceptions of masculinity popularized in the White/European American society are predominantly associated with Latinos in general and with Mexicans and Mexican Americans in particular”( Torres, et al). When we think of “machismo” we automatically associate it with Latino men. We are going to see how this fear of Machismo makes an immense impact on the characters of the novel and how it is also in the lives of many Latino families.
First of all, “machismo” has been cultivated through many cultures and traditions starting from the roots traced back to Spain (Torres, et al). “First, a historical view relevant to the roots of machismo asserts that it evolved from attitudes and behaviors emerging from Spain and carried over to other societies (i.e., Mexico). Its particular roots and development toward a benevolent sexism ideology are traced to the quixotic idealism and the distinctive cult of chivalry that developed in the Iberian peninsula, an idealism and a culture that viewed males as strong warriors and protectors of womanhood . Historically, the concept of machismo and its derivation has been identified with the Spanish word macho, a term that describes a male animal or specific types of hardware related to husbandry . The term was anglicized into a descriptive concept for Latino men and Latino male behavior, and from this Spanish word came the term now used almost universally to capture a set of caricature-like hypermasculinity behaviors: machismo” (Torres, et al). So according to, Torres, et al, the roots of “machismo” has been traced back to Spain which brought it to all the other Latino countries. It shows that the root word for the term is “macho.” We see this characteristics in chapter three of Henriquez’s novel with the character Rafael Toro describing his childhood, or early cultivation of “machismo.” “I thought that was how a man behaved, so when I got upset, even as a young boy, I would throw things or kick the wall. I had a terrible temper. After my father died, when I was thirteen, it only got worse. Because then I really had something to be angry about.That’s what the man is supposed to do.(Henriquez Chp 3- Rafael Toro) We read here how Rafael grew up and how he saw in his own perspective how “men” were supposed to act. In many Latino families , including my own, we can see this very perspective that Henriquez was portraying with this specific character, Many Latino parents would act very dominantly and do many actions to make their audiences, normally their families, view them as the head of the family. Latinos grow up thinking that the way our fathers are acting is the way we should be as well. That we need to embody all the traits of what it really means to be a man. “ Historically, the male-gender socialization process and popular perspectives on masculinity have emphasized such traits as assertiveness; concerns about and obsession with achieving status, power, and control at any cost; individualism; aggression, toughness, competition, and winning; rigid self-sufficiency, an adventure seeking nature, willingness to take risks; and stoicism and an emotionally restricted nature constituted to avoid all things, actions, and reactions that are potentially “feminine” (Torres, et al). Basically we need to be the very definition of what it means to be a man. Consequently this sort of behavior and upbringing flows to the next generation, normally through maltreatment of children. “In the United States, it is estimated that over a million children are maltreated every year” (Nikulina, et al).
Henriquez, Cristina. The Book of Unknown Americans : A Novel. Vintage, 2014. Vintage Contemporaries. EBSCOhost,chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?