Machismo In Sandra Cisnero’s Woman Hollering Creek

In every ethnic culture, there is always a standard that men are supposed to uphold. Sometimes, this standard isn’t so popular to have in certain cultures. Sandra Cisnero’s novel titled Woman Hollering Creek and Other Short Stories exposes this cultural belief that all Latin American men should be aggressive and be proud to be considered masculine. This term is referred to as Machismo, and it portrays men being superior to women. Cisneros mentions several male characters that display this idea of Machismo, and both reinforces and challenges the role of men displaying toxic masculinity. There are different stories throughout the book where some of the women are treated horribly and harmed. It really allows the reader to learn about the traditional roles that women were supposed to follow through with, while being treated like garbage. There are certain stories, like One Holy Night, Woman Hollering Creek, La Fabulosa: A Texas Operetta, and Never Marry a Mexican, further dive into why these beliefs are such a common perception in the Latin American culture. This exposure to Machismo is significant because it shows how these attributes cause so much damage within a culture, and how men and women deal with these stereotypes.

In the Mexican culture, there are specific standards that Mexican women and men should uphold in the family. Cisneros addresses this idea of Machismo in different stories to show that it can be present in almost any situation. Eloisa Tamez wrote the article “Familism, Machismo and Child Rearing Practices Among Mexican Americans” and talked about the role of Machismo among Mexican Americans. She talks about what a real man of machismo was supposed to be, and not what it is meant today. Tamez specifically talks about how men value having power because it meant that they were more reliable and more intelligent than women. She stated that “the most common anxiety is associated with loss of power and fear of failure in his masculine role behavior.' This is where negative extremes of machismo focus on this power in self centeredness, and violence used to maintain power through fear. This reason is why women must accept abuse without complaint and avoid resentment for affairs.Cisneros might have exploited this topic of Machismo to show how much power some men are allowed to have on women. As a result, this can draw questions of why Machismo is solely based for Hispanic men and why not other ethnicities.

Other cultures have their own gender role stereotypes for men and women, but many of them do not have a word to describe a man who treats women poorly or highly values their masculinity. It is true that men of other ethnicities have a form of Machismo, but it is not heavily as prominent in their culture as much as Mexicans. According to Laura Paz’s article “'Nobody's Mother and Nobody's Wife': Reconstructing Archetypes and Sexuality in Sandra Cisneros' ‘Never Marry a Mexican’”, she discusses the traditional gender roles that are within Mexican society. Paz states “some believe it is deeply fixed in Mexican culture and defines it; others believe it is a myth created by the colonizers to stigmatize the rebellion of Mexicanos; others believe it has lost its importance over the years...Thus, the pressure society places on the male's gender role directly correlates with how he in turn relates to women, forming a vicious circle of expectations and categorizations.” This shows that men do have some sort of pressure to live up to the stereotype. It appears that men must be stigmatized in order to feel accepted by their cultures. It could be seen that they aren’t manly enough, so they must demonstrate this tough and aggressive exterior in order to have control. The claim that most Hispanic men are seen to have this mindset is much more recognized than other cultures. It may be due to the fact that there are so many cases of men from Mexican families that agree to having this Machismo nature. If someone asks a Mexican woman about Machismo, they would probably agree that it is something that is talked about and understood. It seems as if a lot of Mexican families are aware of this word, and see it is a typical behavior in men. It’s sad to know that these behaviors are still present in society today. One of the major occurences seen in machismo is they have are seen to be charismatic, but in the worst way.

The short story titled “One Holy Night” focuses on the character of Ixchel, an eighth grader who lives with her grandmother and falls in love with a guy named Chaq, but he refers to himself as Boy Baby. They meet when Ixchel was selling cucumbers from her family pushcart. He prides himself over his Mayan heritage and claims he is the descendant of Mayan kings. He then continues to seduce her, and she eventually goes to his room. Boy Baby shows her his gun collection of “Rifles and pistols, one rusty musket, a machine gun, and several tiny weapons with mother-of-pearl handles that looked like toys. So you’ll see who I am...But I didn’t want to know.” The fact that she “didn’t want to know” who Boy Baby really proves that she is actually scared to find out what kind of man he was since they barely knew each other. Instead of connecting the many warning signs that Boy Baby was a dangerous man, she would rather continue this relationship despite not knowing his background. He shares with Ixchel of the time his father took him to the Temple of the Magician and forced him to promise that he would “bring back the ancient ways.” They end up having sex because he convinces her his the birth of his future son will be the answer to bringing his people back. The next day, it’s shown that he leaves her behind. It is discovered that Baby Boy was thirty seven years old, and he was not actually of Mayan heritage. She still claims to be in love with him, even though it’s found that he was arrested from newspaper clippings that read “the Caves of the Hidden Girl...eleven female bodies...the last seven years…”. So not only was he a liar, but he was also a murderer. Baby Boy showed many signs of Machismo, but Ixchel remained to be in love with him. Although she got lucky that there wasn’t relationship to maintain with him, some women had to face it every day of their lives from their husbands.

“Woman Hollering Creek” is the main story of this novel, since this is the title of the book. This story focuses on the relationship between Cleofilas and Juan Pedro. Before they got married, Cleofilas’ father gave permission for Juan to marry his daughter and to move out of Mexico with him. However, he already had serious doubts that their marriage would be a failure and she would come back to him. Even Cleofilas was too excited with the news that she “would not remember her father’s parting words until later. I am your father, I will never abandon you.” This statement is seen as one of the only positive forms of Machismo throughout the book. In “Fathering Across the Border: Latino Fathers in Mexico and the U.S.”, Brent Taylor and Andrew Behnke develop research to understand the parenting styles and values of Latino fathers on both sides of the Mexican/U.S. border. Despite Machismo being portrayed in a negative connotation within Latin American cultures, others have come to view it in a more positive light. They are defined as men with 'true bravery or valor, courage, generosity, stoicism, heroism, and ferocity.” The traditional roles related to machismo are opening new, growing roles like the involved father and the family man. Cisneros decided to portray this love between father and daughter in terms of loyalty, implying that it can never go bad and that it can last forever. Although, the beginning of her story indicates the trouble that will come sooner or later for Cleofilas.

While Cleofilas tries to focus on the positives of this relationship, nothing will change the fact that Juan shows major signs of Machismo. One of these traits of Machismo is violence towards women. Juan ends up hitting Cleofilas physically for the first time, and Cleofilas doesn’t attempt to protect herself. She had vowed to herself that she would fight a man back if he ever laid his hands on her, but she allowed him to hurt her. This shows how much Cleofilas thought of him as the perfect man that would never do something like this to her. She began to think of her father and what he had told her, but she knew it would be a mistake to go back home proving her father’s instincts. She still takes care of the house and delivers a son, Juan Pedrito. His work is very low status and isn’t enough for the minimal standard of life. By the time she is pregnant with another child, he continues to hurt her repeatedly as a way of dealing with his resentment and powerlessness. As their relationship continues to get worse, she realize that this marriage does not have the passion she expected. Juan is also appeared to be an alcoholic, a common trait in Machismo men. Cisneros analyzes this toxic quality in terms of how men avoid communicating with their wives and instead tend towards violence and alcohol. It’s fair to assume that he cannot articulate his emotions well, which is why he turns to violence in a fearful attempt to express himself and accept the fact that he has emotions.

16 December 2021
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