MACHO MAN: DEALING WITH MACHISMO
By David Eidell (08/2008)
Much like not looking up when a seagull passes overhead, avoiding a Mexican Macho becomes automatic and indeed un-noticed after awhile. Indeed, this article was created in an attempt to allow a brief insider's glimpse and a few ways to eliminate the inconvenience altogether.
The "Macho" culture revolves around a perception of a need for some males to over emphasize their perceived attributes of gender. To be blunt, being "Macho" means little more than filling ones self with a high-octane load of B.S. It has taken me years to sit down and express my views about this topic. Others have written about it, and I am going to try to present it from my viewpoint.
I am not Sigmund Freud, nor am I a lettered Anthropologist or Historian; so I am going to leave out the possible origins and history of "Machismo" for someone else to include in a more scholarly work. For the contents of this article I am hoping that you will take my word for it. I have no figures to prove it but perhaps less than a third of Mexican males suffer from the "Super-Male-Ego-Malady". But there are three proving-grounds in Mexican society that seem to provoke the Macho whether he wants to reveal his stripes or not:
A typical Macho drives a motor vehicle as if he was the living Latin embodiment of Evel Knievel. "Cars must be passed, rights-of-way must be won, and being-first is not good enough" may sum it all up. Since many Machos really believe that a plastic statue of their favorite saint, glued onto the dashboard, will protect them, tangling with a Macho on a roadway will only lead to certain disaster. I refrain from leaning on the horn, extending a tell-all digit or screaming when dealing with a Macho---they're usually out of sight in a few seconds and my take is that not even a good bash over the head with a two-by-four would do the slightest good. A list of possible Macho drivers includes those piloting huge diesel semis and buses. And don't forget taxi drivers! On the road, Machos are nothing more or less than bad drivers anyway.
Unlike our culturally civilized consumption of a cocktail or two before dinner, the Macho doesn't drink every day, or to put it more correctly, not necessarily every week as a rule. But the Macho will wander to a local "Cantina" (more on this in a moment) and sit down with a bottle and start-in; anyone who makes eye-contact after that is a candidate for an overly sincere invitation to sit down and "Have A Drink". A starkly accurate translation for "Sit down and have a drink" is: "Please sit down for the duration; we are going to drink up all the money in my pocket and then we are going to start in on your money". This could lead to all day and night drinking, a possible trek to the local house of ill-repute (where there will be even more drinking of incredibly expensive alcohol). All the while the Macho will be bragging about exploits, some real, most imagined. He will see fit to challenge your sense of Machismo with offers, questions and open doubts about whatever you wish to offer as your experiences.
CANTINAS: North of the border a "Cantina" is a contrivance made up of equal parts bar, some serapes, sombreros and perhaps some bull fight posters on the wall, and a bar menu made up of Tequila Sunrises, Nachos, and a dare to drink Mescal.
In Mexico a genuine Cantina is purely male. Any woman daring to enter (even in the company of a man) will be regarded at worst as a "Puta (prostitute)" and at best a loose woman. An ancient jukebox turned up so loud as to create pure distortion will be blaring out mournful lamentations of lost love, unfaithful women or just plain bad luck. This may be the perfect environment for a wounded Macho to retreat to---the traditional cantina reeks of disrepair and little hope.
A few years ago I conducted a risky impromptu experiment: I walked into a genuine cantina in the heart of Mazatlan, which of course caused all the Macho faces including the bartender to turn toward me with wonder at the possibility of having a foreigner indulge one of the locals in a "Borrachera (an extended drinking session). Instead I wandered up to the bartender and asked in a somewhat loud voice "My doctor said that because of my medicines I could not drink more than one drink a day or it would kill me. Is it possible to order just one cold beer?" The barkeep knitted his eyebrows and nodded. Of course he was not educated in the strange ways of gringos but no matter what serving this man one drink would certainly not upset the order. As a sipped my ice-cold beer I could feel the eyes of other patrons sizing me up. I hurried up and set the bottle on the bar. As I turned and made my way out, a man sitting nearby asked "Señor, are you very certain your doctor did not mean two?"
MACHOS AND WOMEN
To the traditional Macho, a woman is regarded as being little different than a prized wristwatch, a glittering monster pickup truck, or a mansion on a hill---she is a possession to be jealously guarded and cheated on (repeatedly and often if possible). North American women visitors have little good to say about approaching the Golden Age and beyond but one good point is that the "propios (racy com-ons)" hisses, and even groping are sharply reduced. Women alone are supposedly "fair game" to the macho. Mexican women go out into public with friends, their children or someone, but very seldom alone. Adolescent girls are chaperoned in Mexico---this is something that hasn't changed over the years. If young girls are part of your group it may be wise to hold a group session including adult women and try to explain why they can't just "take off on their own". Thankfully the ambiance in smaller villages is definitely "safer" than it is in larger towns and cities. Whistles and catcalls seldom lead to physically aggressive behavior by the macho but I don't believe a naive thirteen-year-old girl is the place to prove or disprove this point. Some Machos pretend that they don't have a clue as to how to tell a "foreign" minor from an adult woman. The safest course is to inform the ladies, from 12 to 30 years old, that they will be most comfortable in town in loose non-revealing clothing. Teens should refrain from wearing makeup, lipstick, and other adornments not associated with like-age Mexican youth. No matter how urgent the catcalls they must be ignored. Responding to catcalls in any fashion, even with curses, and an upraised middle-finger is seen as a "not-really-no" response.
Mexican boys five years and younger may occasionally be seen running around in their birthday suit. But if a same-age girl should do it, it will cause a scandal. Some Mexican women will become irate about this and if you should encounter a well-meaning gringo family that allows it, you should whisper a word to the wise. In fact some women will call the cops if they get worked up enough about it.
MEXICANS ARE SELF AWARE ABOUT THE MACHO CULTURE
There's even a saying about macho braggadocio: "If no one would believe him if he claimed to own an airplane, then he will say that he knows someone that has two".
Bragging is an almost infallible tattle-tale that the person is a macho. In a warped sense of honor, any challenge to a braggart's outrageous claim must be dealt with immediately according to the macho code. This is a losing pathway no matter what the eventual outcome. Drunken machos have perished by the thousands in Mexico in "do-or-die" foolhardiness. "Just let me pass car number thirteen (in the fog)" would be one example. The list is seemingly endless as well as pointless. If I find myself in the presence of a macho, I look at my wristwatch and exclaim "Oh my gosh I have to run home and take my heart medicine". I regard encountering a macho much like I would to encounter a swarm of mosquitoes---I hurry off. Stifle any urge to tell the braggart to "Stuff It" or exclaim "You're as full of it as a Christmas goose". Just like the advice to young women above, the best response is none at all.
A couple of years ago I found myself in the presence of a particularly obnoxious macho that I had to deal with like it or not. I let my temper get the best of me. So while his employees listened in glee I proceeded to take him apart at the seams. At one point I had two of the five employees lying on the patio pounding their fists on the concrete laughing to the point of causing tears to stream down their cheeks. This went on for over an hour. I took liberties because I sensed that the man was so drunk and unsophisticated that he would not fathom my "Doble Enterdres" insinuations and other character assassination. In the end, I got hoarse his men wobbled away weak-kneed and the subject didn't have a clue. What a waste of time!