Growing up in a Latinx household has its pluses and minuses. You likely grew up in a fun, colorful household that celebrated every life event with flair. You might have learned to speak another language or, at the very least, have mastered Spanglish by now. But there’s a dark side to growing up Latino, and that’s the machismo that is still prevalent in our culture.
As Alex Porteé wrote in mitú’s Fierce, every woman has a moment when she realizes that the cards are stacked against her and she is facing sexism. For her, it was a moment that many little Latina girls probably know well:
“I clued into this reality back when I was a kid watching TV on the couch with my twin brother (a.k.a my same aged brother who had no reason for being treated any differently than me). My mother had been in the kitchen when she called me over to clean up. It wasn’t the first time she’d asked for my help with cleaning, but it was the first time I realized I was the only one asked, and that it was total caca that my twin hadn’t been asked as well.”
I remember similar examples in my own childhood. Growing up, I was the older sister who was always tasked with cleaning up and doing everything. When I didn’t (which was rarely), I was grounded and not given my allowance. My little brother, though? He never had to do the dishes night after night or make the bathroom spotless every weekend. In fact, when he did something “bad,” he never had his allowance or video games taken away—it seems that in my machista household, only the girls received punishment. There are other signs, too, such as family always asking about your relationship and pressuring the girls in the family to settle down early (but never the boys).
As an adult, I now realize that this is just how things were and I’ve been able to forge a fierce, independent identity as a proud Latina woman and certainly one who will not allow these same mistakes to happen with my own kids. As my friend Mary Ann recently put it to me: “The good thing is that growing up with [my machista dad] taught me the importance of being in charge of my body and finances. I’m trying to teach my daughter and my son to take care of themselves and to respect the bodily autonomy of others.”
If you suspect that you grew up in a machista household, too, here are 15 ways to tell.
When your father controls all the money.
“He gave my mom an allowance of $100 a week, for groceries and anything else a household of eight might need. He was also a drunk and gambled a lot, so he forced my mom to be frugal but he himself was not. I still can’t wrap my head around that one.” — Charles
“Dad was an alcoholic with poor impulse control who spent money faster than he made it, but yelled at my mother for not doing a better job at keeping the bill collectors off his back.” — Mary Ann