Machismo and Geographies of Hope

Carlos Adams

[1] To mention machismo and hope in the same sentence conjures up images of extreme contradictions.  The ways in which machismo constructs hegemonic structures for the acquisition and maintenance of male power leaves little room to connect this oppressive and unearned power to geographies of hope.  Though the definition of machismo differs depending on a Chicano or Latino location in society, the two general constructions of machismo—good or bad, macho or machista, honorable or dishonorable—provide the foundations from where Chicanos and Latinos define their masculinities.  In either definition, the hegemonic structures that construct and enforce different power relationships maintain, for Chicanos, a privileged position above Chicanas.  Likewise, geographies of hope reflect the possibilities of constructing power structures meant for cooperation rather than for domination.  Geographies of hope seem as distant from the materiality of machismo as to suggest that hope resides in a different landscape than machismo.  As Erich Fromm states, "Hope is a decisive element in any attempt to bring about social change in the direction of greater aliveness, awareness, and reason" (6).

[2] Recently, Chicanos, such as myself, have begun to undertake this journey towards the geographies of hope in our discussions about our masculinity.  After a couple of decades of critical Chicana feminist thought, Chicanos have finally begun to listen more intently to the ways in which Chicanas expressed how their realties are influenced by the oppressive nature of machismo.  In this act of communication Chicanos attempt to enter into a dialogue with Chicanas as they have come to realize, on some levels at least, the importance of Paulo Freire's connection between hope and dialogue: "Nor...can dialogue exist without hope.  Hope is rooted in men's [or women's] incompletion, from which they move out in constant search—a search that can be carried out only in communication with others.  Hopelessness is a form of silence, of denying the world and fleeing from it" (Oppressed 72).  In their attempts to come to a fuller understanding of machismo, Chicanos moved away from hopelessness by accepting Gloria Anzaldúa's invitation in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza to meet her halfway in the development of a new consciousness.  By incorporating Chicana theoretical perspectives into discussions about machismo, a meeting ground is created whereby Chicanos can join with Chicanas to begin a critical dialogue about the mapping process employed when attempting to make the critical connections between machismo and geographies of hope.

[3] In order to locate Chicanos' work on machismo within the terrians of hope, I enter into a discussion on the concept of hope.  Critical exploration of the definitions of hope in order to understand and incorporate this key ingredient when attempting foundational change is lacking.  Hope has become a universal given, as has its counterpart hopelessness.  Hope's universality often distorts its meaning in such a way as to allow people to think that "they are very active are not aware of the fact that they are intensely passive in spite of their 'busyness'" (Fromm 12).  This inclusion of hope into discussions about machismo provides another connection, perhaps the key connection, for Chicanos to redefine machismo and connect with Chicanas in order to construct new and imaginative futures.

[4] In order to map the geographies of hope critically, I premise my discussion upon the idea that hope is an intrinsic element in the constructions of imagined possibilities; as Ewert H. Cousins states, "Without the 'art of the possible,' 'the art of hope' becomes the opium of the people.  A political theory of hope must thus join its vision of the future with the research into what is possible today and relate both to human beings for whose hope it wants to be accountable" (92).  For Chicanos to explore their masculinity without understanding how hope is involved with this endeavor, ultimately defeats their attempts to understand machismo and, more importantly, ultimately defeats any attempts Chicanos might imagine to realize their desire to build a future along side Chicanas.

[5] Historically, hope's relationship to the symbolism of time and future is framed around two forms of consciousness: the utopian and the eschatological. Cousins explains the difference between the two forms of consciousness when he states that "The utopian future is projected as another time in history; the eschatological future deals with the final fulfillment end of history" (43).  The distinction between the two forms of consciousness is that the utopian relies upon various ways in which hope is embedded in the near future—a future that can be incrementally seen from the present.  On the other hand, the eschatological relies upon various ways in which hope is embedded into the distant future—a future that can be imagined but not seen from the present.

[6] The actualization of a utopian or eschatological consciousness relies, in part, upon an individual or collective's "vivid vision of the possibilities of historical existence" (Cousins 10).  Hope lacks agency without this connection to history.  Its materiality is reduced to some form of post-modern illusion.  Gustavo Gutiérrez makes this point clear when he states that, "The hope which overcomes death must be rooted in the heart of historical praxis; if this hope does not take shape in the present to lead it forward, it will be only an evasion, a futuristic illusion" (124).  Therefore, the agency needed to see beyond the illusions constructed by various hegemonies must derived from the various locations found within the present and "should include political and economic elements," while realizing that "ultimately the locus of reality and value is in the individual entities" (Cousins 10).  Thus, the involvement of the individual and the collective in the making of history is enacted through historical praxis that projects outwards from the local.  Hope, therefore, not only coalesces time but also an individual's or a collective's agency.  Hope breaks apart the restraints of time in its linear form, connects people to their historical praxis, and opens up possibilities for new and imaginative futures.

[7] In addition to hope's relationship to time and historical praxis, the two primary agencies—passive or active— found within hope are other key elements to consider.  The ways in which an individual or a collective internalizes and then employs either agency combines three key elements: first, the inner self, imagination; second, the external self, actualization, and, finally, the resulting effect of the two, realization.  In its active state, each element needs to be vigorously attended to, constantly scrutinized, and open to critique.  In its passive state, hope's agency becomes subverted and misleading.  It requires little or no attention, resists scrutiny, and ignores critiques.

[8] Hope, in its active state, becomes a force filled with the energy derived from the individual or collective and allows for these energies to coalesce into one dynamic force that actively seeks out the desired future.  On the other hand, the ability of passive hope to actualize the imagined future becomes subverted through "the disguise of phrase making and adventurism, of disregard for reality, and of forcing what cannot be forced" (Fromm 8).  The agency of passive hope is manipulated to serve the needs of the dominant collective.  Hope becomes disconnected from the individual or collective in the most need of hope.  And once the agency of hope becomes passive so does the agency of the individual or collective.

[9] Freire describes what occurs within the individual or collective when either enters into the terrains of passive or active hope: "Hope, however, does not consist in crossing one's arms and waiting.  As long as I fight, I am moved by hope; and if I fight with hope, then I can wait.  As the encounter of women and men seeking to be more fully human, dialogue cannot be carried on in a climate of hopelessness" ("Oppressed," 73).  Therefore, according to Freire, the dialogue needed to allow for active hope to incorporate the imagination, the actualization, and the realization of an imaginative future occurs only when arms are uncrossed.  The defensive posture, the crossing of arms initiates, loses its potency and, in doing so, loses its control over inhibiting the dialogue occurring among different individuals and collectives.

[10] An example of what can occur when arms are uncrossed can be seen in Hector Carbajal's call to his joto brothers to break their silence.  He locates himself within geographies of hope and discusses the beginning paths from where to maneuver around in these geographies: "First, we need to examine ourselves and develop a language.  Then, we can return home and talk to our families" (52).  In this way Carbajal not only addresses his joto brothers but all Chicanos.  This examination of ourselves— in order to develop a new language before returning home—is the direction to a development of masculinity constructed beyond the colonially imposed construction of good and bad machismo.  In this way our paths towards geographies of hope must move away in order to return.  Hope becomes that ingredient needed to sustain Chicanos as they venture away from the geographies of hopelessness found in their discussions about machismo.  Hope is no longer an abstract principle to be manipulated but develops its own materiality able to resist manipulation.  In the uncrossing of one's arms, hope can be an ingredient only if and only when the uncrossing of arms is done in order to stretch out and connect with other arms.  The uncrossing of arms is not done in order to flail them about wildly through the air, nor is it done to push others down, nor to grab on to old oppressive patterns.  The uncrossing of arms is done to move beyond imposed/imposing silence to reach out because, as Carbajal states, "when we touch and run through one another, we are saved and born on and through bridges" (53).

[11] As a way to map Chicanos' discussions about their relationship to machismo and machismo's relationship to geographies of hope, I begin with Ray González's anthology, Muy Macho: Latino Men Confront Their Manhood.  The writers included in the anthology confront their positionality within the larger Mexicano/Anglo societies as well as their positionality within the smaller social geographies of community and family.  Within their discussions, the three elements of hope, as discussed earlier, become apparent and provide an opportunity to see if the writers are active or passive in the connections they make between machismo and geographies of hope.

[12] At the end of his introduction González provides a description of the movement the writers in the anthology hope to initiate in their exploration of machismo:

By admitting there are spiritual and emotional places to go beyond gang brotherhood, or the stereotype of the Latin lover, these writers have enlarged the personal environment in which men like themselves can thrive in, as well as a new perspective on the state of American manhood. (xx)

To break away from the suffocating atmosphere imposed upon them by generations of patriarchal hegemonic structures, the writers position themselves as teachers of a "new" machismo.  In doing so, they confront various issues surrounding machismo, such as the definitions of honor that formulate their relationships, the silences that influence them, and their connections to the feminine.

[13] In his introduction, editor Ray González states that "Muy Macho... is the first book by Latino male writers to address how they see themselves as men within the concept of what it means to be 'macho'" (xiii).  With this statement González positions the text as a beginning, a departure point from where multiple paths of exploration of machismo can occur, and adheres to Homi Bhabha's idea of the text. As Bhabha explains, "the performative structure of the text reveals a temporality of discourse that I believe is significant.  It opens up a narrative strategy for the emergence and negotiation of those agencies of the marginal, minority, subaltern, or diasporic that incite us to think through-- and beyond-- theory" (181).  González's performative aspect of the text posits the writers as teachers of a "new" machismo and thus challenges the historical materiality of machismo where "the essence of what maleness means remains largely unchanged across time" (Anaya 59).  The performative structure of the text reflects an attempt to make connections to the essence of machismo.  The writer's performative actions reveal hope to build towards the goal of recovering and redefining this essence.  In order to do so, Chicanos must acknowledge Freire's idea of how this can be accomplished: "It is important that we take critical ownership of the information of ourselves, which socially and gradually, over time, become active and conscious, speaking, reading, and writing, and which are both inherently and socially constructed" (Letters 24).  Thus, the performative aspect of the text should not only contain narratives, depictions and analysis of machismo but should also contain a critical approach that attempts to disrupt and transform machismo's historical materiality.

[14] The writers— as teachers— seek to locate their work within the geography of hope in contrast to the geography of hopelessness because "Hope, as it happens, is so important for our existence, individual and social, that we must take every care not to experience it in a mistaken form, and thereby allow it to slip toward hopelessness and despair" (Freire, Hope, 9).  This tentative relationship among the various forms of hope, mistaken or not, is one of the keys to developing the processes needed to obtain the goal of changing the ideological structures of machismo.  Therefore, it is imperative that we Chicanos address the ways in which our investigations into machismo reside within the multiplicities of hope.  How, in our writings, do we critically challenge our perceptions of machismo?  Do we, as Chicanos, understand the nature of critical investigation when it comes to gender issues?  Have we developed a critical as well as a criticizing approach that allows us to move into those cracks of hegemonic patriarchal structures from our "side of the fence" so to speak?  Is our work insightful enough to provide for the possibility of hope?  Do the writers in the anthology critically challenge "machismo" and move beyond hegemonic patriarchal structures to provide for new geographies of hope?  These questions and many more lie at the heart of my hope for this article.  I map how the writers featured in the anthology locate themselves in relationship to hope.  I argue that more often than not these writers reinscribed machismo and, therefore, they are co-opted by their own patriarchal ideologies.  In doing so they prevent themselves from effectively mapping geographies of hope and often map mistaken forms of hope.

[15] The geographies of hope embedded in the text demand more than locating the investigations into machismo in relationship to hope but must move towards praxis in order to subvert the hegemonic structures of machismo.  It is no longer enough to speak of a "new" machismo; Chicanos must also understand the need to provide ways in which readers can incorporate a new understanding of machismo into their daily activities.  Freire states that "Hope is an ontological need" (Hope, 8) and "as an ontological need, hope needs practice in order to become historical concreteness" (Hope, 9).  This process of identifying how hope can be an agent for change allows for the identification of those paths leading towards hopelessness and allows warning signs to be posted that read hopelessness "paralyzes us, immobilizes us.  We succumb to fatalism, and then it becomes impossible to muster the strength we absolutely need for a fierce struggle that will re-create the world" (Hope, 8).  The struggle that awaits Chicanos— has always awaited them— is how to address machismo in ways that produce foundational and structural change: the change that prevents power from collapsing into domination, that prohibits addressing machismo in its totality, and that constrains any attempt at forming coalitions with women in order to dismantle machismo.

[16] As teachers of a "new" machismo, the writers contribute to one of the text's performative structure(s) by considering the essence of what it means to be macho.  The essence often raised in the anthology is located in what González states is undiscovered territory for Chicanos.  He says that "for the first time, Latino men go beyond more dramatic and familiar testimonies of ex-gang members and pintos (ex-cons), or the success stories of 'having escaped the barrio for a better life,' to make statements about self-identity" (xvi).  The narratives and essays in the anthology attempt to define this "natural" essence in order to bring about the change they say is needed to deconstruct the ways machismo operates.  Thus, the performative structure(s) within the anthology contain elements of hope as "we [Chicanos and Latinos] take critical ownership of the information of ourselves," and when we come to understand how this information has "socially and gradually, over time, become active and conscious, speaking, reading, and writing...." (Freire, Letters, 24), then we will begin to produce those ideologies that maintain, as much as any ideology can, elements of the hope needed for concrete change.  The performative structure(s) of the text should not only contain the hope embedded in the intended goals of breaking the "cult of silence" and the processes needed in obtaining those goals but should also contain a critical approach that attempts to disrupt and transform historical materiality.

[17] The text's offer of hope for a new paradigm, a new set of processes used by the teachers/learners to expose the ways machismo's power relationships are produced and reproduced must understand, as Henry Giroux suggests,

What is at stake here is forging a notion of power that does not collapse into a form of domination, but is critical and emancipatory, which allows students to both locate themselves in history and to critically, not slavishly, appropriate the cultural and political codes of their own and other traditions. (138)

In order to prevent their writings from "collaps[ing] into a form of domination" the writers need to consider the impact of the production and reproduction of machismo.  This consideration allows the reader to position him or herself within the historical while simultaneously infusing a critical position that allows the writer and reader to form a dialectical relationship of mutual and critical investigation.  This positioning of the writers, the text, and the reader acts either to begin transmission of the ways to position Chicanos and Latinos as agents of social change or to regress into reproducing agents of a traditional patriarchal hierarchy.  As agents of active hope or passive hopelessness.

[18] As a text intended to teach a "new" machismo, Muy Macho can be seen as a performative way to consider that "Young men acting contrary to the good of their community have not yet learned the real essence of maleness" (Anaya 59).  Implicit in this statement is the relationship honor has to what is defined as good for the community.  With this statement, the ways honor influences the perception of self in relationship to social structures and other individuals opens the door for further examination.

[19] Anaya addresses issues of honor, which plays an important role in the construction of male-defined family spaces:

In the villages and barrios of New Mexico when I was growing up, being manly (hombrote) meant having a sense of honor.  The intangible of the macho image is that sense of honor.  A man must be honorable, for himself and for his family.  There is honor on the family name.  Hombrote also means providing for the family.  Men of honor were able to work with the other men in communal enterprises.  They took care of the politics of the village, law and order, the church, the acequia, and the old people. (67)

Yet, his definition of honor maintains traditional roles within the family, such as the ways women have been relegated to the private spaces within the home and the man is allowed access to the public arena.  Nowhere is this discussion of honor is there a space for women.  It is almost as though Anaya unknowingly subscribes to Paz's ideas on the role of women: "Woman should be secretive.  She should confront the world with an impassive smile.  She should be 'decent' in the face of erotic excitements and 'long-suffering, in the face of adversity" (36).  For Paz, as well as Anaya, honor for women resides in their silence while honor for men takes place with their active participation and expression.

[20] Anzaldúa also raises this issue of honor and devotion to family when she states that to her "The modern meaning of the word 'machismo,' as well as the concept, is actually an Anglo invention.  For men like my father, being 'macho' meant being strong enough to protect and support my mother and us, yet being able to show love.  Today's macho has doubts about his ability to feed and protect his family" (83).  Here she contributes to Anaya's ideas of honor by locating honor within the dynamics of protector and supporter.  The man is set up as protector, as supporter and as active participant.  This sense of honor can be seen as the way false hope becomes the sign for a truer form of hope with Anzaldúa's continued description of her father:

My Father insisted we go to school.  He wanted me to go to college.  Nobody else did.  They didn't even know what college was, but my father was different—probably because of this aristocracy (it's really weird, very poor aristocracy but aristocracy anyway) on my father's side and a sense of superiority, that the Anzaldúas were always different. (89) 

The ways in which honor was exercised by Anzaldúa's father promotes division within the family and community and adheres to Ana Castillo's thoughts on the subject: "Machismo has divided society in half.  It divides the world into the haves and the have-nots, those with material power and those rendered powerless" (82).

[21] For Anzaldúa's father and Anaya's men of the community, honor distorts the active agency of hope by creating divisions—public/domestic spaces and superior/inferior.  Within these divisions, power relationships act against the good of the family and the community.  Honor helps determine the ways in which social structures are constructed, by whom, and for what reasons.  Honor invests itself into a series of ideologies designed to predetermine a person's or collective's location within social structures.  Most importantly, honor is relegated to the public transmission of power in the form of the recognition of adherence to the attributes associated with honor.

[22] Leonard Harris defines honor as a social good involving several key elements: attitudes towards a person, the public spaces honor resides within, the attributes associated with honor, the transmission of the social rewards from one party to another, and birth-right.  These elements of honor define the ways in which a person or collective interacts with others, the institutions that develop the social rewards associated with honorable acts or accomplishments, and the boundaries and social rankings of an individual or a collective.  Thus honor, in one sense, adheres to Anaya's and Anzaldúa's depictions of honor as positive acts deemed socially good in order to negate those elements deemed socially bad.  Yet, it is the ways in which honor "reflects discrete and explicit social rankings and boundaries between agents" (Harris 276) where honor deviates from geographies of hope.

[23] Ramon Gutiérrez, in his book When Jesus Came, The Corn Mothers Went Away..., explores these discrete and explicit social rankings and paints a different picture of honor.  From his work, we see how honor developed from its Iberian roots to the colonial structures of New Mexico . The discrete and explicit social boundaries and rankings in Colonial New Mexico developed through a mixture of racial, religious, and social positions.  Stemming from the Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula, honor was bestowed on an individual through victory in battle.  Honor became associated with violence in the name of the Crown and the Church.  The result for Gutiérrez was that

Honors, as well as the concept of honor as a moral code, were elements of a feudal patriarchal ideology employed by the state to bolster its own power, to legitimate the rewards it granted persons for service to the monarchy, and to sanctify the reality of unequal power relationships in society.  Conquest, domination, and protection were marks of human excellence; they were qualities that maintained the patrimony and perpetrated an honored image of the self over time. (226)

The violence inherent in the Spanish conquest and colonization of Meso-America determined the development of honor.  Honor limited its relationship to the social good to whatever benefited  the elite.  Honor was defined and granted by and through someone in power and bestowed upon someone who supported the structures of oppression not to those acting to subvert those structures.  Honor justified the exploitation of those deemed inherently dishonorable.  Honor, therefore, acted as a series of ideologies designed to resist or co-opt any attempts to change the reality of oppression.

[24] The use of force in the construction of honor located individuals along vertical or horizontal social strata.  In one sense honor's connection to status creates a vertical social construction:

In the Spanish body politic, first of all was the honor of God.  The honor of the king was next, for his sanction to temporal power was divinely imbued.  The honor of the corporate Church followed, then that of religious orders, the aristocracy, the landed peasantry, on down the line to those persons who had no honor, Indians and genízaro. (Gutiérrez 178)

This hierarchy provided the foundation of social relations in Colonial New Mexico.  On a different level, honor's connection to virtue developed along a horizontal terrain, as Gutiérrez argues, "Honor-virtue divided society horizontally by status groups, and within each group it determined the pecking order of persons in the status hierarchy according to reputation, that is, their reproduction of ideals of proper social conduct" (208).  This horizontal terrain develops a sense of competition among the members within each group, no matter their positions along the vertical scale, as they strive to connect themselves to governing bodies, thus constructing Harris' elements of honor.  In this construction of honor and dishonor, hope is associated with honor while hopelessness remains within dishonor.  Yet, because of the way honor is relegated to the public space, the connection of honor to geographies of hope remains incomplete.  In Anaya's description of the men of his community, it was they that controlled the public spaces and institutions and, because of this, retained their exclusive relationship with honor and active forms of hope.

[25] In addition to Chicanas' relegation to the private and domestic spaces that denied them access to male conceptions of honor, Chicanos' definitions of honor developed from an ideology that supported "the belief that God's earthy and natural design made men dominant over women and that therefore females should submit to male authority" (Gutiérrez, 226).  As Gutiérrez demonstrates, Chicanas are dislocated from honor at the same time they are located in shame.  This type of (dis)location not only positions Chicanas within shame and dishonor but, also, locates them, because of their inherent status due to their (dis)locations, outside of the geographies of active hope, not necessarily within realms of hopelessness but not fully within terrains of hope.  Hope in its active form manifests itself in the public spaces in the same way honor is manifested in the public spaces.  Chicanas' positioning within the private and domestic space and within shame prohibits them from engaging in the rituals that determine whether one is honorable or dishonorable in ways Chicanos have become accustomed to.  Chicanas attempt to construct their own geographies of hope and redefine honor in such a way as to eliminate the violence of the conquest and colonization inherent in the historical development of honor.

[26] While teaching an upper division course on contemporary Chicano and Chicana literature, the students and I explored machismo using Ray González's anthology.  As we investigated Muy Macho, the Chicanas in the class reacted to every essay or narrative with some anger, with intense critique, and with volumes of criticisms on the ways the Chicano writers narrated their experiences and investigated aspects of machismo.  The Chicanas saw the anthology addressing machismo in the same way someone would address a stranger—hesitant and cautious.  On the one hand, not wanting to offend the stranger by not acknowledging his presence yet, on the other hand, not wanting to range too far from one's comfort zone in addressing the stranger. In the end, what the stories seem to represent to many of the Chicanas was a masking of male privilege and a validation of macho bravado.

[27] Yet, this cautious approach, this Chicano inability to effectively confront their manhood, this masking and validation of machismo seen by the Chicanas in the class can also be seen as the stumbling around that occurs when first attempting to realize how, through writing, Chicano voices subvert the remoteness Octavio Paz observes, "The Mexican is always remote, from the world and from other people.  And also from himself" (29).  In order to come to terms with this remoteness, Chicanos have begun to explore machismo in ways that attempt to divulge the material effect machismo has on their lives.  Within the anthology, the writers attempt to shatter this remoteness by eliminating their dependence "on the old stereotype of the dark brooding head of household, as some of their fathers may have done, to define their domestic life."  In doing so they desire to break way from "The caricatures of the rebellious street punk and the Latin lover" (González xiii).  In moving out from this remoteness, the writers expose the ways in which macho has often been a distorted image of a man comprised of "the outrageous boast, a distinct phallic symbolism, the identification of the man with the male animal, and the ambivalence toward women—varying from an abject and tearful posture to brutal disdain" (Paredes 215).

[28] In the world of the Chicano, he not only chooses remoteness, remoteness imposes itself upon him through the hegemonic structures of racism, classism, and xenophobia embedded into either or both the Mexican and Anglo views of Chicanos; remoteness becomes the only place left for the Chicano.   Because of this remoteness, the Chicano develops his own mechanisms to define his position within larger social structures:

We learn to carry ourselves as men in our families, in the community, and in respect to women and men.  And because we are members of a different cultural group living within the boundary of Anglo America, we learn to carry ourselves in respect to the other, in this case, other white males. (Anaya 69)

In order to negotiate his horizontal and vertical positioning as both a head of a family and of a community, as well as his relegation to an inferior status by the United States, the Chicano needs to understand these interconnected roles.  Often, if not always, he has to developed strategies that address how "The coming together of two self-consistent but habitually incompatible frames of reference causes un choque, a cultural collision" (Anzaldúa 78).  In this remoteness, then, he is not left alone, but through his intra- and interactions within and without his community, he is usually unable to develop effective strategies of dealing with the collisions occurring because of his multiple positioning in U.S. society.

[29] One of the strategies he has developed to deal with his position in society is to close himself off from hurt and pain and create acts of self-preservation.  Paz states that "The Mexican, whether young or old, criollo or mestizo, general or laborer or lawyer, seems to me to be a person who shuts himself away to protect himself: his face is a mask and so is his smile" (29).  This protective stance taken by many men can be seen as a reaction to the inferiority complex described by many Chicanos and Mexicanos such as Samuel Ramos, "in affirming that the Mexican suffers an inferiority complex, I have always meant that this complex affects his collective consciousness" (245).  Ilán Stavans, in referring to activist and lawyer, Oscar Zeta Acosta; a.k.a. the Brown Buffalo, describes the nature of this inferiority complex:

The moral of Acosta can be used to understand what lies behind the ostentation and bravado of the macho: a deep-seated inferiority complex.  The size and strength of the penis is the index of masculine value, as well as a passport to glorious erotic adventure.  Inevitably, then, it is also a boundless source of anxiety.  He is an emblem of the insecure Hispanic male. (152)

Thus, according to Ramos and Stavans, the way to address this inferiority complex is to recognize the way it has enveloped the thoughts and actions of the Chicano.  In order to produce a "new" machismo, the examination and recognition of this inferiority complex must be incorporated into the act of teaching.  For as long as inferiority is present the geographies of hope will remain located on those distant shores unreachable by the mapping practices employed by Chicanos today.

[30] In order to reach those distant shores, where hope is located, we need an understanding of the patriarchal hegemonic structures influencing the nature of this complex geography.  The structures dictating the nature of this complex arise from the historical development of the oppression and self-invalidation imposed upon the Chicano.  Gloria Anzaldúa provides her views on the oppressive structures affecting this inferiority complex that so many Chicanos deal with and in turn project onto those we love and hate the most:

His [today's macho's] 'machismo' is an adaptation to oppression and poverty and low self-esteem.  It is the result of hierarchical male dominance....  In the Gringo world, the Chicano suffers from excessive humility and self-effacement, shame of self and self-deprecation.  Around Latinos he suffers from a sense of language inadequacy and its accompanying discomfort; with Native Americans he suffers from a racial amnesia which ignores our common blood, and from guilt because the Spanish part of him took their land and oppressed them.  He has an excessive compensatory hubris when around Mexicans from the other side.  It overlays a deep sense of racial shame. (83)

These hegemonic structures position the Chicano within a web of distorted macho images and practices.  As he struggles to break even a single strand of the encompassing web, he finds himself ensnared in yet another strand.  This process often defeats the soul and spirit of the Chicano until he resorts to those negotiation strategies that redirect his energy from self-liberation towards the more familiar oppressive patterns that he has witnessed as ways in which to acquire power and results in what Anzaldúa claims is a false form of machismo: "The loss of a sense of dignity and respect in the macho breeds a false machismo which leads him to put down women and even brutalize them" (83).  Unable to deal with the brutalization of their minds and bodies by the racist and class-based hegemonic structures within the United States, and seeing how Anglos have acquired and maintained their power through brutalizing Chicanos and other people of color, Chicanos internalize this brutal oppression and release what Rodriquez calls the "demon inside" to inflict abuse and denigration upon women.

[31] Chicanos' inability to develop effective strategies to deal with this remoteness and the resulting inferiority complex create "a deep and wounding silence that gives life to the relationships among men..." (González 179).  An example of the relationships among Chicanos that developed from the influence of feeling inferior to other men is seen in Luis Alberto Urrea's story entitled "Whores."  In the story Urrea describes the way his lessons about manhood were silently transmitted from man to man:

I also learned an unspoken lesson about machismo.  All the toughest males, every muy macho chingón from deep Mexico who entered my house, was obsessed with forcing the younger children to suck his dick.  Each one wanted to push his hard-on up the asses of the boys and girls of our family.  But mostly, these men who were to rescue from the unforgivable queerness of serving God wanted to ride the backs of little boys.  Little boys like me. (105)

Thus, the lesson silently transmitted about manhood is that domination is the most effective way to overcome his inferiority complex.  The wounds inflicted upon him construct his perception of masculinity.  To perform an act of intercourse upon another man is not seen as gay but, instead, as reinforcing the dominating aspects of machismo.  To dominate is to deny vulnerability.  The young man's subordination to the dominant male locates the young man in the realm of vulnerability.  Vulnerability becomes the antithesis to machismo and gives life to their relationship.

[32] The wound develops into "the 'cult of silence where many Latino fathers are silent as they leave parenting to the mother..." (González xiv).    Thus, the writers expose the ways in which the "cult of silence" has negated their ability to locate those voices buried deep inside them because "To be a Hispanic man was to hide one's emotions, to keep silent when it came to expressing your heart" (Stavans 153).  The end results are hegemonic structures that go unchallenged, wounds that will not heal, and lives that might never recover from the oppressive nature of machismo.

[33] This "cult of silence" creates a man who becomes what Octavio Paz states is a "dissembler" because, "Our [Mexicano] mechanisms of defense and self-preservation are not enough, and therefore we must make use of dissimulation, which is almost habitual with us" (40).  Through the use of dissimulation, silence is not passive but active as "The dissembler pretends to be someone he is not.  His role requires constant improvisation, a steady forward progress across shifting sands.  Every moment he must remake, re-create, modify the personage he is playing, until at the last moment arrives when reality and appearance, the lie and the truth, are one" (40).  Muy Macho attempts to freeze individual moments in time in order to uncover the lies and truths about machismo.  In other words, the anthology attempts to distinguish the differences between the lie (bad machismo) and the truth (good machismo) in a manner similar to Vicente T. Mendoza's understanding of "authentic" and "false" machismo.  According to Américo Paredes, Mendoza defined "authentic" machismo as "characterized by true courage, presence of mind, generosity, stoicism, heroism, bravery" and false machismo as "the other nothing but a front, false at bottom, hiding cowardice and fear covered up by exclamations, shouts, presumptuous boasts, bravado, double-talk, bombast....  Supermanliness that conceals an inferiority complex" (216).

[34] In attempting to break away from this "cult of silence" and expose the lies and the truths, the writers' hope is that, through voice, expression becomes an empowering act of resistance to the "cult of silence" and demonstrates ways in which the writers attempt to empower themselves in order to bring about change.  As Anaya states, "It is time to call that behavior that is good, good.  And that which is negative to the self and the community, not good" (64).  No longer content to be dissemblers, the writers attempt to bring to the surface those structures that produced the material conditions of machismo in order to understand its influence on them and their communities.

[35] However, it seems that the Chicanas in the class understood what the writers did not: "that it is no longer enough to begin stories of resistance with stories of so-called power.  From this perspective, resistance becomes a mode through which the symptoms of different power relations are diagnosed and ways are sought to get round them, or live through them, or to change them" (Pile 3).  Pile's warning of the dangers when breaking through silence provides a framework to begin to look at ways the writers discuss their conceptions of machismo to see if the writers are aware of the pitfalls involved in their attempts to unveil machismo.

[36] This positioning of the writers allows for the act of teaching to become an act of unveiling. In this way the writers in the text set themselves up as teachers in ways that their fathers did not.  They hope that through confronting this "cult of silence" they can provide ways through which writers/learners can view machismo in its totality.  Breaking away from the "cult of silence" means that we must also unveil the ways in which silence maintains machismo.  Critical approaches demand that Chicanos and Latinos move beyond basic acknowledgement of silence, otherwise, we fall into the trap that Pile warns against by looking for ways round our inherited power, or by finding ways to live through that power, or by changing power in ways that re-inscribe machismo.

[37] Silence protects as well as inhibits.

[38] The "cult of silence" may inhibit the writers'/teachers' ability to open up to their emotions, but it also protects their power.  Thus, silence becomes the ideology of culture unspoken, becomes a naturalized given.  Anzaldúa explains this naturalized given when she states that "Culture forms our beliefs.  We perceive the version of reality that it communicates" (16).  But what is the reality that has been communicated?  According to Louis Althusser, the reality the Chicanos see within the ideological constructions of a good and bad machismo is "not the system of real relations, but the imaginary relations of those individuals to the real relations in which they live" (52).  This is the writer's dilemma: the influence of ideology is such that it is difficult to know when the lie ends and the truth begins.  As silence is broken, then, there must be a way of determining the ending/beginning of the ideology that constructs Chicanos' and Latinos' understandings of machismo.

[39] In addition, silence also informs the ways machismo is transmitted.  In her investigation of the ways culture is constructed Anzaldúa explains that "Dominant paradigms, predefined concepts that exist as unquestionable, unchallengeable, are transmitted to us through culture.  Those in power, mainly men, construct culture.  Males make the rules and laws; women transmit them" (16).  Our assurance in our construction of those laws that goes unchallenged and unquestioned formulates parts of the foundations of and for our silence.  As long as we allow women to be the transmitters of culture and as long as the ideologies transmitted maintain our power, then, we will use silence as a protective cloak that we wrap around ourselves to protect us from understanding that silence maintains a symbiotic relationship with ideology.  One cannot exist without the other.

[40] These influences of the "cult of silence," as protector and inhibitor, raise questions of the processes undertaken by Latinos and Chicanos as they seek to abolish the "cult" by giving form to the "cult."  In giving form to silence we need to ask ourselves if men, such as the writers and myself, are seeking a process whereby we can employ what Sonia Saldívar-Hull explains as "Refusing the O"?  For Saldívar-Hull refusing the O meant "It was time to go beyond the roles of dutiful daughter, sister, and wife, the 'mujer sin nombre' of the past" (29).  Drawing upon various Chicana writers, refusing the O, to her, means refusing the subordinate roles dictated by men and the Catholic Church in order to break down the walls preventing Chicanas from constructing their own geographies of hope.  Refusing the O is "a move that exploded the stereotype of the passively religious Chicana advocated both by Anglo-American culture and by the domineering Chicano men who profit from having passive women around them to promote their own personal agendas" (31).  By refusing the O and embracing the A, she advocates for inclusion of social dynamics, such as gender and sexuality, into the discussion about the complexities surrounding Chicanas and Chicanos in order for Chicanos to transcend the borders that keep us from forming coalitions with Chicanas.   Chicanos need to address what it means to refuse the O.  Embracing the O maintains our hegemony that continues to build walls around geographies of hope.  It prevents us from beginning a reclamation process where, as Luis J. Rodríquez's suggests, "The issue... is not to assimilate, but to get rooted again, to honor our ancestors, our rituals, our men and women.  To get to know our real names.  Our real languages.  To celebrate our diverse histories, stories, tongues, faces, and songs" (197).  In order to activate this process Chicanos must incorporate a critical approach that, as its premise, de-invests themselves of their male power and uncovers those aspects of our power hidden within the cult of silence.  Mapping the geographies of hope demands the infusion of a critical approach in order to locate those places where we can celebrate our diverse histories.  However, the writers in Muy Macho, through their involvement in the performative structure(s) of the text, often offer up mistaken forms of hope because of their inability to approach hope through a critical lens.  For hope to be present in their unveiling of the "cult of silence," the writers needed to address the multiple ways silence acts upon a person.  By limiting their discussion to how the silence inhibits them from exposing their feelings and entering into a state of vulnerability as well as by not addressing the ways they have benefited from their silence, they reduce the terrains that hope can reside within.

[41] Silence not only acts as inhibitor and protector but also as enabler.  Silence becomes a strategic devise for Chicanos to incorporate into the process of mapping the geographies of machismo.  Silence enables Chicanos to locate themselves within those spaces where the act of listening is positioned within liberatory domains.  Freire states in his book, Teachers as Cultural Workers: Letters to Those Who Dare Teach, that "Listening to all that comes to us, regardless of their intellectual level, is a human duty and reveals an identification with democracy and not with elitism" (39).  Silence becomes an ally in mapping the geographies of hope by enabling Chicanos to listen to the voices produced from the instititial spaces and provide possibilities of negotiating the conflicting voices amidst the inner and outer terrains of a Chicano's existence.

[42] Anaya recognizes silence's ability to form a connection to listening, which will enable Chicanos to produce a liberatory mapping process.  Anaya addresses two ways silence can act as enabler in his call to include Chicana feminist thought and his call to listen to the feminine within the man.  He includes Denise Chavez and Ana Castillo as two, among many, Chicanas that provide "an excellent, uninhibited view of the woman's influence on the life of the male" as well as showing how much Chicanas have to "tell us of the history of the macho image" (68).  He concludes that Chicanos "need to listen to the ideas of such writers as the role of the macho is transformed.  By us, by them" (68).   His second call to Chicanos moves from the external voices to an internal voice: "The old dictates of the fathers have to be transformed to create a new macho, and for that we need to listen to the feminine sensibility.  To listen within" (73).  By listening within, Chicanos redirect the mapping process by distributing the focus of emancipation from the oppressive hegemonic structures Chicanos confront and/or maintain in the public spaces, as well as the ways in which they have internalized patriarchal hegemonies.  In doing so they attempt to incorporate forms of resistance that confront the traditions dictated by our fathers and grandfathers in order to build alliances with our Chicana mothers, sisters, daughters, and aunts.

[43] In addition to Anaya, Chicanos, such as Armendo B. Rendon, in 1973, and Ramon Gutiérrez, in 1993, realized the importance and value of incorporating Chicana feminist thought into discussions about machismo.  The inclusion of Chicana feminist thought provides a possibility for Chicanos to recognize alternative pathways leading towards geographies of hope in their explorations of machismo.  Rendon recognizes the ways in which Chicanas, in the seventies, were able to expose the oppression Chicanos faced at a time when most Chicanos were unable to do so.  Rendon states that  "Perhaps it is true, as some Chicanas say, that the Chicano passes on to his woman the frustrations and mierda that befall him during the day" (360).  Anna NietoGomez provides an example of one of the ways Chicanas were able to recognize the "frustrations and mierda" Rendon speaks of.  She states, in her 1976 essay "Sexism in the Moviemiento," that "Colonized men of color are considered as inferior as women since colonized men do not have the power or authority to rule, provide economically and protect the family" (98).  Chicanas were able to realize the difficulties Chicanos faced at a time when many Chicanos were lost in a national cultural discourse that asked or, more often than not, demanded of Chicanas to "Support your man, maintain traditional roles, and preserve the culture" (NietoGomez 99).

[44] Rendon not only acknowledges what NietoGomez argues, he takes an additional step in expressing how the Chicano is located in this oppression as well as the effect this treatment has on the Chicana: "But even more disturbing is the subordination of our women into the most menial tasks, even in the movement.  We don't throw her away, but we abuse her spirit and belittle her worth" (361).  In order to preserve his spirit, the Chicano has worked to murder the Chicana's spirit.  His use of the term abuse reflects the violence embedded in Chicano cultural nationalist discourses.  Rendon, thus, situates Chicanos within the destructive nature of violence in ways that demonstrate how Chicano cultural nationalist discourse distorted the imagination, actualization, and realization of hope.

[45] Rendon continues by presenting that when Chicanos' masculinity is challenged, they maintain their sense of manliness by negating the importance of incorporating Chicanas into the discourses: "And when he becomes involved with a cause that encourages, insists upon, and challenges his manhood and pride in la raza, he tends to forget that bountiful cup of la raza is the Chicana and that the love and spirit of our people is perpetuated by her love and her spirit" (360).  This romanticized view of what Chicanas bring to the discussion limits Chicanas' involvement to their traditional nurturing role.  Yet, as Rendon continues, he begins to move away from the Chicana as nurturer because he has listened to the ways in which "For many Chicanas it is apparent that the traditional role of 'radiant mother' is no longer enough to fulfill her womanhood.  Nor does the idea of merely being a helpmate appeal any more to some Chicanas who wish to be liberated from the home" (360).  In the end he realizes that relegation to the role of nurturer within the limiting private or domestic spaces is no longer acceptable for Chicanas and, implicitly, should be no longer acceptable for Chicanos. 

[46] Rather than blame white feminism for the ways Chicanas seek to move beyond the submissive roles imposed upon them by Chicanos, Rendon places the problems directly on the shoulders of Chicanos while promoting the idea that Chicanas decided for themselves the changes needed to improve their lives.  It was not white feminism that was at the core of Chicanas' expression of equality; instead, he realizes how Chicanos were positioned within Chicana feminist thought:

What does inspire [Chicanas] is the challenge of working for la causa side by side with the men, of being appreciated for their ideas and their spirit, of being entrusted with important duties besides handling registrations or taking minutes.  La mujer Chicana is asking that the men experience a cultural shock—the fact that Chicanas themselves will no longer be docile.  Chicanas want to improve themselves, to continue their education into college, to break from the strict family bounds that have suppressed their own aspirations for generations. (360-361)

Even though Rendon shows a lack of understanding in his positioning of Chicanas in relation to Chicanos, in the same way Anaya does, he does offer an example of a Chicano willing to move beyond a male-centered perspective at a time when in so doing he risked his privileged status within the Moviemiento.

[47] Ramon Gutiérrez offers up another example of a Chicano willing to undertake the call set forth by Anaya.  Gutiérrez acknowledges the complexities and connections Chicanas developed around issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality.  He recognizes the movement within Chicana feminist discourse from the time of Rendon.  The movement by Chicanas in their discourse, rather than splitting these important issues into fragmented and disassociated elements, actually consolidated these issues.  In doing so they demonstrated the interconnectedness each issue has with all of the others: "what did change in feminist-inspired Chicana cultural production, even when it examined traditional topics, was the centrality that the intersection of race, gender, and class assumed" (54).  In addition, Gutiérrez points out the value of Chicanas' contributions in regards to sexuality, "Unlike Chicanos who took their sex/gender privileges for granted, Chicanas, as victims of those privileges, realized that an essential part of their literary birthing had to include an exploration of their sexuality" (55).  The addition of Chicana sexuality into the discourse provides avenues from which Chicanos can begin to explore their own sexuality in critical and meaningful ways.  Chicanas shattered the "sex/gender privileges" Chicanos enjoyed and, through this process, unmasked the depths of oppression Chicanas dealt with. 

[48] In his discussion of the value of Chicana feminist scholarship, Gutiérrez describes Cherríe Moraga's ideas on her relationship with her mother and her lesbian sexuality as "Perhaps the most intense discussion of the mother/daughter relationship yet written" (58).  Gutiérrez continues to state that "Moraga is unique in that she focuses not on Malinche, but on Malinche's mother" (59).  This unique perspective derives from the connection Moraga makes by positioning her mother as Malinche's mother and herself as another Malinche.  Malinche's mother betrayed Malinche by selling her off into slavery in order to secure her brother's inheritance. Gutiérrez argues that Moraga sees a similar betrayal by her mother in the ways her mother privileged the men of the family over the women, thereby securing the inheritance of patriarchy for her brothers.  Though he states that Moraga positions herself as another Malinche begotten from a long line of vendidas, "Moraga breaks free from Malinche and Malinche's mother by choosing to 'embrace no white man.'  She is finally united with the race of her mother through Chicana lesbianism, by loving other women.  By refusing to give her sexual loyalty to Chicano men, by refusing to live as a heterosexual, Moraga realizes that, in the eyes of the men involved in the movimiento, she has become a 'malinchista,' a traitor" (60).  What Gutiérrez's analysis of Moraga's, and other Chicanas', work allows for Chicanos is the attempt to follow Moraga's example of "proudly" accepting her place within a long line of vendidas.  Chicanos can begin to secure a new inheritance, a new legacy: one in which they can step back and "proudly" begin their own long line of vendidos.

[49] Anaya's second call to listen to the feminine inside provides another way to see how Chicanos are located within active elements of hope.  By listening inside, a dialogue is created with those elements constructed by the colonization process, which are buried so deep that any attempts by Chicanos to redefine machismo lack the substance necessary to enter into a dialogue with Chicanas.  Gloria Anzaldúa points out the importance of beginning with the inner self:

The struggle has always been inner, and is played out in the outer terrains.  Awareness of our situation must come before inner changes, which in turn come before changes in society.  Nothing happens in the 'real' world unless it first happens in the images in our heads. (87)

Thus, Anaya connects to Anzaldúa's call to include the inner voice in any re-mapping of social spaces.  Through this approach, Chicanos confront their consciousness and its historical constructions.  In so doing, Chicanos enter into a form of resistance, as Pile argues: "Resistance, then, cannot simply address itself to changing external physical space, but must also engage the colonized spaces of people's inner worlds....  Indeed, it could be argued that the production of 'inner spaces' marks out the real break point of political struggle...maybe" (17).  Pile makes the connection between the act of listening inside and enacting resistance.  However, it is Pile's "maybe" that demonstrates the difficulty Chicanos face when attempting to listen to their inner terrains.  Unless Pile's "maybe" is addressed effectively, it acts as a bridge Chicanos cross over into geographies of hopelessness by undermining the foundations of creative change.

[50] "Maybe" resides within regions where the voices heard are distorted because of the way that "The Latin man and his penis are at the center of the Hispanic universe" (Stavans 149).  Anaya, while recognizing a key element when addressing the possibility of mapping a new machismo, needs to be aware of the way the phallus is located at the center of his inner self.  All the attributes of machismo, good or bad, derive from this location and so it becomes "the source of the macho's self-assurance and control, sexual and physiological..." (Stavans 149).  In their hope to listen to the feminine inside, Chicanos need to find a way to silence the echo of this phallus speaking to and through them.  Without this, Chicanos ultimately maintain a dominance over Chicanas even as they provide a possibility for developing a liberatory mapping process.

[51] One way Anaya positions his process within machismo's geographies of domination is by maintaining a separatist structure in which the feminine and the masculine reside within different geographies— masculinity on the surface and femininity buried deep inside.  In doing so he distorts the mapping of geographies of hope by distorting the feminine principle.  Ana Castillo explains the distorted feminine Anaya actually hears:

The feminine principle is not the opposite of machismo.  The 'feminine' principle may be generally termed as the absence of machismo—all the qualities that have been negated, denied, denigrated, and made to be essentially valueless by our society.  Machismo has served to distort our perceptions of humanity, which includes the feminine. (82)

To listen to the feminine inside requires an elimination of the masculine as Chicanos have come to know the masculine.  The elimination of the masculine, as Anaya demonstrates, is a daunting proposition.  Yet, the ability of silence, as enabler, provides a way for Chicanos to employ listening as a device whereby they can begin to attempt the construction of a mapping process that employs as its foundation a feminine principle that eliminates the ability to center the Latin phallus.

[52] When Anaya suggests that Chicanos listen to the feminine inside, he fails to realize that in order to listen to a voice that has historically been denied expression, the recognition of the damage done to that voice needs to be addressed.  To do otherwise is to seek a mapping process that begins with denial, lacks accountability, and devalues Anzaldúa's departure point.  With their acknowledgement of the damage done, Chicanos accept the condition that "To assess the damage is a dangerous act" (Moraga 57).  To employ silence, as enabler, within the act of listening is dangerous because of the way in which what is heard disrupts the hegemonies that have historically empowered the Chicano and holds all Chicanos accountable.  Castillo adds that it is not only dangerous to assess the damage done, but "It is of utmost importance to understand the damage that machismo has done and continues to do to humankind in the name of tradition and in the name of much that we hold sacred through institutionalized religion" (Castillo 82).  Ignoring the damage machismo has inflicted upon people denies the ways in which that damage has benefited Chicanos, disguises the extent of that damage, and maintains the dictates of our fathers.  Castillo eloquently expresses the types of damage done and the responses to that damage:

When we profess a vision of a world where a woman is not raped somewhere in the United States every three minutes, where one of every three female children do not experience sexual molestation, where the Mexican female is not the lowest paid worker in the United States—we are not male bashing or hating whites because overall they live a healthier life than we do, we are trying to change the facts of our conditions. (225)

Thus, we see how Anaya's feminine is distorted because of a lack of accountability.  His presentation of the feminine as something unaffected by machismo denies his implication in the damage done.  If Chicanos do not asses the damage done in the name of their phallic privilege, then what they hear is a distorted feminine—distorted because of the inability of Chicanos to move beyond the Latin phallus towards a greater understanding of the material conditions that affect the feminine voice.

[53] Consequently, Chicanos need to also address other inhibitors, such as fear, in their attempts to map their inner terrains, and assess the damage machismo has caused in order to make the connection to silence as enabler.  In assessing the relationship between the damage done and the way fear inhibits Chicanos' ability to address that damage Saldívar-Hull states that

When Chicana feminist writers begin to examine Chicano 'tradition' and criticize wife battering, child abuse, 'drunk husbands,' the misogyny that is embedded in the culture, they are branded 'vendidas,' sellouts, who betray their people and contribute to the damaging stereotypes of Mexicans and Mexican Americans that the anglo already believes. (83-84)

Is this what Chicanos fear as they attempt to move outside of patriarchical domination when attempting to listen within?  Do we fear to be labeled "vendidos" and sell-outs to our own masculinity?  Is this why we remain within the constructs of a binary of good/bad machismo in order to reinscribe a new form of patriarchy that allows us to elude dealing with our fears by creating that always open door?

[54] In dealing with our fear, Chicanos need to understand the ways in which fear affects our ability to effectively map the various terrians of our existence.  Moraga provides some answers to how fear inhibits:

But it is not really difference the oppressor fears so much as similarity.  He fears he will discover in himself the same aches, the same longings as those people he has shitted on.  He fears the immobilization threatened by his own incipient guilt.  He fears he will have to change his life once he has seen himself in the bodies of the people he has called different.  He fears the hatred, anger, and vengeance of those he has hurt. (56-57)

As they fear the feminine residing within constructions of the joto, Chicanos fear the feminine residing within Chicanas because the threat the power of the feminine represents has developed into a materiality that has gained the weight to confront machismo.

[55] Just as the writers in Muy Macho attempt to confront the code of silence, and, in doing so, end the way silence acts as inhibitor, they must also confront the way fear prevents them from realizing the potential of developing an epistemology that incorporates critical ways of listening and thereby achieving the ability to allow silence to act as enabler.  Moraga, in her discussion on racism, explains the opportunity that arises when Chicanos address their fear.

Similarly, in a white-dominated world, there is little getting around racism and our own internalization of it.  It's always there, embodied in someone we least expect to rub up against.  When we do rub up against this person, there then is the challenge.  There then is the opportunity to look at the nightmare within us.  But we usually shrink from such a challenge. (57)

Anaya's proposition does just this; it shrinks away from the challenge of listening.  By not recognizing how he positions machismo on the surface while simultaneously providing the necessary ingredient for mapping, he allows fear to inhibit his ability to listen effectively.  In doing so he commits the error of believing that he is producing an emancipatory map, yet in reality he is producing ways in which to step around machismo, to avoid direct confrontation with his power, and to ask the rest of us to believe that his approach leads us to meet in that geography of hope.  Moraga provides a way to begin to address the fear inside of Chicanos when she states that

If fear is this, these things

then I am neither alone, nor crazy

but a child, for fear of doom, driven

to look into the darkest


of the eye—

                                    the part of the eye

                                    that is not eye   at all

                                    but hole. (Moraga 33)

This passage by Moraga sums up, for me, what silence as enabler confronts.  The act of listening lacks passivity and actively seeks out those voices that reside in that deepest part of the eye, that hole called interstitial where Chicanas rise to meet us halfway.  Chicanos believe they are seeing through their eyes; they lack the insight to understand that it is not the eye they see through but the hole that machismo dwells in.  In this hole we see that fear and hopelessness coexist in the same geographies.  Both immobilize Chicanos from moving towards geographies of hope.  Both exist because Chicanos have allowed them to exist.

[56] Is Muy Macho a validation or an exploration of machismo?  Though many of the narratives and essays attempt to decenter the Latin Phallic, the writings provide evidence of just how hard this process is.  In their attempt to remap the geographies of machismo, as well as map the geographies of hope, the works chosen for this anthology, this beginning, this hope provide little more than "limited possibility."  Although it appears on the surface that the writers are in fact addressing machismo in a way that opens up multiple avenues for change, the writers mistake the hope they implicitly address as they act as both teachers and learners.  The writers offer themselves up as teachers of a new form of machismo -- a "good" form of machismo.  The writings, however, lack insight into their position as teachers of new knowledge by remaining within old patriarchal structures.  They assume that change will be an easier struggle because of their attempts to break away from the code of silence.  As they begin to explore machismo in an overt rather than covert manner, they still seek to begin the re-mapping process without realizing the importance of their role within the teacher/learner relationship.  They see themselves as teachers without incorporating a critical pedagogical approach.  As Giroux states, "Most importantly, such [critical] practices should provide students with the opportunity to read texts dialogically through a configuration of many voices, some of which offer resistance, some of which provide support" (134).  Their attempt to explore the Latin phallic produces not a re-mapping as much as their exploration produces a reinscription wherein the dialogical approach is heavily over-weighted on the side of support rather than on the side of resistance.  I, along with the writers of the text, need to consider ways to incorporate an insightful and critical pedagogical approach in our attempts to connect with Chicanas within geographies of hope.  As our departure point in discussing machismo, we need to address how many times the same paths can be re-inscribed until the pathways become as solid as the bedrock that locks out the hope needed to initiate movement towards a clearer understanding of cultural democracy.

Works Cited

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Saldívar-Hull, Sonia.  Feminism on the Border: Chicana Gender Politics and Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

Stavans, Ilán,  "The Latin Phallus." Muy Macho: Latino Men Confront Their Manhood. Ray González ed. New York: Anchor Books, 1996.

Urrea, Luis Alberto. "Whores" Muy Macho: Latino Men Confront Their Manhood. Ray González ed. New York: Anchor Books, 1996.


  1. What is important for this discussion about Gutiérrez's work is its historical relationship to Anaya in that both locate their ideas of honor within New Mexico.
  2. I shared this analysis of what I saw happening in the class with many of the Chicanas mentioned, and they felt it was an accurate portrayal of their feelings and thoughts.
  3. I use xenophobia here to demonstrate what I feel is the fear both the Mexican and the Anglo have towards the Chicano which acts to exclude the Chicano from acceptance by either collective.
  4. In his piece entitled "My Literary Fathers" González calls this "The Code of Silence."
  5. For more information on how Saldívar-Hull defines her ideas on refusing the O see the sub-section of her second chapter, "Women in Movement: Refusing the Zero," in her book Feminism on the Border: Chicana Gender Politics and Literature.