Wednesday, December 01, 2004

This burden called Macho - Part I [views]

Contributed by RudyG
(I'm as qualified to write this as anyone else who's Mexican-descended, old, male and wise.)

Don't get me wrong; I'm not going to knock the culture, but I'm not going the "it's brown so it must be cool" route here, either. My English dictionary defines machismo and macho several ways that I'll break down as we go.

Let's start with "machismo: 1. a strong sense of masculine pride". Ah, if they only knew the half of it--it's not just one never-ending paranda with one of the cheechona Curz-beer's blonde Twins on each arm.

No, machismo's no simple thing. To put it one way: machismo for the Chicano is like a combination of kinky hair and sickle cell anemia for Blacks. It's got a cultural kink to it, but it's got its downside, too.

Let's face it. It's a fokkin' burden, Ese.

Picture a bronze Jesus totin' a walnut cross up un monton that would have made Sisyphus cry--that's machismo. (Machos don't cry like Sisyphus might have, so that's why you don't notice it much around the hills of L.A. or San Anto.)

American society doesn't normally portray El Macho carrying such a load. For instance, most moviegoers swallow their latent sobs when Richie Valens toughs up the cough and boards that rickety plane in shit-ice weather in La Bamba. Or males will vicariously cheer when Antonio Banderas (an un-Chicano) does his macho-approximation thing with Salma Hayek in Desperado. {This is the "macho: aggressively virile" aspect.)

When Hollywood does its macho thing using non-Chicanos, what we get is "machismo: 2. an exaggerated or exhilarating sense of power or strength." Like when Chuck Norris kicks a lot of dark ass, or an Anglo, motorcycle gang invades some little New Mexico or Australian town. Reality check: you're supposed to cheer on Chuck, but dread the bikers, in case you get confused with all the chingasos.

There's machos and there's machos, and then there was my dad, the cabrón. Sucker would beat us with belt or hand--the belt to make us tough enough to make it in Gringolandia, the hand to make it personal so we'd know he loved us.

If I assume all that was his upside, then his downside was his crying, like-a-baby sobbing, drunk, on Fridays, in the years after the rest of the family divorced him for loving us too much. We'd gotten tough enough by then.

You see, he was El Macho, but couldn't stand the disgrace-defeat-dejectedness of being divorced 'cause it impinged on his machismo, at the least. The support payments he often forgot to make didn't help his self-esteemed wallet, either.

As I said, there's machos and there's machos. Like, there was this bar on the Westside of San Anto where I took a couple of Chicano friends from Colorado. We were road-tripping, except back in the 70's we just called it tripping 'cause it included more than mileage. My own pendejo macho thing caused me to foolishly suggest we head to the Westide to see what the real San Anto was like. My friends, brandishing nearly equal amounts of macho-fallibility agreed.

Anyway, I'm telling the boys that we're in the real world now, there in that bare-wood, hole-in-the-wall cantina, and they're humoring me, "Sure, sure." One of my friends is this nice, 100-lb. sand-kicked-in-the-face wimp from El Valle down southern Colorado who's always pretending he's seen it all. (He turned out to be a federal judge or something and probably has seen it all by now.) The other guy, the nicer one, everybody calls Big Roge(r) 'cause he's huge, 6 ft. plus, outweighing me and wimp combined--a Denver Eastsider where they raise 'em tough, if not always huge. But the guy's got a mellow demeanor, probably from nobody ever fokkin' with him. I emphasize that 'cause I once saw him toss two guys, one with each hand, at the same time, in opposite directions. But he was being protective at the time, gracias a los dioses.

So there we are, sippin' cheap beer and deciding what to risk ordering from the grimy menu, when--it was like the opening action scene out of Desperado--in walks this huge Mexican who's looking like he just ate Hannibal, uncooked. He doesn't just blot out the sun coming through the door; he blots out the door and some of the wall. Unfortunately, there was still enough light in the place to keep his face visible.

You can see every wrinkle from every year he spent in solitary; you can see every scar from every atrocious murder he committed in the neighboring alleys. You can see yourself in the Bela Lugosi Dracula film and you're the guy who's gonna pay in neck blood for the privilege of moving vampire coffins around--the one who eats all the flies and spiders.

What you can't see is our balls shriveling, though you can smell the stinko of our fearo. I had whispered to the other two not to look up at him 'cause in most Westsides, Eastsides, or donde-quieras, it's not just impolite to stare at a malformed clone of Goliath, it's highly terminal. Do my friends heed my whisper? Nah, 'cause they got that stupid macho thing of "Don't tell me what I can't..."

Big Roge shrinks like a 6-foot pot of poinsettias under a 6.1-foot tanning lamp. When his eyes lock on this Neanderthal-cum-Téjas, the wimpy fed-judge-to-be turns into velveeta under that same lamp. I just try to shrink out of view.

Nothing further happened to us in the eternal seconds it took us to swallow our beer, in one gulp, and scamper out of the place. We'd had enough of real world. Our machismo had been tested (grade: C-), had seen the Chicano version of hard-time/life-Dracula and would live to tell Chicanos back in Denver about it. They never believed us.

So you Anglo guys out there who stand in awe and envy of the god-like Bronze Macho should rethink your heroes, or at least your priorities. There's worse things in the world than being born with the machismo genetic affliction. I just can't think of many.

I didn't cover all the definition, like "machismo: An exaggerated masculinity." (If Webster only knew the other half of that!) And I didn't speak to how, in a capitalist, highly competitive, perro-eat-perro society, why haven't machismo ("a sense of power or strength") traits been conducive to more Brown Millionaires and Corporate Big Vergas. (Hasn't turned out much that way, has it?) Left untouched here too is how the English adoption of macho, machismo coincided with the Zoot Suit riots (1948). Then there's the Macho in Chicano lit, plus the feminine-recipient and today's youth perspective. Maybe somebody else can give Parts II, III, etc.-eternala a whack, but not from the too-much-machismo angle, por favor.


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