Toxic Tendencies Within the Latinx Community

I am so proud to be a part of the Latinx community, my culture and my identity as a Peruvian-American. Every day I wake up and am reminded of how much richness and individuality my identity brings me, but it wasn’t always this way. For a long time during my upbringing, there were many concepts and ideas that conflicted me and my identity as a Latinx woman. I was only able to make peace with these conflicting thoughts when I started to question and study the rhetoric and semantics of the Latinx community. Let me walk you through just a few that have made a world’s difference in discovering myself, who I am in this world and furthermore who people perceive me to be. 

As a young child, you may have been told about the notion of “mejorando la raza'' in your Latinx/Hispanic household. If not, this idea is rooted in the colorist ideology most older Latin people subscribe to, which consists of a social hierarchy where European Spaniards are at the top of the social pyramid and Afro-Latinx are at the bottom. Much like the glass ceiling women face in the workforce, this hierarchy exists to undermine and devalue but refocused on colored Latinx people, their characteristics, and their features. Read more about this topic and how deeply rooted it is within Latinx culture below. 

Related: Colorism Within the Latinx Community

Next, is something that I noted a lot of my other Latinx friends experienced or noticed within their own families. Covert incest (other known as emotional incest) is a form of emotional abuse where a parent, more typically a maternal figure in the Latinx context, looks for emotional support from their child or children rather than from another adult because they are typically absent. This phenomenon often results in “trust and closeness issues [that] can drive a fear of intimacy, leaving [the] overwhelmed feeling and overly responsible feeling even early on in a relationship.” More often than not, this phenomenon appears to affect mother-son relationships within the Latinx community, explaining why there is an odd favoring of the men and sons within a Latinx/Hispanic household. 

A subset of this phenomenon is a psychological concept called scapegoat syndrome. Scapegoat syndrome is defined as when “a parent with borderline personality or narcissistic personality disorder vent their own frustrations, aggression and hatred against one child by uniting the others who are made to think that [the selected] one sibling is guilty of everything.” In the Latinx community this is usually put upon the eldest sibling, more often the eldest daughter, who must serve as essentially another maternal role within the household. If this role isn’t fulfilled, the sibling (daughter in this example) will be the blame of the family or all the troubles of the house will be put upon her. 

If you can notice a trend, most of these toxic behaviors, unfortunately, stem from sexist ideology within Latinx culture. The driving force as to why this is and why it still doesn’t cease to exist within our community is because we have normalized and sadly, embraced machismo. Machismo is defined as strong or aggressive masculine pride and bleeds into almost every norm, tradition, and social trend. Women, for whatever reason, are supposed to entertain, pleasure, and submit to men and quite frankly, I couldn’t be bothered to explain why this is problematic. It was never permissible back then, and I sympathize with those that had no option but to subscribe to such ideology, but it was never acceptable then and shouldn’t be permitted to continue any more than it has. 

Related: Machismo: What Is It?

Now more than ever, it is time to look at ourselves and see who or what we are and how we are helping or hurting the betterment of each other. Having these uncomfortable conversations and giving introspective thought into them is the best investment you can do now and without doing so, you’re cheating yourself of growth. It’s time to move forward and achieve the “better future” we have configured. It won’t be achieved in a day and it won’t be done by just one person or family. Support one another, look into why the things that don’t feel right are the way they are, and from there we can get better, together.