Elmer's English 304 Magazine
by Elmer G. Wiens
In Mexico's patriarchal society, women experienced oppression because men dominated women. To preserve men's superior status, "marianismo" - women's ideal behaviour - stipulated "dependence, subordination, responsibility for all domestic chores, and selfless devotion to family and children" (Hondagneu-Sotelo 9). Parents raised girls to become docile, ignorant, and submissive women, by restricting their education and activities. In recent decades, however, "urbanization, industrialization and migration" have eroded these long-established modes of conduct (10). Mexican women in remote regions are not exempt from these trends.
In Macho! Esperanza evades marianistic traditions. Even though she is the eldest daughter, she argues "her way out of the house," attends school, and avoids becoming a "second mother" to her siblings. She is "smart and quick," reads books, and complains about living in their isolated pueblo. She refers to Roberto's compadre, appearing with his children at mealtime, as that "damn freeloader," and aggressively raising her fist, she says she would have hit him if she "were a man" (41). When Roberto asks her to handle the money he intends to send from "los Estados Unidos," she relishes being the boss of the family, standing up to her spendthrift father. Nevertheless, Esperanza stands in for her mother, looking after her siblings while her mother is praying in church (57). Although she is aggressive, forceful, spirited, and quick-witted, she is also responsible and caring. Through Esperanza, Villaseñor catches Mexico's modern women struggling to realize ambitions that their patriarchal society denied them.
Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette. Gendered Transitions: Mexican Experiences of Immigration. Berkley: U California P, 1994.
Villaseñor, Victor. Macho!. New York: Dell, 1991.