One of my favorite commenters is a fellow named Rafel from Catalonia in Spain. He knows his country inside out. He’s also quite a progressive fellow. In the recent post Hispanics and Alzheimer’s, he remarks on some of my comments about the working class Hispanics that I live around:
I would tag the mentality you describe as “fatalism,” and I think it happens more among Hispanic lower classes. Hispanics are very polarized by social class, even more so than Anglo-Americans. Depending on one’s social class, one’s values and mindset vary dramatically (and also the perception of what’s good and evil and gender roles).
Perhaps in the US you lack some perspective because there aren’t many super-rich Hispanic big landowners (most of Hispanics in the US have their roots in poor families from Mexico and other countries).
Class polarization in countries like Mexico or Brazil is brutal, and it doesn’t have to do only with wealth and living conditions. This huge divide of mindset and values depending on class is to be found in many Catholic countries (not only Hispanic).
As for Spanish machismo…take a look at today’s Spanish society where it has diminished dramatically. “Machismo” may have been originated in Spain, but today’s mentality in the country is very similar to other West European countries…Today the strongholds of “machismo” in Europe are Italy, Greece, Portugal and the former communist countries of central-eastern Europe such as Poland, Rumania…
Even inside Spain until the 70’s, there were strong mentality differences with regard to gender between the north of the country and the center and south (the North being more “European” and “liberal” and the South with more “machismo” values), but today the mentality is more “liberal” all over the country. This means the machismo mentality can evolve.
Unfortunately in Spain during the last 10 years, massive migration from Moroccans, Latin Americans and Eastern Europeans (and all of them from lower classes) has brought machismo with them (most of episodes of violence against women involve immigrants, and the integration of Muslim women in Spanish society is almost impossible due to their strong submission to their husbands and families).
Spanish Gypsies have “preserved” a lot of machismo too, and, by the way, they fit in a lot with the portrayal you make of US Hispanics. Each word of your text referring to US Hispanics could be applied to Spain’s Gypsies!
I don’t know many upper class Hispanics. Most of the ones I know are definitely lower class. It’s heartening that Spain is leaving this idiot machismo behind and becoming more normal. The way we see it in the US is that this machismo just goes too far. I respect masculinity in males, but machismo is almost a caricature.
I’m not as hopeful about machismo diminishing in Hispanics just because it has in Spain. Spain is White, and it’s part of Europe, hence it’s influenced by European trends. Hispanics are isolated in Latin America and are influenced by that continent.
The Spaniards of the North take pride in being “Whiter.” True, all Spaniards are White, but the Northerners see themselves as aligned more with Northern Europe, especially Celtic heritage. The South has long had a heavy Arab influence. It is the South we think of when the other continentals say “Africa begins at the Pyrenees.”
I am sure that Muslims are not assimilating in Spain, and furthermore, it seems that they are never going to assimilate. That can only mean quit importing them.
It’s not surprising that Gypsy culture is so sexist and male chauvinist. I had long suspected that.
He mentions Italy, but the machismo is much stronger in the South, especially Sicily, than up in the north around Trieste, where a friend of mine lives. Sicilians are almost Arab-like in secluding their daughters are protecting them from other males.
In an older post, What the Future Hispano-Catholic USA Will Look Like Rafel takes a similar tack.
How do you explain that today Spain is one of the most socially liberal countries in the world? Ever traveled to Madrid or Barcelona? You’ll see gay couples walking the streets holding their hands, Spanish women practicing nudism at the beaches, etc…In Spain, we have had gay marriages since 2005.
By the way, a new, more progressive law on abortion has been approved this year (and anyway, since 1985 we already had more liberal abortion laws than Ireland, Poland, Portugal or Italy). Besides, in places like Catalonia, the number of civil marriages surpasses that of Catholic marriages. Spain’s society has changed dramatically during the last 50 years!
If you compare the birth rate per woman or church attendance, Spain happens to be much less religious than any part of the USA.
Yes, it’s true that Catholic Church still has a lot of power and tries to influence society…but at least in Spain they’re losing the battle year by year. In Barcelona there are almost no locals in a Sunday mass…most people you’ll see attending the Sunday mass are immigrants from South America!
As for the Islamic influence…remember that the kingdoms that founded Spain as a political entity (Castile and Leon, Aragon including the county of Barcelona, etc.) were either never conquered by Arabs or just experienced Arab occupation for a century.
For instance, Arabs were in Barcelona only from ~720 until 801, when the Franks conquered the city. The northern Christian kingdoms conquered and repopulated the south of the peninsula.
True, there is still a lot of Moorish cultural influence, especially in Andalusia. But I’d say that Italian, Spanish and Portuguese “machismo” is more a consequence of the androcentric Roman culture and Roman law (for example, the institution of the paterfamilias) than a consequence of Arabic influence.
As for the burning of churches thing…well, it’s just that the Catholic Church in Spain was perceived by both liberals and socialists as a threat. No doubt the Catholic Church has been a reactionary force during the history of Spain…but much in the same way as other traditional Catholic countries like France.
The difference is that revolutionaries in France had more success in setting apart the Catholic Church from politics and only had to burn churches once, not every ten years like in Spain!
In Spain early attempts to separate Church from state began at in the start of the 19th Century…the problem was that they never succeeded, as reactionaries always regained the power soon after every short liberal period (with the help of the Catholic Church and the army).
As the Church always supported the reactionaries during the 19th and 20th Centuries, the population in the cities accumulated a lot of resentment against the Catholic Church, especially in industrial areas like Catalonia or Asturias. That’s why in every revolutionary period, uncontrolled crowds burned churches and killed a lot of clergymen. They were sort of a scapegoats for the masses…
It is very nice to hear that gay rights is quite open in Spain, at least in the large cities. Incredibly enough, this “backwards Southern European Catholic country” now has legalized gay marriage, something the US cannot seem to get behind.
So Spain is becoming part of the rest of the Europe in a pan-European sort of way. What happens in Netherlands, several years hence, moves as a trend into Spain. Spain increasingly has more in common with Denmark and Sweden than with Mexico and Bolivia.
In this way we see how shared geography influences culture possibly more than shared ethnicity or language. Being situated in Europe trumps the ethnic culture and language that Spain shares with Latin America (as Latin American culture is descended in part from Iberian roots).
Catholic Spain, like Catholic Italy and France, is seeing plummeting Mass attendance and a very low birthrate. The low birthrate can only be explained by mass contraceptive use by women. Clearly, Catholic Western Europe pays little attention to the Pope’s lunatic decrees on birth control.
Along with declining attendance, we see the declining power of the Church. I’ve always felt that the Catholic Church was mostly about power more than anything else. It’s probable today that the Church is less powerful in Spain than in Italy, where it is still quite strong. In no Catholic country, including Italy, can the Church seem to keep its mitts out of politics.
It’s good to hear that Spain’s abortion law is fairly liberal compared to other European Catholic countries. I still don’t think it goes far enough, but it’s not bad.
Abortion in Latin America is a tragedy. It’s illegal in most of the region, and 250,000 women die every year from botched abortions in Latin America. El Salvador and Nicaragua have now passed some truly evil abortion laws that ban it in all cases, even rape, incest or the life or health of the mother. It’s hard to see what kind of good Catholicism does in this world anymore.
Thanks to Rafel for clearing up the church-burning business. I just thought it was bizarre, and that that Spaniards were just nuts. However, it was frustrated rage on the part of an oppressed population at a reactionary Church that just would not go away. It kept rising, Lazarus-like, every 10 years, just when they thought it was down for good.
He attributes machismo more to Roman influence than to the Arabs, but I am not so sure, as one who subscribes to the Pakistan-Peruvian Axis Theory of Arabized societies.
While it is heartening that Spain is moving forward on gay rights, reduced church influence, declining birth rates, abortion and reduction in male chauvinist machismo, Rafel implies that US Hispanics may be ready to follow suit.
I would not be so sure about that. US Hispanics, and Spaniards are quite different. True, young US Hispanics now show trends of increased tolerance towards gays, at least here in California. US Hispanics get more abortions than non-Hispanics, and US Catholics get more abortions than non-Catholics.
Among the lower-class Hispanics I am around, unplanned pregnancies and abortions are omnipresent. Those ending their pregnancies are nominally Catholic, but they never go to Mass and don’t seem to have religious qualms about abortion. Nevertheless, they may vote against abortion in the booth. But after a generation or so, US Hispanics’ views on abortion are little different from the general population.
As far as machismo, I don’t see that lessening too much in Hispanics, but it may be in the younger generation, as the increasing acceptance of young Hispanic gays may suggest.
As far as declining birthrates, we are not seeing that yet in the US, though in Brazil, incredibly enough, the rate is actually below replacement. In a super-Catholic, macho culture too at that. So there’s hope.