Texas State University was recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution March 24, 2011. One of the things that this HSI or any others across the nation fail to research is the hidden cultural factors that affect Latino enrollment and graduation—namely, machismo.
Machismo, meaning strong or aggressive masculine pride, has been a part of the Latin culture since the beginning. From the Aztecs to the Tejanos to the contemporary Latino, the stigma remains men provide for their families. Even for Latinos who leave the nest, the expectation to support the family remains—especially for the eldest male.
Machismo is in large part due to Latin cultures being labeled as working-class and low income. While high school enrollment and graduation rates are on par with those of other minorities and non-Hispanic whites, male collegiate enrollment and degree attainment fall short.
The question is not of manhood but why the Latin culture and community continues to practice “nit-picky patriarchy” and traditional cultural beliefs of how a man should be.
Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley, I have friends who opted for a certificate program to get a job and help support their family. This “support the family out of necessity” mentality is not only practical when comparing the cost of a degree, but the work is directly linked to the man’s own sense of masculinity and self-worth.
However, this necessity-driven mentality is dangerous in college and higher education. Latino students who grow up knowing the machismo tradition are less likely to ask for help. Often, these same students cannot focus or cannot adjust to the university culture in a new town.
“Given the ongoing demographic shifts that point to a younger more Latino labor supply, this population represents the fastest growing employment pool yet the most underutilized talent pool,” said Dr. Victor B. Saenz and Dr. Luis Ponjuan in the article “The Vanishing Latino male in Higher Education.”
In a workforce requiring college credentials, having a large percentage of this demographic continue to enter the workforce prior to attaining a post-secondary degree will create a long term socio-economic catastrophe.
“Boys (generally) are not keeping pace with girls when it comes to educational attainment, and that is true for every racial ethnic group and across any socio-economic status,” said Dr. Saenz.
In the machismo tradition, traits like critical thinking, analyzing, reading and learning are all feminine. A man is meant to work with his hands or on his feet.
For Latinos, there has existed a growing “gender gap” for educational attainment dating back to the early ‘90s, and it is only getting worse.
By 2020, “more than half of the nation’s children are expected to be part of a minority race or ethnic group.” We are losing a large percentage of a growing demographic to the lack of education.
While Texas State has helpful programs such as the Minority Male Initiative, research should be done to understand this phenomenon and find a solution to minimize it.
– Jakob R. Rodriguez is a journalism freshman