The entry for machismo in the Encyclopedia Britannica reveals an Anglo prejudice towards it.“Exaggerated pride in masculinity, perceived as power, often coupled with a minimal sense of responsibility and disregard of consequences. In machismo there is supreme valuation of characteristics culturally associated with the masculine and a denigration of characteristics associated with the feminine.”Well, of course a Brit would describe it that way.
Frequently, while I was leading my Sea Scout crew composed of Hispanic youth offenders from the Orange County Juvenile Detention Center at Joplin, I would observe them strutting their stuff for the benefit of girls who happened to be in the area where we were training. They postured and called out to the girls in ways that reminded me of the film Outrageous Fortunestarring Bette Midler and Shelley Long, in which a group of Mexican-American workers attempt to attract the ladies from a passing truck with catcalls and suggestive gestures. Bette's character responds with a challenge: “Did that ever work for you boys?” Well, in my experience with the Latino gang members, it did. The girls they appealed to with catcalls and suggestive gestures responded with smiles and suggestive messages of encouragement. Let's just say, without being judgmental, that cultural behaviors vary.
I once lost a job for violating the cultural boundaries of machismo. I was working as the communications expert for a Chicano owned and operated social research organization in Colorado. [Note: Before you jump me for using a pejorative, let me explain that Chicano was not a bad thing among Hispanic-Americans in that part of the country. Indeed, it was the self-descriptor that they used, even in their letterhead.] Another employee, an artist, was supposed to prepare titles and charts for a slide presentation that I was assembling. (Long before personal computers and MS PowerPoint.) I prepared them myself to meet my deadline and thereby diminished his machismo. It served as grounds for discharge. Coincidentally, I had diminished my boss's machismoby failing to support him in a dispute with another supervisor. This occurrence left me with the distinct impression that machismowas not to be toyed with. I suspect that, in another time, violating the strictures of machismomight have led to a duel as in the 18th or 19th centuries when, if you accused an Anglo of lying, you would find yourself on the "field of honor."
Macho, an American disambiguation of machismo, tends to infer masculine strength only without any of the sexual connotations that one finds in the Hispanic culture. For example, Macho Man Randy Savage is acclaimed for his skill as a wrestler, not as a lover (however, he may be). [Note: The author is neither implying nor expressing anything that might be construed as impugning Mr. Savage's prowess with the ladies.]
My study of machismo has left me wondering how many more young ladies I might have dated when I was a young man had I been raised in that culture. However, in truth, I doubt that I would have been any more machismo than I was whatever it is we substitute in America for catching the lady's eye. Not every muchacho tiene machismo.