Is it a cultural thing? | Machismo in Argentina

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D and I had been dating for six months before my suspicions were confirmed. I knew what was going on, but I was too disillusioned to really do anything about it. He told me I was crazy – I was the one with his family for Shabbat dinners every Friday, spending countless hours with his friends – there was no one else.

I didn’t believe him, but for some reason, I couldn’t let it go. She was in Italy for God’s sake.

How could he be in a relationship with me, in Argentina, and in a relationship with her, almost 7,000 miles away?

It wasn’t until I recognized her from 30 feet away, at a concert in an old warehouse in Buenos Aires, and spoke to her face to face because obviously she too knew exactly who I was, that I could come to terms with the reality I was living in.

It was hard to ignore it after she had come to visit him.

Machismo in Latin America is well-known. As a student of Spanish language and literature in high school and later a Latin American Studies major, I’ve deeply studied this part of the world, analyzing novels, research papers and news articles that highlight this cultural phenomenon.

Chamuyero | noun; 1. a smooth talker, a sweet talker. Often used to describe guys that say whatever to try to pick up girls; source

But when it came time for it to be my turn to share in this anti-feminist custom, it didn’t even cross my mind that this could be the reason why. Though one of the first porteño, or someone from Buenos Aires, slang words I learned after setting foot on Argentine soil was “chamuyero” (defined above), I never connected it to my own relationship. When I walked down the street, constantly catcalled,  I got pretty accustomed to it and separated it from the men in my life.

Somehow, even to this day, I just have one theory for why D felt it acceptable to maintain a relationship with another woman in another country while we were clearly in a serious relationship: he is a sociopath.

When I retold my ex-boyfriend saga recently and the person listening responded with, “well, isn’t it a cultural thing?”, it got me thinking.

Is it a cultural thing?

And even if it is, does that excuse horrific behavior in a relationship?

What do you do when you enter the world of a new culture – immerse yourself – and you confront something that challenges every part of what you know and believe?

When I think about it now, five years later, I still choose not to excuse his actions as machismo.  D was a king chamuyero, but wasn’t that what drew me to him in the first place?

It might be culturally acceptable to be disloyal to women, but I hold high expectations for the people in my life.

I believe that as an individual, each person chooses whether to conform to his or her society’s norms or to be better.

Now I’m wondering,  is that asking someone else to conform to my cultural norms?

Was I literally blind to the culture?

One of the benefits and challenges of slow, immersive  travel is that you gain a true understanding of the people and places in which you’re inhabiting. It becomes extremely personal the more you connect with locals. And when you’re getting that deep, you’re bound to eventually face real difficulties across these lines of difference.

As I mentally prepare myself to dive into South East Asia, a part of the world I have never been to, I have these questions lingering in my head. How I will balance my own values and norms with those of the countries I’ll be visiting?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments. How do you balance your own values with those of the places you’re discovering? And, what do you think – is it a cultural thing?

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I'm Emily - a twenty-something female travel-enthusiast - here to serve and inspire you. Need help planning your next trip? Email me at emily [at] letsroamwild [dot] com and tag your own travel pics to share with the world @letsroamwild.

7 Responses to Is it a cultural thing? | Machismo in Argentina

  1. Rachel of Hippie in Heels August 27, 2014 at 6:54 am #

    culture shouldn’t excuse his actions anymore than culture in India shouldn’t excuse their buttgrabs or the rickshaw driver who KISSED MY HAND yesterday. Sometimes, we respect culture so much as travelers that we don’t want to offend or make a scene… it takes time to realize and asshole is an asshole, regardless of his country. What a jerk for doing that to you! ugh!
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted…My 5 Favorite Cities in IndiaMy Profile

    • Emily Moyer August 27, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Rachel. I know you’ve written about some stuff that’s happened to you in India that’s violated your norms so I know you get it! It’s hard to balance between wanting to respect a culture and totally feeling a barrier because of what you believe. And so well said – an asshole is an asshole 🙂

  2. Katelyn @ Diaries of a Wandering Lobster August 27, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

    This is a wonderfully insightful post! I think you rise a very tough question to answer. Personally, I try to be culturally mindful when I travel. I do my research before hand and try to learn the big “no-no’s” before I land so I don’t completely offend someone right off the bat. However, I often find that cultural awareness works both ways when I’m in a country. Many of times I have mentioned that I’m American and their opinions change of me immediately. I’m now that rude American. Or that rich American that I can rip off with a super high taxi fare! I think a lot of it comes from education. You don’t know what you don’t know. I think all that we can do is try our best to be respectable and open minded. However, I do think there are times when the line is crossed. In your case, I think the guy was just a pig IMHO. Unfortunately love makes us blind sometimes. I’ve been there before too!
    Katelyn @ Diaries of a Wandering Lobster recently posted…Horsing Around with Newport PoloMy Profile

    • Emily Moyer August 27, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

      Thank you for your kind words, Katelyn! It’s such a tough thing and I agree – it does go both ways. And I love that you mention that it comes from what you don’t know. I agree that the more people you connect with outside of your culture, the more understanding and aware you are. But, even then, I just wonder – at what point do you decide to disregard the ‘cultural norm’ and stick to your values?

  3. Steve August 29, 2014 at 5:13 am #

    I’m sorry to hear what’s happened. Using ‘culture’ as a excuse for cheating is not acceptable. You are best out of that relationship. Move forward and upwards. Take care.
    Steve recently posted…Warning Sign – Photo of the WeekMy Profile

  4. Pilar September 18, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

    Well, I´m an Argentine girl, and I´m really sorry for what you had to go through. Regarding your question, yes, I think it definitely has to do with culture: in Argentina, it´s common for men to be told that they are “winners” if they sleep with lots of girls, or if they have two romantic relationships at the same time. So, lots of them cheat, and then there are others who make girls believe that they are going to be their boyfriends, they sleep with them for a couple of months and then they dump them.. Yes, they are jerks, definitely!
    Now, the curious thing is that women don´t accept this behavior: in fact, all of my friends think that it´s morally incorrect for men to cheat, yet this situation continues and doesn´t seem to change with the passing of time. Personally, I´m fed up and don´t go out with Argentine men anymore.
    So my advice is: continue travelling around the world, and I´m sure you´ll find much better men than your Argentine ex boyfriend! Good luck!!

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