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?
Latest posts by Emily Moyer (see all)
- Off the Beaten Path: Eating Through El Pitilall - August 17, 2015
- Go Local: Taco Tour with Vallarta Eats - August 10, 2015
- Going Deeper: Advanced Adventurer with Roctopus Dive in Koh Tao - June 1, 2015