Race and Identity Race and Mental Health What Is 'Marianismo'? The traditional woman's role in LatinX culture By Ixa Sotelo Ixa Sotelo Ixa is an Austin, Texas-based writer and contributor for Verywell Mind, where she explores the intersections of Latinx culture, spirituality, non-monogamy, mental health, and queer identity. Learn about our editorial process Updated on October 24, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Yolanda Renteria, LPC Medically reviewed by Yolanda Renteria, LPC Yolanda Renteria, LPC, is a licensed therapist, somatic practitioner, national certified counselor, adjunct faculty professor, speaker specializing in the treatment of trauma and intergenerational trauma. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Verywell / Alison Czinkota Table of Contents View All Table of Contents History Three Concepts of Marianismo Health Impact Machismo and Marianismo Gender-Based Violence Protests In many Latin American or Hispanic cultures, 'marianismo' culture encapsulates an idealized traditional feminine gender role characterized by submissiveness, selflessness, chastity, hyper-femininity, and the acceptance of machismo in males. History of Marianismo Although a definition of 'Marianismo' did not arise until the 1970s, the construct can be dated back to Colonization. When the Spanish arrived in what is now Latin America, they brought along with them their Roman Catholic beliefs, and inside their bibles and in their art, they praised a figure of what they believed to be the definition of a pure woman—The Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary Mary, chosen to be the mother of Jesus Christ, according to Roman Catholicism, is believed to have given the ultimate sacrifice. She fully committed herself to the Catholic God and even bore his son. She was a woman of great dedication to her spirituality and became a deeply loving mother. This figure of Catholic history is where Marianismo comes from. She, Mary, is the great expectation for women in Marianismo. They will be pure, virginal, loving, and dedicated to lives outside their own. Often, to their own expense. What 'Marianismo' Looks Like: Traits of the Ideal Latina Marianismo, a term that was first coined by Evelyn Stevens in 1973, describes a gender-based expectation for women throughout Latin America. Expected Traits of the Ideal Latina The ideal Latina should be:SubordinatePureA good wifeA good motherVirtuousHumbleQuiet and not speak her opinionsDevoutly spiritual Three Main Concepts of Marianismo Marianismo can be framed through three main concepts: Familismo: A woman should be a good mother or possess the qualities of becoming a good mother. She must care for the kids and her husband above all else.Respeto: A woman should not be sexual and should remain a virgin until she is to have children. Even when she becomes sexually active, she should not crave sex or have sexual desires. Sex is reserved for male pleasure and making babies only.Simpatica: A woman should be self-sacrificing. She should not engage in conflict and if a conflict arises, she should remain quiet and not voice her opinion. What Is Toxic Femininity? The Health Impact of Marianismo Marianismo has an overall negative mental health impact on women. Not only is Marianismo tied to higher rates of anxiety and depression, but it also cultivates a culture of self-silencing where women withhold their thoughts, opinions, and emotions, with this being perceived as better for the family. Self-Silencing Leads to Poorer Physical Health According to Karen Jakubowski, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, the impact of self-silencing is not restricted to just one's mental health. A study of women (who were between the ages of 40 and 60 and self-silenced), found that they felt like they could not express themselves in intimate relationships and had a 14% higher chance of showing plaque in their carotid artery. Plaque like this could lead to cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks and strokes. Self-silencing, a virtue of Marianismo, is not only detrimental to the mental health of women but to their physical health as well. How Marianismo Relates to Machismo Marianismo has a dyadic relationship with Machismo which is the social construction of masculinity across Latin American and Spanish cultures. In LatinX Culture, a Person's Ability to Embody These Roles Determines Their Worth Marianismo and Machismo are symbiotic. In other words, men are taught to be powerful figures in society and in their homes. In addition, their worth is ascribed to how well they play into this gender role. Women, on the other hand, are taught that their worth is determined by how well they play into their own Marianismo gender role. Machismo cannot exist without Marianismo, with Machismo formulating attitudes regarding how women should perform. The virtues of women under Machismo parallel the definition of women who ascribe to Marianismo. Marianismo and Violence Marianismo is inherently and inarguably sexist. It contributes to the gender gap across Latin American countries and societies. Gender-Based Violence Women are conditioned to be passive and self-sacrificing–not empowered. Consequently, they are more likely to be targets of gender-based violence. Femicide, or the murder of women because they are women, runs rampant throughout Latin America. Emergency Information If you or a loved one are a victim of any form of violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911. 911 Latinas Are Fighting Back Against Marianismo Culture Women raised in Marianismo culture are fighting back. For instance, in Argentina, women speak out against gender-based violence with a protest movement called #NiUnaMenos (“Not One Women Less”). Mexico has followed suit, with its #UnDiaSinNosotras (“A Day Without Us”) campaign. During this protest, women walked out from their schools and jobs for 24 hours to show what society would be missing if women were not there. To be a woman in the streets fighting for her rights, loud and empowered, is to signal to a patriarchal society that Marianismo is no longer the determinant of a woman’s worth across Latin America or Latin American societies. Shedding Light on Mental Health in the LatinX Community A Word From Verywell While Marianismo has been embedded into LatinX culture, many people are pushing back against it as it's become evident how detrimental it is to women's mental and physical health. You have the right to speak up for yourself, express your feelings, and explore your sexuality. Women do not have to be defined solely in relation to children and the men in their lives. If you've been affected by Marianismo culture, please reach out for help from a mental health professional or lean on your support system. It's best to find a therapist who has a deep understanding of LatinX culture. LatinX Therapy has an extensive directory of LatinX therapists that speak both English and Spanish and are of varying genders, races, and nationalities. Therapeutic rapport is a must for successful treatment, so take your time and find someone you connect with. Crisis Support If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental health crisis, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. 988 9 LatinX Mental Health Resources 6 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. APA Dictionary of Psychology. Marianismo. University of Pittsburgh Press. Marianismo : the other face of machismo in Latin America. UNED Research Journal. Marianismo Identity, Self-Silencing, Depression and Anxiety in Women from Santa María de Dota, Costa Rica. Jakubowski KP, Barinas-Mitchell E, Chang YF, Maki PM, Matthews KA, Thurston RC. The Cardiovascular Cost of Silence: Relationships Between Self-silencing and Carotid Atherosclerosis in Midlife Women. Ann Behav Med. 2022;56(3):282-290. doi:10.1093/abm/kaab046 Garcia, Emma. Blending the Gender Binary: The Machismo-Marianismo Dyad as a Coping Mechanism. Honors Projects. 2021. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Femicides in Mexico: Impunity and Protests. By Ixa Sotelo Ixa is an Austin, Texas-based writer and contributor for Verywell Mind, where she explores the intersections of Latinx culture, spirituality, non-monogamy, mental health, and queer identity. 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