The Powerful Role of Family in Hispanic Culture [Unlike U.S. Culture]
Hispanic family values are powerful.
By watching movies, reading books, or meeting Latino people, it‘s easy to see that family is the core of Latin American society and a key source of support, guidance, and encouragement.
Read this article to discover how deeply family influences Hispanic culture.
¡Aprendamos sobre los valores familiares hispanos!
Let’s learn about Hispanic family values!
What Are Family Values?
Family values are a set of concepts and practices that we learn at home and that have been passed from generation to generation. Generally, these depend on your country, region, and culture and help shape your behavior, path of choice-making, priorities in life, and even reactions.
Embracing family values means taking in these elements that our families teach us, whether explicitly or implicitly. If you want to know why societies differ from one another, it’s because of this concept that feeds on culture, religion, ancient traditions, and other factors.
Hispanic Family Values (Latino vs Spanish)
First of all, what is Hispanic? Hispanic comes from the word “Hispania,” the Roman term for Spain, and it refers to anything that has to do with Spain geographically and linguistically. Thus, Hispanic countries are those that speak Spanish—so, most of Latin America—including Spain, totaling 22.
Roughly 580 million people speak Spanish around the world; it’s fourth after English, Chinese, and Hindi. (Not a bad idea to learn it, huh?)
Latino refers to all of Latin America, including countries that do not speak Spanish. This means you can be Hispanic and not Latino (like Spaniards) or Latino and not Hispanic (like Brazilians).
Latino Family Values and Dynamics
So, what are some essential Hispanic family values?
Latino families are close-knit and almost never refer to nuclear families only, but to extended families as well. Since we are close we tend to live in the same city or region. It is uncommon for family members to move to another region or country.
Staying with relatives or receiving them at home is a regular practice in Latino culture. Even if there aren’t enough beds, people will sleep in sleeping bags, on couches, or on inflatable mattresses. After all, the whole point of visiting family is spending time with them.
Latinos have the moral responsibility of helping other family members in need by loaning money, offering their house as a place to live, or taking care of a sick person, for example. Support and security among the extended family is the backbone of Hispanic family values.
Hand-picked for you: Homestay with a Mexican family
Etiquette, Formality, and Eating Habits
Showing good manners is one of the most important Latino family values. As a Latin family member, you’re expected to:
- Be silent at church
- Clean your plate
- Say “thanks,” “please,” and “bless you”
- Help clear the table or washing dishes, and
- Share your things.
To refer to someone with respect we call them sir and madam—señor and señora. And don or doña applies to someone especially highly regarded. In this context, Spanish speakers use the pronoun usted, which is a formal “you” that has its own verb conjugations.
It is important for Latino families to eat together. When we do, we have a sobremesa which is a lapse of time after eating while having coffee and dessert when we talk about our day, the weather, the news, or any topic. The sobremesa is when we bond.
Religion and Holidays
More than 90% of the Hispanic world is Catholic and religion is a major thing for many of us. Most of our holidays are religious in nature, such as Christmas, Easter, Three Kings’ Day, and Patron Saints’ Days
Other kinds of holidays are the national ones, like dates where we commemorate independence, revolutions, or specific traditios like Day of the Dead in Mexico.
Spanish Family Values
In Spain, Hispanic family values are more inclined toward academic and professional achievement. Religious values are less important to Spanish parents. In Latin America, religion is still a pillar of our society that dictates our lives.
See also: Talk about your family in Spanish
Traditional Hispanic Family Structure
Respecting our elders is a part of Hispanic family values. To disrespect someone older than you is considered a dishonor, lack of education, and a result of bad parenting.
Hierarchy is important in the Latino household. Grandparents and parents are at a higher level than kids.
There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, in Oaxaca, the indigenous Zapotecan society is a matriarchy where women are not dependent on men. Women provide money and food, make decisions, and are the source of authority and discipline.
It is acceptable for sons and daughters not to leave their parents’ home until their thirties due to economic conditions or the closeness of the family. And in most cases when they go, they don’t go far.
These close-knit families are called familia muégano. The muégano is a Mexican dessert made of flour squares held together with caramel. Once it solidifies, it’s impossible to break them apart unless you use major force.
Check out: 12 Spanish songs for kids about family
Traditional Gender Roles Within the Family
In traditional homes, the father is the sole financial provider. He works long hours and in return is taken care of at home by females. Since he is out working all day, he is not involved in the daily matters of the house. Nonetheless, he is the main authority who makes the most significant decisions and disciplines the kids when needed.
Hispanic mothers are famous for being submissive and sacrificing. The father is the most respected, but the mother is the most loved. We have a saying that goes madre sólo hay una or “mother there’s just one,” as if to say everyone else is replaceable.
Their never-ending chores leave them with little time for anything else. They’re nurturing and employ love or tough love as they please to discipline their children.
In some Latin American households, children have autonomy and are encouraged to speak their minds. In others, children cannot express their opinions or preferences in front of grown-ups, choose their own clothes,l or even start a conversation on their own.
From a young age, children are taught what is expected of them as adults. Latino sons are expected to have fun, study, and eventually get a job. Latina girls have been instructed from a young age on the responsibilities of taking care of a household and a family.
Since sharing, solidarity, and teamwork are Hispanic family values, sibling rivalry is uncommon.
Marianismo and Machismo
Machismo is a form of oppression where men oppress women and use them for their benefit. It is a system of beliefs, actions, attitudes, and social practices designed to promote the superiority of men over women.
In Latin America, machismo intersects with heterosexuality, racism, and classism. Understanding the Hispanic Culture also means understanding machismo and where it comes from, and who benefits from it. Its positive aspects include bravery, protection, and resolution of problems.
Marianismo, on the other hand, is a set of societal expectations of women. They include chastity, submissiveness, sacrifice, piety, delicacy, tolerance, and obedience to men. This leads to abuse and depression, according to this study. The word marianismo comes from the Virgin Mary.
Hispanic Family Values vs American Family Values
Americans instill independence in their children from an early age and send them to live on their own as early as 18. Latino families wouldn’t dream of that.
American family ties aren’t as close as Hispanics. It is common to have family members move by themselves far from where they grew up, making it difficult to see each other frequently.
Hispanics love to cook, it is the family time from the beginning to where all sit down and eat, it is a social, long event. In America, it is common to have precooked or frozen meals ready to be served and eaten quickly.
Americans are time-specific and punctual. To Latinos, time is a suggestion more than a definite or rigid concept.
See also: Homestay with a Guatemalan family
Changes in the Modern Hispanic Family Dynamic
As the world changes, so do Hispanic family values. Today, Latina women are fighting to stop the patriarchal system and promote girls’ education.
The negativity of machismo is widely known. In both men and women, lack of communication and emotional capacity can lead to poor anger management, low emotional intelligence, and even illnesses.
Feminist movements in most Latin American countries are stirring the collective consciousness. Three years ago, Chilean feminists created a song that was sung all over the world. These women have been an inspiration and are role models of future generations of Latinas.
This is shifting beliefs and behaviors inside our homes, where Hispanic family values start. More inclusion and support exist in many public spaces and platforms.
Latinas are famous for their rivalry, and now there are new rules such as always believing the victim of gender discrimination without discrediting her or exposing her, supporting each other in situations where we are vulnerable, and so on.
Speak Spanish Starting Today
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Want to learn more about Hispanic and Latin American culture? Check these out!
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