Common Features of Latin American Countries – San Francisco Bay Times
By Eduardo Morales, Ph.D.–
Latin America is made up of 20 countries and 14 dependent territories that cover an area stretching from Mexico in the north and from Tierra del Fuego to the southern tip of South America. Much of the Caribbean is also part of Latin America. Despite the vast expanse, many characteristics are shared in this important part of the Americas and those with Latin American heritage.
Some of the similarities are in language, as most Latin Americans speak Spanish or Portuguese, including local sets of dialects in those languages. In Brazil, for example, most people speak Brazilian Portuguese. Mexico, on the other hand, is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world and the second largest country in Latin America. While Belize is the least populated, its official language is English, but many speak Spanish.
Latinx people represent a wide variety of nations and races, making them multicultural and multiracial as well as cross-cultural and multilingual. Although many Latinx people may share the same language, all types of races and ethnicities are found among the various Latinx nations, including Black, Asian, Native American or American Indian, Caucasian, and multiple combinations, including mulattoes or of mixed black African and European-Caucasian descent. ; and mestizo, which means having mixed Native American and European-Caucasian heritage.
While most Latinx are considered Christians, many religions are actually practiced in Latin America. On the whole, Christian religious holidays are officially observed. For example, Lent is a time of reflection and preparation for Holy Week and Easter. Advent and Christmas are also observed, incorporating family gatherings.
For Latinxs, gender role identity is part of an overarching philosophy of life and is defined by secular society and religion. An exceptionally strong emphasis on the binary gender dichotomy is evident in Latinx societies and belief systems. More categorically, it is central to the Spanish language. Gender is assigned not only to living beings but also to inanimate objects in the world, so everything is basically divided into male or female. Therefore, his entire universe is binary and divided into masculine or feminine. This promotes a gender binary way of perceiving and thinking that is internalized by individuals growing up in the culture.
Despite greater cultural differences between the various Latinx countries, commonalities relating to language and traditional value systems still exist. Researchers have found various common characteristics and cultural values with the following terms: familismo, machismo, marianismo, sympathy, personalism, respect, and greetings.
Familismo refers to the importance of the family as the first social unit and involves the very active participation of the extended family as a source of instrumental support in the form of financial assistance and childcare.
Male chauvinism refers to a man’s responsibility to provide for, protect and defend his family. His loyalty and sense of responsibility to his family, friends and community make him a good man. The Anglo-American definition of macho tends to refer to someone who is sexist or exhibits macho behavior. This is radically different from the original Latin meaning of male chauvinismwhich conveys the notion of being an honorable and responsible man.
Marianism refers to a woman’s responsibility to provide for, protect and nurture her family and strongly value motherhood. The term Marianism comes from a biblical figure, the Virgin Mary or María, and refers to her purity and holiness in relation to the family while maintaining high moral and ethical standards. Selflessness and devotion to family and motherhood are held in high regard and are expected of Latinx people.
Sympatia refers to empathy and the importance of harmonious social relations and social politeness. Confrontation and persistence are considered offensive. Therefore, it is common to avoid disagreements and confrontations. Therefore, the Latinx listener may appear to agree with the speaker in a conversation as a sign of respect. For example, a Latinx person may refrain from disagreeing with an authority figure, as a sign of respect and politeness.
Personalism refers to a Latinx preference for forming personal relationships with others. This is based on a strong sense of trust, cooperation, mutual support and inclusion rather than exclusion.
Respect refers to the need for respect, especially for authority figures. People are expected to be treated with dignity. This is especially true for honoring the dignity of senior citizens by addressing them formally and using the title “Don” or “Doña” before their names.
Greetings refers to the importance of greeting others, touching them and expressing affection, with appropriate ways of addressing them. Introducing people and using correct social protocol is best for expressing sympathize and respect. For example, when latecomers arrive at a meeting, they are formally greeted, while in the United States, latecomers sit quietly without interrupting the meeting in progress.
Eduardo Morales, PhD, is one of the founders of AGUILAS, of which he is the executive director. He is also a retired professor emeritus at Alliant International University and is the current past president of the National Latinx Psychological Association.
Posted on March 10, 2022