Last week’s drama over the release of a recorded conversation between three city councilmembers and the former president of the Los Angeles Labor Federation has no end in sight. De León’s refusal to step down — even when faced with increasing political pressure to do so — reminds me of one of my least favorite concepts in Latino culture: machismo.
“Any man can make mistakes,but only an idiot persists in his error.” —Cicero, “Philippics”(44-43 BCE)
Increased demands for City Councilmember Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo to resign seem to have no effect on either of them. Cedillo doesn’t worry me. I live in his district. We got sick of him and voted him out before any of this drama started. And I’m glad we did. His complacency during that conversation merits his place among the bigots.
De León’s actions, however, remind me of a passage from “The Sons of La Malinche” by the Mexican author Octavio Paz, who describes the macho and how he perceives the world around him.
“The macho represents the masculine pole of life. The phrase ‘I am your father’ has no paternal flavor and it is not said in order to protect or to guide another, but rather to impose one’s superiority, that is, to humiliate … [t]he essential attribute of the macho — power — almost always reveals itself as a capacity for wounding, humiliating, annihilating.”
By assuming his role on the L.A. City Council, de León assumed the role of parent or guardian for his district, his city. And like that machista father, he ignores the cries and demands of his constituents and colleagues as they demand his resignation.
“The essential attribute of the macho — power — almost always reveals itself as a capacity for wounding, humiliating, annihilating.”
The last sentence strikes the strongest chord with me. De León definitely showed that he has the capability to wound and humiliate. His supporters play down his actions, trying to shift the focus to the developments in the Latino community that he’s helped push through. They try softening the ignorant comments and derogatory remarks he made about his colleague Mike Bonin and his child.
That’s disgusting, but it’s the machismo way. The macho cannot admit defeat, or accept blame. For the macho, complaining of pain, confessing to fears, failures or worries all come at the risk of losing status and respect among peers — and dropping lower on an invisible social ladder based on deluded ideas about alpha males.
Save face first, worry about the rest after.
Researchers at Harvard studied the impact of over-masculinization in the workplace. Not surprisingly, they found the impacts were negative overall: Working for or with a macho-man means dealing with a never-wrong ego, high-stress situations created by that ego and even rage when things just don’t go as planned.
“Put simply, masculinity contest cultures are toxic to organizations and the men and women within them,” the study reads. “In extreme cases, such as Uber, the pressure cooker explodes, severely damaging or even destroying the organization.”
How anyone can’t see that there is a serious issue within the walls of our own government buildings still boggles my mind.
I return to Paz, who draws a parallel between the macho and the conquistadors who invaded and ultimately colonized more than half of Latin America, and things start to make sense.
Thousands of people whose tax dollars pay de León’s salary and pension want him gone, and he does not care.
“It is impossible not to notice the resemblance between the figure of the macho and that of the Spanish conquistador. This is the model — more mythical than real — that determines the images the Mexican people form of men in power: caciques, feudal lords, hacienda owners, politicians, generals, captains of industry. They are all machos … ”
They’re emulating the conquistadors — selfish, power-hungry men undeserving of the positions they held. The sheer fact that they emulate the behaviors and characteristics of conquistadors shows how little they could possibly care about others.
They’re emulating the conquistadors — selfish, power-hungry men undeserving of the positions they held. The sheer fact that they emulate the behaviors and characteristics of conquistadors shows how little they could possibly care about others. Thousands of people whose tax dollars pay de León’s salary and pension want him gone, and he does not care.
He reminds me of the capitalist and former train wreck of a president, Donald Trump. Both have made racist remarks. Both have gaslit others or played down their part in the face of criticism. And both refuse to go away even though we want them to.
Regardless of how this turns out, de León’s reputation will forever bear the stain of his “mistakes” and his poor handling of those “mistakes.” That may end up being the only satisfaction we get out of all this.