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Chicana and Chicano StudiesLatino Health Issues

Cultural Considerations for the Latino Community

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The Latino MSM Community

Sexual Health Risks

Intervention Techniques




Machismo is a cultural concept that defines what is manly in the Latino community; a ¡°real¡± man is bound by his word of honor, is responsible for his family¡¯s support, protection, discipline, and direction, and is the ¡°boss¡± in all family situations. While machismo does have some positive effects on the actions of male Latinos (notably in its emphasis on honor), critics suggest that it can be disempowering to both men and women. For Latino men, they must constantly prove their masculinity, which has been associated with taking on a greater number of sexual partners and engaging in sexually risky behaviors. For Latino MSM, it¡¯s associated with sexual coercion toward the receiving partner (the partner into which the penis is inserted) and an emphasis on anal sex. Sexual coercion uses different forms of manipulation (mental, psychological, or emotional) to force a partner to do certain sexual behaviors. Machismo and an emphasis on more traditional general roles (for men and women, but also for receiving partners in a male-to-male sexual contact situation) are associated with less acculturation.


Familismo describes the cultural importance of the family (including extended family and unrelated friends) to Latino culture and Latino individuals. Latino MSM may be unwilling to seek treatment or information about MSM sexual health due to fear of judgment from their families or friends. They may also be unwilling to discuss their sexual identities or feelings, due to fears that the entire would learn about it and pass judgment. Especially for non-gay identified (NGI) MSM, or men who do not identify as gay or bisexual but rather as heterosexual or other, fears that their family would find out (connected to the idea of familismo) were identified as a barrier to improving sexual behaviors. Because of their extended family structure, many less acculturated and migrant Latino MSM were uncomfortable discussing their sexual behaviors. On the other hand, family support of a gay or bisexual lifestyle has been identified as a protective factor against the effects of homophobia for Latino MSM.


Fatalism describes the idea that there are things in the world over which we have control, and therefore we should just ¡°let the dice roll.¡± Fatalism is connected to feelings of hopelessness, racism, poverty, and homophobia. Research suggests that interventions should include a self-efficacy component to overcome ideas of fatalism.

Sexual silence

In Western society, sexual behavior is viewed with some discomfort, and it is at times identified with immoral or dangerous behavior. Talking frankly about sex can be connected with promiscuity, or emotional or physical abuse. Sometimes sexual silence is enforced by dependence on a partner for financial or other reasons. Homosexual behavior is especially stigmatized as bad or deviant; in the Latino MSM community. "Homophobia is often expressed as a conspiracy of silence" where homosexual behavior is never discussed in either the home or the community (from Marin 2003). Sexual silence can result in a lack of assess to needed information or protection, emotional pain, and lack of validation of feelings. Sexual silence, especially the discomfort around discussions of sex or healthy sexual behavior, can lead to lower rates of condom use and riskier sexual behaviors.

Cultural attitudes toward homosexuality and bisexuality

It is important to consider Latino viewpoints on homosexuality and bisexuality when discussing the Latino MSM community. Many Latino men that mainstream American (Anglo) culture might identify as ¡°gay¡± or bisexual identify themselves as heterosexual. In a male-to-male sexual contact, the inserting partner (the ¡°dominant¡± partner that inserts his penis during anal sex) is still considered masculine and heterosexual. While in mainstream American culture, ¡°one drop of homosexuality¡± or one sexual encounter with another man labels you as ¡°gay,¡± in Latino culture ¡°gay¡± is associated with the receiving partner (into whom the penis is inserted). In Mexican culture, they are called putos or jotos and are considered feminine. This affects the messages tailored to Latino MSM. Previous messages and models of intervention have been focused on white MSM, in particular the white gay community.

To find out more about intervention techniques, click here.


Accessibility | Privacy | ASU Disclaimer This site was created by Kimberly Hill in fulfillment of requirements for the course CSS 335: Latino Health Issues taught by Dr. Szkupinski Quiroga at Arizona State University, Spring 2007.