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1 posts from November 2011

11/02/2011

Latinas choosing non-Latinos in greater numbers:

What’s behind this growing trend?


There is growing evidence that Latinas continue to choose partners who are non-Latinos in greater numbers. This statistic is difficult to fully understand or interpret but it is clear that there are important issues behind this trend. In my conversations with Latina professionals over the past 20 years, multiple explanations are expressed. Most of them share stories of the mixed messages they received in their families of origin about which types and groups of partners were most acceptable. While some tell of receiving supportive input that encouraged choice among any group, most describe either subtle or direct messages about either preferring Latinos or encouraging partnering across various cultures.
Sometimes examples sent stronger messages than what was spoken. There were often times confusing messages that encouraged Latinas to “marry up” which meant seeking out non-Latinos as partners.

The most prominent reason Latinas give for their non-Latino partner choices has to do with experiences where dating or marrying Latinos was found to be limiting in terms of their freedom and support for their professional goals. Unfortunately, these women describe the subtle or blatant beliefs in masculine superiority that plague some Latinos and ultimately sabotage their relationships. Latinas tend to be highly motivated and ambitious in their approach to their educational accomplishments or career objectives. For this reason, they look to their partners to be secure enough in their own identities not to be threatened by the success of their Latina girlfriends or partners. Others tell of having to turn down promotions or other developmental opportunities in order to preserve peace in their marriages. While somewhat supportive of their wives careers early on, when a woman’s salary threatens to surpass the man’s earnings, few are not intimidated by this perceived role reversal.

What are the implications for Latinos of these disturbing trends? Our Latino culture is full of positive aspects that make our heritage rich and fulfilling such as our dedication to our families, our strong work ethic and our generous purpose. We believe in taking into account the needs of a wide range of people within our families, organizations and communities. One of the ongoing challenges we face as a community is including our gender differences in a constructive way that fits our current society and allows us all to thrive and contribute to a productive world.

Many of us grew up in more traditional family structures where the role of father and mother were well differentiated; his role was to deal with the external world and provide for the needs of the family while her primary concerns had to do with the well-being of her children and maintaining a vibrant home life for all. This pattern may have worked well in the past but is clearly ill suited for the current world we live in. Even if only for economic reasons, women need to be given equal opportunities to achieve their educational and professional goals.

As Latinas, we can deepen our understanding of the forces that shaped men’s attitudes about women and how we ourselves were sometimes socialized to sacrifice our own needs and goals for the welfare of others. Latinos can do their own work to identify and remove any lingering gender biases they may have learned in their youth that no longer serve. Both tendencies are destructive and we can help modify these attitudes in our partners, our children, our society and ourselves. If not, we can expect this trend to continue with unknown and possibly harmful consequences. What have been your experiences with Latino and non-Latino partners? What insight can you offer about these dynamics and ideas about how to address the underlying issues?
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