Ruth Gutierrez Proff. Julia Curry MAS 160 9 a. m. 12 May 2009 Mexican American Males and Alcoholism Drinking alcohol is a behavior that diverse ethnicities and cultures have adapted as a form of leisure, celebration, socialization, or cultural practice. Mexican American males have engaged in drinking alcohol for all of these reasons. It is important to analyze the process of acculturation Mexican American experience and how it affects their ability to persuade and control their alcohol consumption.
The stress of adjusting to a new place than the one they have been accustomed to and have already been accepted in, can lead males to drink alcohol to help them in coping with their issues. The gravity of extreme alcohol drinking is also highly influenced by demographic factors such as income, language, age, marital status and legal status in the United States. Unfortunately social, cultural, and demographic factors also play an important role in the likeliness of Mexican American males to accept that they have a problem with alcohol and furthermore commit themselves to a program that will rehabilitate their alcohol dependency.
There can be many unknown reasons why a Mexican American may fall into alcoholism and never actually accept that they need help, but perhaps the most common one is the Mexican cultural concept of machismo. Machismo among Mexican American males is series of behaviors that express their masculinity through patriarchy, violence, and physical capabilities. Males learn machismo at a surprisingly young age through their parents, family members, and other peers. Part of the Mexican culture is to celebrate by drinking tequila, which branches off the behavior young males follow, of proving their masculinity by withstanding large amounts of alcohol.
In the context of alcoholism, the “macho” behavior in a male who is older and married would be characterized by heavy drinking until drunk, physical violence toward wife, and going out late at night (Jacobs 1981). Accepting that their alcohol consumption has developed into a harmful habit would puncture their male pride, honor, and strength (Zimmerman and Roysircar 1993). Drinking alcohol to prove their masculinity and accentuate their male pride and honor can perhaps be seen as the superficial factor in alcoholism among Mexican American males.
There is a deeper issue that pertains to the process of acculturation that Mexican Americans are forced to go through when migrating to the United States or balancing their established Mexican culture at home with the American culture they are exposed to outside of their home. The drinking patterns can be justified by the level of acculturation the male has been exposed to. Acculturation is the process of adjusting to the culture of the dominant group (Zimmerman and Roysircar 1993). The overall consensus is that there are males who stick close to traditionalism, but are not highly acculturated, and others that are highly acculturated.
Both of these situations result in a series of different alcohol behaviors (Zimmerman and Roysircar 1993). Regardless of what the situation is, it does not free them of alcoholism. A Mexican American male that is close to his Mexican traditions and culture is likely to engage in excessive alcohol consumption because this behavior has been shaped by the learned cultural expectations (Gilbert and Cervantes 1987). It is crucial to understand the cultural reference that alcohol represents in the Mexican culture and that it can easily transmitted from generation to generation.
Having that said, it is fair to say that males who migrated to the United Stated during their adolescent years and older were already shaped by the customs of Mexico (Gilbert and Cervantes 1987). Perhaps a better way to understand why Mexicans or Mexican Americans inherit vulnerability to fall into alcoholism is to look into permissiveness in the culture. Introduction to alcohol in a male’s life occurs early on, therefore promoting the use of alcohol (Jacobs 1981). Little or no supervision during constant alcohol consumption also leads to the continuance of this behavior generation to generation.
Lastly, access to alcohol in Mexico is not a difficult obstacle to overcome. Therefore, males who migrated to the U. S. have already been heavily exposed to alcohol. These points are not to prove that alcoholism among Mexican American men is caused entirely by the exposure of Mexico’s customs, but to outline the different reasons why a male might fall in alcoholism. A male who migrates to the U. S. or a Mexican American male that has lived most or his entire life in the U. S. as mentioned before, might engage in excessive drinking because of the pressures of acculturation.
Dealing with the stress of leaving behind natal customs to adapt new values and behaviors can result heavy alcohol consumption. Even though the Mexican culture has already shaped the behavior of drinking in males, it is still different from the American drinking behaviors. Mexican men drink less frequently, but more heavily, while Americans drink more frequently, but not so heavily (Gilbert and Cervantes 1987). Clearly a combination of both as a form of dealing with stress can be catastrophic. During the acculturation process the greatest amount of stress can be felt when the feeling of loneliness starts to settle in.
When a male feels he is distanced from his Mexican culture and life style, but not accepted by the new dominant culture he has been trying to adapt, he is more susceptive to alcoholism (Zimmerman and Roysircar 1993). While trying to cope with the adaptation of a new identity, Mexican American males also have several socio-demographic factors that add to their alcoholism vulnerability. Income has been linked to excessive alcohol consumption among populations that struggle to sustain a liable income (Rivera 1984). Therefore it is very likely that many Mexican American males seek consolation of their financial worries in alcohol.
Keeping in mind the idea of machismo it is also likely that males seek consolation for their failure to fulfill all of their masculine roles. In this case it would be to be a stable breadwinner for the family or himself. Moving on, proficiency in speaking the English language is also crucial for the adjustment process (Rivera 1984). Speaking only Spanish and not being able to efficiently communicate with others can cause traumatic stress that can very well lead into alcoholism. Lastly, legal status in the U. S. can also cause stress that can lead to alcohol abuse.
It is not uncommon for males to migrate alone to the U. S. to work and leave his family behind in Mexico. This situation can lead the male to abuse drinking in order to fill his loneliness. The reasons why Mexican American males recur to alcoholism as a form of consolation or habitual behavior, they have been accustomed to vary. Regardless it can be concluded that the way in which the two factors of drinking for consolation and drinking because of habit play out differently depending on the level of acculturation, and socio-economic factors.
In both situations the role of machismo in males can prevent them from receiving the proper help required to deal with alcoholism. It is almost as if they have self medicated their problems and worries, and alcohol is the solution. Admitting to an alcoholism problem would mean failure to live up to their masculine role. Citations Gilbert, M. Jean and Cervantes, Richard C. Mexican Americans and Alcohol. Los Angeles, CA : Spanish Speaking Mental Health Research Center. 1987. Jacobs, Rosevelt. A Study of Drinking Behavior and Personality Characteristics of Three Ethnic Groups. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International. 981. Rivera, L. Hector. Family Ties Disruption: An Exploratory Study to Examine Alcohol Abuse Among Latino Males. 1984. Zimmerman, Jane Euteneuer, and Gargi Roysircar Sodowsky.. “Influences of Acculturation on Mexican-American Drinking Practices: Implications for Counseling. ” Journal of Multicultural Counseling & Development 21. 1 (Jan. 1993): 22-35. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Martin Luther King Library. Salinas, Calif. 12 May 2009 <http://search. ebscohost. com. libaccess. sjlibrary. org/login. aspx? direct=true&db=aph&AN =9707075419&loginpage=login. asp&site=ehost-live>.