Masculinity and Sexuality in Modern Mexico. Edited by Victor M. Macías-González and Anne Rubenstein . (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2012. Pp. vii, 280. $31.95.)


This volume of nine essays investigates the ever-changing landscape of hypermasculinity, known commonly as “macho,” from 1880 to the present. The task of the collection is to dispel the myth that macho is a universal or monolithic concept to which all Mexican men aspire. The editors helpfully summarize classic works on gender by Joan W. Scott and Judith Butler, which describe gender as a series of socially constructed power relations that are performative in nature. The opening articles focus on masculine identities embraced by some men and contrast them with ambiguous or alternative masculinities embraced by others to subtly arrange for private, homosexual encounters. Kathryn A. Sloan's article on “Runaway Daughters” makes excellent use of court cases on the subject of rapto, which is best described as “elopement through abduction” (75). The agency of young women who emulated masculine tropes to “abduct” their way to marriage provides one example of “masculine women”—the third major theme of the volume. The second section analyzes mass-media depictions of men in folk music, movies, and printed images aimed at the reproduction and distribution of masculine roles.

The consistent strength of these articles is the ability of the authors to introduce the nonexpert to the subject before moving to detailed case studies. Victor M. Macías-González details how the rule of Porfirio Diaz from 1876 to 1911 powerfully shaped definitions of masculinity during the period of the “Porfiriato” and explains that much of the evolution of gender in the modern period either incorporated these ideals or reacted to them. President Diaz and his technocrats, los científicos, instilled a great respect for reason, masculinity, and science in the elite ruling class. The dual embarrassment of territory loss to the United States and French occupation in the nineteenth century led Diaz to redefine masculinity as the embodiment of “civility, refinement, and whiteness” (265). The second section investigates multiple masculinities throughout the regions of Mexico from the “Golden Age” of cinema during the early twentieth century up to the charros gays or “gay cowboys” of the early 2000s.

Throughout the period, members of the proletariat challenged European notions of masculinity as “decadent,” “self-serving,” or “effeminate” (42). To differentiate themselves from these troublesome qualities, lower-class men fortified their macho identity through consumption of tequila, visiting prostitutes, and reading the often-lewd images and commentary of “penny press” periodicals. Robert Buffington provides nuanced translations of the wordplay present in the articles and images of these primary sources from Mexico City (159).

The volume is suitable for use in a colloquium or seminar as an excellent addition for a close study of Mexican masculinity and machismo. The conclusion by Ramón A. Gutiérrez includes an important summary of the historical framing of macho by Octavio Paz and Américo Paredes, and the individual chapters stand alone to provide highly readable insights into specific aspects of the modern period of Mexican history.