Masculinity, gender, and power in a Mayan-Kaqchikel community in Sololá, Guatemala

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How do self-identified heterosexual Kaqchikel men in the rural areas of Sololá attain status and power in their relationships with women? This question is explored here by analyzing different masculine roles in various social spaces. The complexity of masculine identity requires a meticulous analysis to assess the extent to which the masculine role and identity has been or not a determinant factor in the social and personal development of both women and men in the communities. This exploration also allows us to see the different expressions of masculine identities and evaluate their current role in society. I learned that the Kaqchikel men I interviewed find their social power and status in part through well-established, old ideologies and belief systems, as well as their perception of a biological superiority, which they justify by their hard work in agricultural activities. Based on this socially constructed beliefs and practices, men emphasize the passivity of the women and their social absence – their subordinate status in society. However, the authority of the men is not limited to their remarkable role as leaders and head of the households; it also encompasses pernicious acts such as domestic violence, which is still highly prevalent in contemporary Sololá. This project also explores these men’s perceptions about: (1) the women living in their communities, (2) the low level of education of these women, and (3) the justice system that is still weak and flawed. While all of these are indeed prevailing problems in the communities, women are challenging to an extent all the practices and beliefs associated with the authority of the men.