The Problem With Latin Men: Fighting Machismo in Ecuador

June 6, 2011
ecuador, men, safety, volunteer

The Problem With Latin Men: Fighting Machismo in Ecuador

One thing that I knew I would run into while in Latin America was Latin American MEN. Let me reiterate…Latino men are obnoxious. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of really good guys down here in Ecuador, but I can honestly say that I was sick of the catcalls from week 1. During my orientation they warned us that Latin men are aggressive and straightforward.

As I adjusted Quito, I realized exactly what they meant. Ecuadorian men will go out of their way to be ridiculous. Just today as I was walking down the main drag in Ambato (my hometown in Ecuador), I was crossing the street when I was so rudely called back to reality from my own thoughts by a, “OYE!!!! Hiss, hiss, hiss” followed by kissing sounds from a nearby truck. “Oye” basically is like HEY! LISTEN AND LOOK AT ME!

Every woman is subject to catcalls in public in this country but gringas get a lot more attention. It is somewhat of an ego boost, but more than anything it is just obnoxious.

I always wonder what they are trying to get at because once they have your attention, the men just continue hissing, whistling, and catcalling. I wonder if women in Ecuador ever actually go up to the guys and give them their phone numbers. Does it work for any of them? I don’t know if it is programmed into their genes, but just about every Ecuadorian man does this. Why is this?

I know I am a gringa walking down the streets in my sweatpants and ‘just rolled out of bed look,’ yet apparently this is the most attractive thing they can imagine. But really? Is it the gringa thing? Is it because I am tall and am incredibly white? On a regular basis I look around me and see many Ecuadorian women who are beautiful.

They are dressed to a tee in their Ecuadorian fashion with full make-up and hair. Every woman is subject to catcalls in public in this country but gringas get a lot more attention. It is somewhat of an ego boost, but more than anything it is just obnoxious.

A common nickname for people with light colored eyes in this country is gato/gata (cat). As my friend was walking through a main plaza a man actually stopped her and meowed at her. Yes, you heard me right, meowed.

Another thing to be weary of is making eye contact with Ecuadorian men–in any context. More importantly if you are dancing with a guy and making eye contact, they will interpret this as encouragement and will try to kiss you. If you want to avoid this situation, you can dance with someone but don’t look him in the eye.

They see it as a green light to make a move. Expect this from every type of man; even old men are subject to stop you and tell you how beautiful you are. I don’t know how many times I have walked by an Ecuadorian man and heard, “bella, bonita, preciosa, mi reina, princesa, hermosa” and so much more. It is almost too much to take.

I have a friend who lives in Puerto Viejo on the coast and she happens to have blonde hair and blue eyes. A common nickname for people with light colored eyes in this country is gato/gata (cat). As my friend was walking through a main plaza a man actually stopped her and meowed at her. Yes, you heard me right, meowed. This just goes to show you that you can expect just about anything from Ecuadorian men.

The ugly truth is that machismo runs rampant in South America, wherever you are and catcalls are part of this problem. Machismo is the belief that men should be big, strong, domineering, and sexist. This can lead to catcalls, domestic abuse, and even rape. As a U.S. citizen it was a bit shocking when I first got here.

Personally, I think there is a strong tie between machismo and the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church pushes the macho stereotype. Have you ever thought about how women can never be priests and only nuns? They absolutely can’t move up in the system and are supposed to accept it and not question anything.

So the next time you are meowed at, whistled at, hissed at, or yelled at, keep your head up and ignore the comments. Don’t give Ecuadorian men the satisfaction or fuel their machismo, because you are better than that.

Another thing they don’t permit is the use of contraception or condoms. Consequently, sexually transmitted infections are common, and there are tons of women and young girls with babies that they can’t support and don’t even want.

I have adjusted to the idea of machismo, however I will never accept it as a part of my life. Maybe it is because I am from another culture, maybe it is because I am a feminist, or maybe it was the way I was brought up. I encourage any woman traveler to ask Latina women about machismo and how they feel about it.

Almost always, they don’t like it and want to change things, but don’t know how. Honestly, I don’t think many women have ever thought about machismo and how it affects their lives.  This is a major problem and I challenge any foreign woman traveler to address the issue and make suggestions to struggling women in Latin America.

So the next time you are meowed at, whistled at, hissed at, or yelled at, keep your head up and ignore the comments. Don’t give Ecuadorian men the satisfaction or fuel their machismo, because you are better than that. Be strong and brave.

The Problem With Latin Men: Fighting Machismo in Ecuador

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The Problem With Latin Men: Fighting Machismo in Ecuador to photography credit: pixabay.

Have you traveled to Ecuador and dated Latin men? What were your impressions? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you!

11 thoughts on “The Problem With Latin Men: Fighting Machismo in Ecuador

  1. Avatar
    Jorge-096
    May 7, 2019
    Reply

    As an ecuadorian man, a realistic one, I have to mark the following:

    I accept that you complain about man catcalling woman in the streets. They do that because they think is funny, or because they do not seek an opportunity to get a beatiful woman often. Personally I don’t agree with that behaviours.

    But you should be more informed when you says this:

    “Another thing to be weary of is making eye contact with Ecuadorian men–in any context. More importantly if you are dancing with a guy and making eye contact, they will interpret this as encouragement and will try to kiss you. If you want to avoid this situation, you can dance with someone but don’t look him in the eye.

    They see it as a green light to make a move. Expect this from every type of man; even old men are subject to stop you and tell you how beautiful you are. I don’t know how many times I have walked by an Ecuadorian man and heard, “bella, bonita, preciosa, mi reina, princesa, hermosa” and so much more. It is almost too much to take.”

    I believe you say this in the context of a bar, disco situation. I don’t know your culture’s perception of dance clubs, but here they are understood as places where you go to meet women. So if you take a random man to dance, it is obvious he is expecting some sign of interest that can lead to an engagement in sex or a relationship. That is why woman that don´t want to be approached go with someone that they previously met to dance if they just want to dance.

    With this said, it is your mistake of getting into that place in the first place, if you are not expecting to meet anyone. Because they have the right to look for the woman they want in there. Of course, they have to be accepted first, otherwise it would be harassment.

    I though it was important to point this.

  2. Avatar
    Madeleine
    August 27, 2015
    Reply

    You are so right about this. I’m half ecuadorian and half norwegian, and every time im in South America, i really get alot of attention. It’s not only to gringas, but to everyone who looks different. In my case, i look more norwegian than ecuadorian
    ..And believe me, there was no single day without getting the piropos “bella” “modelo” “preciosa” “guapa”.. I’ve just learned to ignore it. I really love ecuador, but the guys are just annoying. You can’t get away from the machismo, it’s just something in their culture. And it’s actually very difficult to cope with because i grew up in Norway which has a extreme liberal and equal society.
    But, i guess it is quite different in some places in ecuador. Not all men are machos.. (i guess) anyways, i hope you enjoyed your stay in Ecuador 🙂

  3. Avatar
    Ruth
    March 26, 2014
    Reply

    I am Ecuadorian. So no, it is not because your are white or whatever. It is because your are a woman. They do this catcalling because they need to fell more men. Some Ecuadorian men, as other Latin American biys, have the pressure to feel excited with any women…. What do Ecuadorian girls do? We ignore them…yeah I know, its not westernized accepted …but since we are born with that, we just ignore it. No body gives their phone numbers…we just ignore it.

  4. Avatar
    Pierina
    February 23, 2014
    Reply

    You are totally right, It is kind of difficult and uncomfortable to listen to these men so often and sometimes they could yell at you some really private thoughts… which is horrible! and yes it is a big problem all pver South America the macho steriotype is still quite present I will that mostly in the high lands , in coast it happens but not as often as in the high lands… I do believe that this will end soon the new generation of men are not as “confident”, most of the men that do this kinda staff are over 30 ..so hopefully it will end soon.

  5. Avatar
    Mike
    January 26, 2014
    Reply

    I’m a gay man and I have lived in Ecuador for 18 months. I have been assaulted on multiple occasions when I go out to dance. I just want to dance, but whenever I try to get to another area, they come and shove their elbows in my stomach. I have suffered from these body blows for over a year and now, even though I love to dance, I rarely go out. I have lived in many countries throughout the world and without question, this country is the least hospitable, with very rude and selfish people. It’s their culture, they know it and it’s not going to change any time soon. Young people participate in discrimination against gays and blacks. Women are, in my estimation, treated horribly. The country is beautiful; the people, if you live here; couldn’t be more unattractive in terms of kindness and human decency.

    • Avatar
      Pierina
      February 23, 2014
      Reply

      My apologize if this happen to you in my country! so embarrased, let me tell you this … not in all Ecuador is like that if you lived in the high lands probaly you had a hard time they are VERY VERY CONSERVATIVES! in the coast I will say they are way more respecful and opend minded and also Guayaquil has very large community of GLBT

  6. Avatar
    Sally
    April 9, 2013
    Reply

    I’ve been living as a “gringa” for over 14 years in Ecuador, I love this country and the people but I totally agree with you, the machismo is obnoxious and I am sick and tired of getting daily tons of comments (I reply with “maleducado” and sometimes I stop and ask them why they do it, it gives some very funny and disgusting answers though), kissing and hiss sounds are also things I hear daily. Now just one thing that I wanted to “share” with you is that there are many feminist movements trying to do something about it, although sexual intimidation on the streets is not the priority if you know that 6 out of 10 women in Ecuador suffer some kind of sexual violence. But you look at it from a very US way, that you ask to women who are travelling in Latin-America to “share” their thoughts about the machismo is a very oriental way of seeing the problem, there is a lot being done by the local women (the solution will surely not come from the US or Europe citizens passing by here), but you’ve got to see the bigger context too. I invite you to the next “marcha de putas” that is organized in Quito, there you will see all ECUADORIAN women asking for change. Culturally influenced issues like the machismo is not something that will be changed overnight, but it is about a long process of behavioral change, believe me though that many things are being done by the local women here.

  7. Cissa
    Cissa
    March 18, 2013
    Reply

    It´s not just you being a US citizen that finds this behavior bizarre. I as a southeastern brazilian, was harrassed by two mountain guides in Ecuador, on top of all the obnoxious flirting by virtually every ecuatorian men I ran into – from hotel clerks, to drivers, to guides, to waiters. I got the impression that you can´t exchange a word with ecutorian men, or else they think you´re offering attention and therefore willing to kiss or whatever. This is very strange to me, as in Brazil I have tons of male friends, and even though sometimes men will whistle at you, they never ever got any close to the agressiveness of ecuatorian men. And the worst thing is, all of the men who flirted with me, and both mountain guides who harrassed me were married, with children. Sad.

  8. Avatar
    Juan
    January 11, 2013
    Reply

    I came across this article doing research for a school paper about Machismo, I have to agree 100% that most, not all, Ecuadorian men have this machista problem. I am Ecuadorian and look the part, my sister on the other hand looks as gringa as can be, so she tends to get the same treatment, I personally will never do this as I be it is degrading to women but I also have seen the tactic work on some women. I truly believe it is a cultural thing, since I was raised in the US, I know that no girl would want to be whistled and blown kisses by random men.

    Thank you for your insight it is going to help me out a lot on my paper.

  9. Avatar
    Patricia
    July 24, 2012
    Reply

    LOVEEEE this! So true.

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