Kiss the ring! Kiss the ring! Give allegiance to the power and position of its owner. The Godfather will treat you with respect and give you favors… but at a price… yet an offer you cannot refuse. Oh, but wait! Did you notice? This Godfather is wearing lipstick!
As a Hispanic person and a mental health professional, I have observed that just as there are dysfunctions with one person there can also be dysfunctions with a large grouping of those persons, call it a “culture,” a “people,” a “cohort,” or other. In diversity classes we are taught to respect other cultures and not “judge’ them, yet never mind if they eat their own progeny or have sex with young little girls. Implicit in this intellectual doctrine is the rule is that we are to look the other way and not judge their dysfunctions.
My doctoral work (Lopez De Victoria, 2006) has taken me into the realm of what some of my own kind consider “sacred” ground. I call it the dark side of Latino culture. It is found in the outworking of matriarchalism (a woman dominated society). Much is said today about the evils of patriarchies, that is, male dominant societies. Few dare to talk about “mother” and how awful she can be. Any good psychotherapist with plenty of family counseling experience will attest that mothers, indeed, can be greatly dysfunctional and even destructive… as much or even more as a father can be. I want you to know that I highly treasure and esteem motherhood. I owe much to mother. Realizing that I might ruffle a few feathers, let me say that there is little published in terms of the negative effects of a matriarchal society. Most of the literature promotes the idea that anything having to do with Womens’ Studies is Holy ground and cannot be questioned. No one is to challenge any obvious incongruities. To do so is to risk professional and political shaming. It stands to reason that if men can be abusive in their power, so can women. If a person considers himself/herself to be intellectually honest and balanced then it is logical that both men and women have potential for doing wrong.
In terms of historical and cultural forms of matriarchalism we can see that great value is put on Mother Spain (Madre España) in the Hispanic culture. Spain is seen as the great Matriarch of all Spanish speaking countries. Any one of these countries of origin is similarly seen as a mother… the motherland (Madre patria). Their religion also has a matriarch. She is Mother Mary. I mean no disrespect to the Virgin, yet at the same time it can be seen that Mother Mary is more important than her Son Jesus. To get to the Son you have to go through the Mother. She will make sure He listens to her. The masses view themselves as her children. She is extremely powerful.
The Hispanic family is fascinating. You have the mother possessing more power than the father. Even though the man is traditionally seen as Mr. Macho, it is only on the outside. The reality is that he is typically just a shadow in the background. He does the talk but not the walk. He is there to conquer the woman, but he is emotionally absent and does not know how to meet his wife’s emotional needs or those of her children. She loses respect for him and sees him as another child (see my dissertation). He almost does not matter at all. He is primarily a breadwinner and a sperm-donor. In many cases he is scared of his wife. All these factors force her to become like a man in order to “save” her family. In doing so she has to blunt her feminine side. She must wield great power with him and her children. One moment she can be safe like the Virgin Mary. The next moment you must protect yourself and run if she is angry with you. She is also full of gifts (many being expensive) and favors for all her children and their spouses. They all are to reciprocate and pay her homage by visiting her regularly and letting her in on every family secret. Nothing is to be withheld from her knowledge. Every daughter and son is to be loyal to her over their spouses. The husbands of her daughters are to take their place… in the shadows. They are to fall in line supporting the Godmother’s wishes. If any of her children should err from obeying her wishes and go their own way then her shaming anger will vindictively reach far. She will find that erring child. If that child does not repent then he/she will suffer extreme exile and shame for desecrating “Mother” and wounding her. That child becomes a “black sheep” for daring to dishonor “Mother.” All the remaining siblings shame that child as being unloving, disloyal, and selfish. Mother plays victim and recruits the sympathy of all her children to support that role. Her amazing power is in her blessing you with generous gifts and praise, yet through them she totally controls you. The Mother owns you. She has a right to every part of your soul and your family. Family therapists would call this action as being intrusive and enmeshed. It is not healthy and creates psychopathology.
The Godmother’s daughters are also being trained to become the matriarchs for the next generation. These daughters will attract men who are compliant and oftentimes emotionally emasculated/castrated. They are infantilized men. They often play right along. It is easier to do an incapacitating trance dance that is sweet and comfortable rather than to fight for one’s freedom of choice. It is better to comply than to resist her control. This process inhibits individualization of men since it forces them to be extensions of the will of the matriarch. Another benefit of being a compliant man is that by submitting to the Great Mother it will keep his wife from being at war with him.
Cooperating with the mother means that there will not be any lack or need. The Godmother will always be there to amply provide and take care. Little girls and boys watching will learn that a good family is one like theirs with grandmother as the Supreme One. They are taught that this is what normal looks like. Boys, when grown, will look for a mommy in wives. Their wives will resent them. The sons learned from their overprotective and controlling mothers to be reluctant and scared of taking risks. Mother was always there for them. They never needed to learn to survive on their own in the jungle of life, a task they should have learned from an emotionally mature father. Their wives will be angry with them for constantly acting like little boys. Eventually a resentful wife decides she must take charge because her child-husband will not. Here lies the birth of another Godmother.
Lopez De Victoria, S. (2006). Infantilization among married Hispanic men: A pilot and phenomenological study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Capella University.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Jul 2009
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López De Victoria, S. (2009). The Don. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/07/18/the-don/