Observations on Spanish ‘machismo’ made at Sant Feliu de Guixols and surrounds, January 2009 through August 2010

Many of the western culture’s males are sublimely accomplished liars in their expression. One really good indicator of the western male character you wish to assess, is to observe his woman’s expression.

I was walking and noticed a little kid, about 2 ½ years old, stopped to jump up and down from sheer joy of life. This was importune because the more important adult did not wish to be annoyed in the slightest in his desire to walk with some great dignity? His important appointment? He paused only long enough to grab his little boy by the arm and smack his butt, bringing hurt to a once joyful child’s expression and of course tears as the child was instructed to dutifully march after.

The man’s expression? Normal throughout. As though this were a regular guy you’d have no concern to meet and become acquainted. His wife? Silent, but with hurt and pained expression, the lines of her face increasingly permanent from habit. A hypocritical male dignity imposing a great indignity upon the human spirit.

She can say nothing or likely he beats her, behind closed door. She will not age gracefully, her beauty sacrificed to stress in a slavery to machismo, where a rule of male hierarchy in too many case gives lip service to the rights of women, nothing more. Her son, the little boy, will be as his father before him, his mother capitulated and he becomes the violence of the man who owns her, his future wife and daughters will be bond servants, mortgaged to violence.

I do notice some things. For four months there had been an attractive woman, a single mom, minding her own business, raising kids… nothing remarkable, there are many good looking women in Spain, and other than to notice her and other ‘cliff dwellers’, the unavoidable life observed from my rooftop had been mostly uneventful.

After four months, it seemed overnight, she turned into a harpy, a super-bitch and terrorist of her children. I puzzled on that for a couple of days, an event one cannot ignore, wondering why this sudden onslaught of what should not be dismissed as PMS (a favorite ploy of men), and the reason became manifest: there was now a man in her life. She had scored her Playgirl magazine model. This follows on my observing another (neighboring) family in a circumstance of domestic violence, I decidedly noticed women who are beaten or otherwise abused or put down by their men, take it out on the kids, they terrorize their children in turn.

The kids already are acting out at an age that simply is amazing. The little girl already screaming out at every move her older brother makes, that was not noticed before, she is not yet old enough to talk much and he is not much older than that. This phenomena had been nearly immediate, the onset within a mere week or two. This must become the shadow boxing I have observed in the male teens, when walking the Rambla or the beach boardwalks in my vicinity, thinking to myself the beautiful young girl is going to be beaten by her boyfriend who is mock threatening her with his fists, by this age numbed to violence as a woman, she puts up with it passively, dismissively or in a very superficially annoyed way.. neither leaving nor decisively facing the boy down.

She will set out to be conquered as a social expectation, as I have observed in lovers a few years older, where in full public view, lying on the sand, she submits to a virtual rape with a weak appearance of resistance as he pins her down with his arms and body, in a simulated violence mocking the act of making love. Children will, of course, more often than not come after, and the cycle must begin again… an ever growing phenomena

One interesting thing to me, is these women, although they have a sort of awareness, they must, because of not only observable anger, but also guilt and shame (you can observe these as well), do not actually think about their circumstance in a frontal way. Otherwise they would not be caught in such a circumstance, or at least one must suspect this would be the case. Follows the thought, why would it be any surprise these women fear men, or simply do not like them, the eye contact is not often friendly and often not friendly at all, most women are simply afraid to meet you with the eyes, yet it occurs to me the men many of these women must be acquainted with are as great a threat as any stranger. A Native American woman, Fee Tenkiller, observed:

“A culture based on machismo is one of a complex matrix of social fears.  The man fears not being manly enough, so he dominates the women in his life. The woman fears the violence of the man, while also fearing she is not adequate as a woman if she does not have a man. She learns to be manipulative, alternately playing passive and aggressive roles. He learns to threaten and lie. It all comes out in pain and libido through a dance of sound, fury, and violence real and pretended. The fears themselves are interweavings of anger and frustration taken out in rape masked as “love,” hits and punishment masked as “order,” and a general insanity masked as “normal.” Like a row of falling dominos it doesn’t stop with just one strike, but continues on through the family, through the neighborhood, from man to man, man to woman, child to child, and child to dog”

I could not say it better and the juxtaposition is interesting.

There are cultural vestiges, only that, the young Native American girls becoming interested in boys still initiate negotiations which can be face saving if there is not an interest.. a small piece of a world where women, primarily, had initiated relationships and encountered little fear of abuse coming at the hands of men… it did not often happen… and would not be tolerated for long because the people there did not pretend they could not see. And Native men were possessed of a courage and knowledge that is yet much misunderstood in the civilization of Columbus who represented a different class of men, men who were absolutely amazed at the respect accorded women in the ‘new world.’

The church would have none of that… the Native kids were introduced to rampant abuse in the prisons called boarding schools, slave labored, starved, beaten and raped (the boys particularly) into Christians, and they all were taught women are dirty because they caused sin and for that, women all should be virgins.. I simply don’t understand the church idea of women as dirty AND virgins.. perhaps temple virgins would make more sense.. if virgin for virgin’s sake makes any sense at all.. boys whoring around in their youth does not seem to make men dirty… in so far as those things go.. some boys never grow up.

It was in Girona I saw the beautiful young woman with her dog on a leash, sitting on a bench waiting.. for what or who, I do not know.. her dog, a Boxer, drooled on her shoe and drew a slap in the face and the epithet “Whore!” It would be amazing to me if it were the same woman, but after a few days, I was standing having a smoke while waiting for my bus adjacent to a train station. The station had an upper level on supports with an elevator, both upper and lower level were open and visible, simply an elevated platform with the tracks above.

The beautiful young woman had her dog and her baggage and was preparing to take the elevator down, the dog, a Boxer, stepped inside while the woman was distracted with her luggage and the elevator door closed on the Boxer, and the dog alone went down… while the woman above beat on the closed elevator door with her fists shouting VERY loudly: “WHORE!!” I suspect that is NOT her dog’s name.

The dog stepped out of the elevator at the bottom and turned and obediently waited.. the woman came down, grabbed the Boxer’s leash and except for a certain something in her posture, moved on as though nothing had happened…

This male role model surrounds me, unseen by the women who live under a cruelty as though they do not realize they are in some sense already dead.

On the Rambla during holidays, or on the beachfront, or any of the places you may wish to sit in the out of doors in a public place, kids with fireworks have no care for the old man or woman, they walk along and toss their small bombs indiscriminately as their parents look on, nothing matters except the child’s pleasure, a reflection of a fathers attitude.. and if you seem irritated the child has made his explosions nearly in your face, driving you away, the woman perhaps behaves a bit embarrassed but the man acts as though he were almighty god, glaring at and daring you to say something.

I was amazed to see a young man in his twenties go to great lengths to torture a sick pigeon.. the bird was obviously weak and desperate.. the young man jumped over the wall bordering the walkway on the beach and kicked sand at the bird with obvious pleasure, each time the sick bird flew a few feet and was chased down again and again to have sand kicked in its face. I thought it was the act of a depraved individual but I was wrong, it is the act of an entire culture, because on another day I was sitting in a park feeding the pigeons when the respectable looking family on a walk in my proximity saw their young male child, only the male, not the daughters, suddenly break away to kick sand in the face of the pigeons I was feeding, the dirt was kicked into my face as well, the child was so enabled of his behavior, there was no necessity whatsoever to notice his surrounding, to take stock, to consider the consequence of his actions, to care for the peace of his neighbor.

His mother was embarrassed, she whined to her son in the most helpless way, that he should consider the consequence of his action, and although I clearly could hear her, it was as though she were a mute to the male child, he had no consideration for her voice, as though she were some ornament in his life destined only for attention when he desired a pleasure. The father walked on as though he had a stick up his ass, saying nothing but giving that look of ‘I’ll kick your ass if you dare say anything to embarrass me’ ..not a word was said by this man said to correct his male child for inflicting indignity on an old man, a stranger, reinforcing to his male child the woman’s appearance of unimportance and helplessness with her mute admonition.

On another day I was sitting by the water when a group of mentally disabled were brought to the beach by their woman care givers. The young retarded man was kicking water into the face of his sister as though she were a pigeon, the women caring for the group helplessly whining at him to stop, as unimportant to him as though they were the wives of the males preceding. The beauty in spirit of the young retarded woman was injured, her joy at the beach and water destroyed, her tears and heartbreak unimportant, no one thought to comfort her or, more truthfully, no one of her women caregivers was willing to be embarrassed with an admission of their helplessness to prevent the hurt inflicted with moving in public to comfort her, a chauvinist imposed restriction they must be, with their shame and embarrassment, only subconsciously aware of.

It was not far away at all, on another day on the beachfront walkway, sitting on a bench I witnessed a male child with an inner tube beating his sister. He was probably 12 years old, she was perhaps 14. The young male did not care to notice he nearly knocked an old woman passerby over, and forcing other people on their walks to detour his violence, he swung his large rubber doughnut in wide arcs with much force, his sister laughing bravely at the blows to her body.

When he managed a blow to her head and had knocked her off balance, she went down on the paving stones with legs spread wide and he not hesitate to deliver, with obvious satisfaction, the most forceful blow he could muster, directly to her vagina. Her laughs and expression were now truly pained and I did (because of the mother studiously ignoring) what no passerby dared, I confronted the young man with his behavior. When I approached, he actually seemed to expect praise at his demonstrations of male superiority. When I told him he really was NOT a nice person, his face drew back in the most unimaginable and incredible expression of stunned stupidity as he said “Huh?” The sudden rise and sharply genuine quality of his sister’s laughter was a great reward.

Then there was the extended family at a sidewalk café, fashionable and social, all ignoring the older brother punching his young sister strapped in her stroller, her cries ignored as though as natural as a birds sounds in nature.

I saw a woman die of a murder and if she had broken free of machismo’s grip over her survival instinct, perhaps myself or someone else could have helped her and she would be alive. But she is dead and there was nothing to be done for her because she refused to help herself and trust the goodwill of any one or two of the many people in her vicinity, myself included, the legacy of her culture…

I was waiting on a train at platform 14 at Barcelona Sants, I’d bought a paper and was reading while seated on a bench in the station. A young couple approached, well dressed fashionable people, she was clearly agitated, extremely… he seemed expressionless… she chose to sit next to me, he followed and sat by her on her other side and she did not like it, it was obvious. Her expression looked like a Van Gogh or El Greco ‘terror in the asylum’ painting if such a thing can be etched on the human face without a scream. I noticed and minded my own business because she was not overtly or vocally indicating distress. I only wondered at that moment, why people get themselves into and stay together in relationships that obviously are stressed to point of fear and loathing, it seemed I’d seen this many times observing the Spanish people. I went back to my reading. She stood up and moved away probably 10 feet, he followed and they were standing there together for a what seemed like a few minutes, I had glanced up when she had moved away from me and was then reading again.

Like a small girls voice “eeeeeeeee” I looked up as she lurched away from him, she made eye contact with me as blood erupted from her nose and mouth and she took two or three small steps directly towards me, and collapsed and died, he’d stabbed her and his knife must have found her heart, it was that fast… I did not initially see the knife (it was in her back) but I didn’t think she lurched away from him and dropped dead like that from Ebola Virus, as there was no sound of a shot.

He then kneeled over her and from that moment acted as though he had only love for her with prayers… while I’m trying to ask a woman for the Spanish ‘emergency’ phone number (she was too freaked out to be helpful, someone else made the call), and two men who were also close to the event and had a different angle or view, reacted (after some moments hesitation) with trying to help a [clearly] dead woman with her now praying killer kneeling right there.

Having no fluency in the local language, I stayed away deciding I would be more hindrance than help, at any rate, having been to war, it was pretty clear to me she was already dead and they would sort that fact soon enough.

An attempt at CPR was not a pleasing result (a graphic imagination will paint that picture) and quickly abandoned, a policeman arrived, determined she was indeed dead and the ‘man in prayer’ was directly and emphatically pointed out (extended arms with forefingers pointed straight to the bowed head inches away) to the policeman when the policeman asked (I presume, I did not understand the Catalan) the other two men who’d also been close to the event and tried to assist the woman, who had killed her?

Was her killer’s machismo so important to possessing this trophy (her physical beauty) that he had felt compelled to murder her, because she obviously wanted away from him… and then he supposedly loves her with tender attention when she is dead, and with prayer? NO EMOTION, only this sanctimonious kneeling posture… this is something I just don’t understand, I doubt I ever will.

Paramedics had now arrived and were waiting together with the policeman, it seemed as though, for the killer’s prayers to be finished, although in actuality they would have been waiting for a gurney to remove her body or, perhaps in some sense it was both, as my train arrived and it seemed there was nothing else to do but get on. I boarded the train with a couple of dozen horrified people and the scene was left behind as though we had left on a cinema spaceship. The story is surreal, as in the maxim ‘The truth is stranger than fiction.’

I am the last person this dying woman ever clearly saw, as she took her last steps while making eye contact with me and collapsed and died less than six feet away, my having been at that moment closer to her than anyone other than her killer. Her expression communicated a sense of ‘Look at this, why didn’t you help me?’

Suppose she had said something, ASKED for help, said something like ‘get this man away from me’… put her shin swiftly to his crotch and run, while shouting ‘he is after me to kill me’, done ANYTHING to save herself from what in retrospect was clearly demonstrated in her expression of terror, she knew she was going to die, she knew this guy was there to kill her. WHY DID SHE DO NOTHING?

For the fact of her Spanish upbringing, fear was her killer before the guy ever stuck his knife in her back. She should have made some effort to survive, this woman who’d clearly trusted the wrong man and consequently could not trust a stranger or, one could say she could not trust herself to ask a stranger for help, literally, to save her own life. So, my question for these women would be why live in fear? Why die of fear? Because of fear you have no life already. I am not the only one to notice. As a young man from Chile had after volunteered to me: “In Spain, the men kill their women.”

Dedicated to Mel Gibson

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