Bernal, Knight, Ocampo, Garza, and Cota (cited by Casas and Pytluk, 1995), stated that based on a small but growing body of literature, the nature and degree of Hispanic ethnic identity play a very important part in the way Hispanics manifest their ethnic culture on a daily basis. Marin and Marin (1991) summarized evidence about Hispanics from a variety of sources and proposed that they are characterized by high levels of interdependence, conformity, and a readiness to sacrifice for the welfare of in-group members. Individual self-assertion, competitiveness, and aggressiveness are discouraged.
Similarly, honesty, respect, and the individual’s sense of honor are grounded in the concept of dignity (dignidad) which means inner worth. Personal dignity is not equated with achievement or success, but with the individual’s self-respect which originates from accepting one’s role in life and fulfilling that role to the best of one’s capacity. Hispanics are said to give importance to personal ties (personalismo) by avoiding conflict in interpersonal situations; consequently their social behaviors promote smooth and pleasant social situations (simpatÃa) so they can maintain their own personal respect (respeto). Hispanic children are taught to respect authority, whether familial or institutional.
Hispanics are people of faith–they have a strong belief in the existence of a higher being and the need to follow prescribed formal practices to worship this being. However, their religiosity exhibited marked features of cultural fatalism (form of existentialism expressed in a tendency to take life as it comes with a “resigned” mind set), as well as external focus of control (luck, supernatural powers, God). Religious leaders are viewed as substitute parents; therefore, they must be respected and obeyed.
However, since Hispanic culture is an aggregate of distinct subcultures, these descriptors are not equally shared by all Hispanic groups and/or by individuals in these groups. Furthermore, because of their dispersion and mixing with both mainstream American culture and with other ethnic groups in the United States, Hispanic ethnic culture is not a discrete entity but rather part of a diverse cultural mix (Szapocznik & Kurtines, 1993). Thus, due to this heterogeneity, cultural blending, and cultural change, it is not clear whether particular individuals or samples actually reflect the culture they are thought to represent.
Preeminence of the Family
The discussion of family is particularly important in Hispanic culture.
The importance of the centrality of family in terms of feelings of loyalty, reciprocity, and familism for Hispanics has been documented as a distinct and enduring characteristic among Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Central and South Americans. (J. M. Rodriguez & Kosloski, 1998, p. 376). Family orientation or familism encompasses such things as feelings of mutual obligation, reciprocity, and solidarity toward one’s family members.
Literature and cultural traditions show that the family has always been the heart and soul for Hispanics, the primary social security system, caring for its members from birth to death. External interference in this process is still viewed as crippling the family’s honra (honor).
The individual is primarily responsible to the immediate and extended family network, which has established clearly defined roles and expectations for all members. Children are precious and to be enjoyed. Elders are respected and to be obeyed. Family hierarchy delineates the status of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, in-laws, etc. Reliance and compliance with family roles and goals have fostered the image of docile, dependent Hispanic women. The compadrazco system includes comrades y compadres who may or may not be blood relations. Compadres earn their position in the family through friendship, godparenting at the baptism or confirmation, or by being a best man or maid of honor in a wedding.
The family network demands an ardent sense of commitment to the family and an intense obligation and responsibility to the family network (Garcia-Preto, 1982; Rogler & Cooney, 1984), especially by feeling solidarity with those who have problems or bad times and even by fulfilling for them their family duties and obligations. Parental or compadrazco disapproval should be sufficient to promote behavioral changes in offspring. The opinions of others and vergÃ¼enza (shame) are the best forms of social control. The rewards of belonging to the family group are manifested through warmth, gregariousness, affection, generosity, expressiveness, intimacy, hospitality, support, and cooperation. In sum, Hispanic family kinship is the basic relationship and the primary socialization agent, especially for teaching obedience and discipline.
Research on familism values among Hispanics after migration and in relationship with the process of acculturation presents contrasting results. Vega (1990) did a selective review of literature covering the period of 1980 until early 1990, and concluded: (a) there is a tendency to participate in relatively large kin networks and to engage in high rates of visiting and exchange; (b) although there is a consensus regarding the family as the dominant source of advice and help in all generations, differences were found on the topic of the family as the resource for dealing with problems; and (c) non-Hispanics migrate away from kin networks while Hispanics migrate toward them. Relationships between expressed values and actual behaviors cannot be precisely understood without taking heed of how interpersonal transactions occur in the process of daily living. Some familial interactions may be instrumental, others may be symbolic, while others may be inescapable. (p. 1019).
Marin (1993) and Sabogal, Marin, and Otero-Sabogal (1987) have identified three dimensions on familism, as follows: (a) familial obligations, that is, the perceived obligations, to provide material and emotional support to the members of the extended family; (b) support from family, which is the perceived support from relatives to solve problems; and (c) family as referents, which is the perception of relatives as behavioral and attitudinal references. Their empirical findings indicated that Hispanics, which includes Mexican, Cubans, and Central Americans, scored significantly higher than did non-Hispanic Whites on all three dimensions of familism. J. M. Rodriguez and Kosloski (1998) examined the relationship between acculturation and familism in a sample of 182 Hispanics of Puerto Rican descent. For two dimensions of familism (familial obligations and support from relatives), acculturation was positively related to familism; for the other dimension (family referents), the relationship was nonsignificant.
Finally, Negy and Woods (1992a) observed that findings are not uniform, and additional research is necessary to clarify these complex issues.
This article is part of the Chapter II, of the Qualitative Study of the Acculturative Process of Immigran Hispanic Families, Doctoral Dissertation of the author.