Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

A Courtship after Marriage: Sexuality and Love in Mexican Transnational Families/Changing Men and Masculinities in Latin America

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

A Courtship after Marriage: Sexuality and Love in Mexican Transnational Families/Changing Men and Masculinities in Latin America

Article excerpt

A Courtship After Marriage: Sexuality and Love in Mexican Transnational Families. Jennifer S. Hirsch. Los Angeles: University of California Press. 2003. 376 pp. ISBN: 0-52022871-5. $24.95 (paper).

Changing Men and Masculinities in Latin America. Matthew C. Gutmann (Ed.). Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 2003. 418 pp. ISBN 0-8223-3022-9. $24.95 (paper).

Though recent demographics show that the Latino population is the largest and fastest growing minority group in the United States, research focused specifically on these families has remained very limited. Two recent publications look at Latin Americans and their families, both within the United States and in various locations in Latin America. As the title implies, Jennifer Hirsch's book, A Courtship After Marriage: Sexuality and Love in Mexican Transnational Families, creates a vivid illustration of the impact of immigration on Latino men and women's marriages and intimate relationships. Hirsch conducted extensive life histories with Mexican immigrants in Atlanta, Georgia, and their relatives who live in Jalisco, Mexico (26 adult daughters, 8 of their husbands, and 9 of their mothers). Coming from a tradition of women's studies, Hirsch uses detailed ethnographic portrayals to show how these individuals have replaced traditionally prescribed notions of marriage with contemporary ideas of companionatc relationships.

In Chapters 1 and 2, she provides a nuanced accounting of her participants' lives and the methods she used to enter into the confidences of the individuals in these transnational communities. Hirsch uses Chapter 3 to demonstrate how the idea of courtship (noviazgo) has changed from a focus on devotion and respect to a newfound importance placed on having fun and winning the confidence of one's future companion. Intimacy and trust (confianza) have begun to take the place of both the notion of honor (respeto) and the concept that one must prepare for a respectable marriage to a respectable partner. Hirsch goes on to illustrate the global rise in companionate relationships and marriages, supported by the research of scholars from every continent.

In Chapters 4 and 5, Hirsch demonstrates the shifts in the gendered ideologies and practices of men and women in her sample of Mexican nationals. She affirms the work of Gutmann's The Meanings of Macho (1996), demonstrating that in many instances, men have turned from a traditional ideology of machismo to a more egalitarian identity, including involvement in housework, child care, and faithfulness to one's spouse. Hirsch also notes that this transformation is occurring for many women as well: allowing women to be more social (i.e., to go out drinking), to work full time, to visit their friends and relatives, and have greater decisionmaking power in their relationships and families. She shows that many couples have even changed their way of talking to each other. Citing studies and examples from her own interviews, Hirsch reveals that in contrast with earlier generations, these couples are more likely to openly talk their minds, speak more civilly, and express consideration for one another's "free will" and rights within their marriage.

Compared with previous studies of Mexican immigrant women, Chapter 6 creates a more complex understanding of these women's resources and bargaining power. Hirsch depicts immigrant women's resident status, English proficiency, employment, and social networks as interwoven resources that give certain women in the United States new freedoms and constraints within their relationships. She also demonstrates that although the saying "En el Norte la mujer manda" (in the [United States] the woman gives the orders) may fit for some women, this saying does not hold up in all marriages. Chapters 7 and 8 draw this book to a close with an extraordinary glimpse into the meaning and emotions behind women's sexuality and their choices about fertility. She shows how both sexuality and fertility have been socially constructed and continue to change for both Mexican immigrants and Mexican nationals. …

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