“Women in Latin America and the Caribbean have always been a vital part of family and national survival, although historically their contribution has often been overlooked. In addition to their roles as wives and mothers, women have frequently borne a large share of economic responsibility for their households. This is a particular true for power women, whose income is essential in providing food, clothing, school supplies, and other basic goods for their families”.2 The status of women declined when indigenous people were colonized by Spain. The conquerors had a strong European notion of linking family honor with the purity of women. “An elaborate social and legal code kept women’s movements and activities under male control”.3 Women’s roles changed however, due to economic changes, especially in the Caribbean. Women eventually participated in political processes but not openly. They also never held high positions in political offices during early times. Women never challenged their roles as subordinates to men either. A cultural ideal the exalted male virility called machismo ruled the times. It has been the basis of relationships between men and women but is being questioned and debated during our modern times. The opposite of machismo is marianismo which is a cultural idea that treats women as keepers of virtue. Women are modeled after the virgin Mary and kept from independent life beyond their jobs as nurturing mothers and obedient wives.
When women had to defend and protect their families, these cultural traits weakened though they have not totally vanished. Women who formally tended house while their husbands provided for the family entered the workforce like many women in North America despite their racial make up. Political activism provided another venue for women’s voice in all parts of Latin America. Education has propelled women to positions that were formally denied to them. They represent occupations that range from doctors and teachers to agricultural and factory workers. “As a result of their experiences, the women of Latin America have developed their own distinct feminism, one that challenges the persistence of male and female stereotypes”. 4