Discussion Explores Latinx Identity and Norms


The "Many Caras (Faces) of Manhood" panelists (from left to right): Angel Hernandez, Pedro Santana, Israel Laguer, Alexis Delgado, Luis Garcia, Michael Rodriguez and Arnaldo Cordero-Roman.

Galloway, N.J. - What makes up a Latino man? Is it the way he talks? Where he comes from? How about the house he owns, the job he works or how many women he’s slept with in his lifetime? These were the questions at the center of the panel discussion, “The Many Caras (Faces) of Manhood: Perspectives on Latino Identity and Norms,” on Feb. 11.

Moderator Angel Hernandez, associate director of EOF at Stockton University, opened the evening with an anecdote about his own experiences and questions growing up in Elizabeth, N.J. as a gay Cuban man, hitting at the heart of the night’s conversation: “Am I American enough? Latino enough?”

The six panelists explored the complex and dynamic factors that influence Latino ethnic identity for men, including race, gender, language, culture, socioeconomic status, sexuality and religion.

“Is masculinity an essence, embedded in us, immutable, or is it socially constructed, fluid?” asked Michael Rodriguez, associate professor of Political Science, before explaining how cultural stereotypes and racism influence the Latino male identity, discussing the idea of the “exceptional other.”

When asked what it means to be a bicultural man, Arnaldo Cordero-Roman, associate professor of Spanish, celebrated assimilating into American culture and its impact on his Latino identity: “I have two souls, I have two cultures, I am two people in one.”

The panel broke down how socioeconomic status, race and masculinity intersect to shape Latino male identities from a young age. Pedro Santana, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, talked about the pressures of living in a collectivistic, patriarchal culture: “Many times, you don’t have a choice. It’s either you take that responsibility on, or, you know, the family falters. There’s a degree of responsibility that is entrusted to any young man if the father dies. We have to figure it out and make tough choices.”

Speakers also touched on the difficulties of unlearning toxic gender norms carried over from the previous generation. “My parents emigrated from Peru. We lived like my Dad was a king – he was served hand and foot. As the oldest son, I reaped those benefits. I never had to serve food, or clean up the dishes…In college, I quickly learned that those same home behaviors were not going to exist as I was becoming more educated and partnering up with someone who was more educated,” explained Alexis Delgado, director of EOF at Middlesex County College.

Israel Laguer, assistant director of ASCEND/EOF at Rowan University, had to re-examine his Latino identity after a friend questioned his race, ultimately embracing his African roots, too: “Afro-Latino has been rewarding for me, I love it, I express it all the time. It’s in my music, it’s in the way I express myself. It’s even influenced what fraternity I chose to join.”

In wrapping up the night’s discussion, Luis Garcia, assistant professor of health sciences at Stockton, responded to an audience member’s question regarding sexual identity and machismoism: “I knew I didn’t want any of that. I wasn’t interested in pursuing a lot of women. Because of my sexual identity, that mold didn’t fit me. I think I had a lot of leverage to re-think what masculinity meant to me personally, more than a heterosexual Puerto Rican man that feels all these pressures and travels in that lane. That wasn’t my lane.”

The panel discussion was hosted by Unidos, in conjunction with the School of Arts and Humanities, School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Health Sciences, Provost’s Office and the Office of Student Development. To learn more about Unidos at Stockton, visit www.stockton.edu/unidos.

Reported by Eliza Hunt