Family, Machismo, and Cultural Change

Some have followed my thoughts on the cultural change that Mexico needs to unleash development. Specifically, I have made references to a culture of legality, effort, and wealth, values, family and business culture, among others.

On October 21, I spoke on this topic during the Mexico Business Summit, in a public dialogue with my friend Juan Ramon de la Fuente.

Many of my advisers insist that "a businessman should not talk about these issues," because in a traditional society such as Mexico, this can generate controversy. Nevertheless, this is the price that those of us who favor social change must sometimes pay and I am willing to do so.

We have heard countless times that the family is the nucleus of society, but I fear that the overuse of such phrases has caused it to lose meaning. In any of its forms, the family is the intimate space in which concepts, values, and the vision that mark and guide our lives are forged.

I don't think anyone can question the crucial role of family in the formation of individuals. However, the modern family is subject to all sorts of challenges and the very definition of family has changed, and naturally this is upsetting for many.

In general, the Mexican and Latin American family is a solid nucleus, and this is good, to a certain point. The problem is when the family is so close and impenetrable that our youth feel insecure and uncomfortable when taking distance from it. I believe that we as parents should be aware that supporting our children must have a limit, that the family should be a support network rather than a ball and chain.

I have previously spoken and written about this, but in Guadalajara I also referred to the other side of the coin. In modern times, we find an increasing number of broken families with single mothers who raise their children without any type of support and where children grow up without a father figure, a very difficult situation. Indeed, this is where the most terrible machismo is to be found, in women being abandoned in such a vulnerable position.

The woman is the pillar of the family and, by extension, is the cornerstone of society. However, she receives little support and recognition, and in addition to educating and training future citizens, we now demand many other things from her as well. In fact, more than two years ago I wrote about the role and challenges faced by mothers.

Of course we should celebrate and support women who take on important responsibilities outside the family, such as engaging in continued education, directing socially oriented or commercial businesses, or participating in public life; in fact, I am the proud father of a senator and businesswoman who is passionate about environmental issues and I am also the husband of a very talented designer and businesswoman.

Despite the pressures of modern life to earn a living, I would never question a woman who chooses to stay at home to raise her children. This is a valuable responsibility that represents a critical contribution to any society, and requires an enormous sacrifice that deserves respect and appreciation.

This is precisely why I admire women who, in addition to educating their children, fight to achieve successful careers. I support them for taking on a role that is a much more difficult role than men can ever imagine.

This idea, and my admiration for mothers, whether or not they are professionals, should not be confused with a machista outlook that I deplore. Indeed, the social programs promoted by Grupo Salinas have sought to train and provide women with powerful tools in all stages of their lives.

For instance, Micronegocio Azteca, our microfinance initiative, is especially designed to support female entrepreneurs, many of whom also have the enormous responsibility of maintaining a family. It should be very clear that at Grupo Salinas we particularly value the role of women in the modern world.

Any assertion that we support machismo is not only unfair, it provides validity to a medieval view of the world that has no place in the modern Mexico that we are fighting for. Machismo embodies the exact opposite of the cultural change that we support.