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Latina student film spotlights partner abuse

LatinaLista — Gender abuse is a real issue within the Latino community. Back in 2006, a survey of American teenagers’ attitudes towards abuse in dating relationships, conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, found that “fully 13 percent of Hispanic middle- and high-school students viewed abuse as acceptable —well above the overall figure of 4 percent.”
Some feel that percentage is high because historically the machismo nature of the Latino culture has fostered the image that a man is strong if he has his family “under control.” Yet, more and more stories are surfacing of Latino men being abused by their wives as well.
Regardless of who is the abuser, it is an issue that is never looked at enough in an honest fashion.

Scene from Bittersweet Memories: Rob is a young man who grows up watching his father abuse his mother. When jealousy brings Rob face to face with his own violent tendencies toward women, he confronts his father’s behavior so he can learn how to be “un hombre vero.”
(Source: Scenarios USA)

South Texas student Mariella Zavalla wanted to change that. She wrote a short film to force Latino teens and adults to acknowledge the reality of the issue.

Mariella chose to write about gender-based violence when she noticed a difference between what boys and girls in her class thought was appropriate behavior in a relationship. She discovered through her class discussions and writing assignments that there is a certain definition of masculinity that is used to justify control over women.
Mariella started to observe this definition at play in many places outside the classroom as well. She observed men dominate women in generations old and young, among her friends, by people in the public spaces of her community and even in the private moments of her own family.
Mariella decided she wanted to do something—to hold a mirror to people’s behaviors and beliefs. She wanted to write a story about breaking this definition of masculinity and the cycle of violence it creates. In so doing, she bravely chose to expose something people would rather deny than admit.

Mariella’s 14-minute film “Bittersweet Memories” is available online for viewing at Scenarios USA.
It’s a worthwhile film to share with friends and family members and begin to change the cultural mindset that has become part of the Hispanic stereotype.

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