How do Latin-American Families work?

My girlfriend is from Mexico and I’m just curious as to how Catholic Latin-American families are raised, what customs they have, what kind of attitude they have when they grow up or have as adults, what the role of the male/female is in a relationship, etc.

I think that I need to learn this before my relationship with my girlfriend can really take off. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great how it is right now, I would just rather “go in prepared” and be a step up on her within certain milepoints of our relationship. If you know of any stories, have any comments, or know anything about this subject, please enlighten me.


While I’m thinking about it I do have one question specifically:

Who asks who to marry who? Is this the same as America? Are you engaged the same? For how long? Do you buy an engagement ring?

This is one or probably many questions I have, hopefully this thread will take off. I just really want to know the inner workings of every aspect of her culture.

Thanks! :slight_smile:

I suggest that you attend the Spanish Mass at a church with a vibrant hispanic community. Try and get involved. You could even explain to them what you are trying to do. That you want to learn more about their culture so you can better understand your girlfriend and her family. If you tell a hispanic woman that, she will probably melt and be more than happy to help you out.

After living in Latin America for about 2 years I have learned to really love their culture and family structure. They are more warm and welcoming and traditional family roles are more closely observed (i.e. women do more of the house work, men are the bread winners). Also, families are a lot closer. Often times children live at home until they are married. This is not because they are lazy but because the family is so close.

As far as engagement, etc. I am not so sure (as a missionary I wasn’t out looking for dates ;). I would assume that you would want to get permission from her father, but that is just an assumption.

Hope this helps a little!

God bless!

I think the best way is to watch the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and replace the word Greek with Mexican. The Spanish culture is VERY BIG in to family. You will be EXPECTED to attend family events. Everyone will be family and you will be expected to help (even if they are you 49th cousin 23 times removed). That’s why I love my wife’s family…all 5 million+ of them. Two things you could do to make it easier, learn the language and learn to like the food.

Good luck and God Bless,

Well being Mexican and a female I guess I could give you a few pointers. First of all “asking” for permission to see the young lady is a must and a big sign of respect. This doesn’t happen so much in 2nd and 3rd generation Mexican families, but it always does in a traditional 1st generation family. If this is the case, don’t be surprised, if she still lives at home, that the family won’t be into “dates”. You coming over to see your girlfriend and talk with her in her home is what is customary. You may be able to take her to dinner but may have to take the little brother or sister along. If she doesn’t live at home because she’s away at college or something, well I guess you’ll see her when she wants and where she wants.
When you decide you want to marry her you ask her…of course, then you have to ask for her hand, you would ask her parents and if you’re scared of dad then you can ask the priest to help you out with that. Some men also bring their parents along to ask for her hand. Well I hope this helped a little bit, if you have anymore questions let me know.

Thanks for the replies thus far.

Esclavo: I’ll look into attending a Spanish Mass, I know my parish offers them.

dhgray: You mind if I ask if you’re wife is Hispanic? Or Greek? Are you two the same race? I hope I didn’t offend you by asking you this, but right now at times it’s somewhat difficult to go out in public with her, she’s so nervious about what people think of her being with an American (She speaks very little English).

And finally, Lexee: You made some great suggestions, and I have another question. About me asking for her hand, do I ask her first, then her father? Or do I ask her father, then her? I don’t speak the best Spanish either, and I’d hate to say something wrong when asking her father, by no means does my own father speak Spanish - so I can’t really ask him for help or to come along (my Mother has passed on). I would think that you would ask the parents before asking the girl, would it be ok to write them a letter instead of asking them in person? I get nervious when speaking Spanish at times to, just because I know it’s not perfect.

Thanks again for the replies, hoping for more.


Why not ask your girlfriend?

It seems to me that more important than understanding how Mexican families work (more appropriate than asking about Latin-American families since your girlfriend is Mexican and there are real differences between cultures from different countries) is to ask how her family worked . What she liked and didn’t like. How she wants her family to work in the future.

Plus, by asking her, she will feel important, and loved and cared about, since you want to know more about her.

Latin America is over 20 countries with widely varying cultures, although there are some commonalities. Better ask what are Mexican customs and cultural practices surrounding courtship and weddings. They also vary according to the part of the country they come from, and if they are in the US, how long the family has been there. 3rd or even 2nd generation families may be almost completely “americanized”. Hispanic culture here in Texas, for instance, differs in some fundamental ways from that in California or Miami.

Do ask to be introduced to the family and ask permission to see their daughter right away. That is common courtesy in all cultures. Use the time of dating and courtship to get to know the young lady and her family and through them the culture. Attending the Spanish Mass together and related activities is a great way.

There are many customs used for the actual weddings, which are highly symbolic and have adapted a cultural sign and given it religious meaning. example: the lasso (a large rosary draped by the padrinos over the couple–literally a rope that binds them together). This is true of many such practices, although even some Hispanics have lost the religious origins of some customs.

small example, the pinata, traditionally a star shaped, stands for the crown of thorns, the stick by which one breaks the pinata stands for the battle with sin and evil and Christ’s victory over death, and the candy that pours out stands for the goodness and sweetness of Christ and his saving grace freely given and poured out.

also religion for many Mexican families is something lived out in the home and family not just a Sunday or public thing, and is inseparable from family life. Families are typically very close and you better get to know sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles and padrinos and madrinas well, because you will be related to all of them. My Big Fat Greek wedding is about another culture, but excellent for showing that family relationship and interdependence.

I do ask her lots of things, I guess I mainly want to know about marriage. I don’t want to really give up the suprise that I might be asking her, even tough we have talked about marriage, I’d like the moment to be special when I ask her. Not just like a regular conversation, leading up to something like… “so… you wanna get married?”

But thanks for your advice about the difference between the Latin-American countries, I wasn’t aware.


Well, since my daughter is half Mexican, all I can say is that from all the Mexican families I have interacted with (including my daughter’s), there are a LOT of variables and you should not assume that what is the case for many Mexican families is the same for your girlfriend’s. A family is a family is a family. Are there specific issues within your girlfriend’s family? Did she grow up in Mexico? Did her parents? If they grew up in the United States then did they live in a predominately Mexican neighborhood or did they live among other ethnic groups? Does she have older siblings? what were their experiences like? It is more about the individual family than about their ethnicity (and this is coming from a child of a loud Sicilian Irish family, and yes, there is a difference between being Italian and being Sicilian).:stuck_out_tongue:

marie: I guess I’m somewhat assuming that your spouse is Mexican? Unless you adopted, sorry for the assumption. Anyhow, she grew up in Mexico, along with her parents, half her family is here and most in Mexico.

Anyone have any good websites for the Mexican culture and family?


Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio, MACC
this is the place where they have training in pastoral Spanish also.

For some reason I totally skipped reading your first post, sorry I don’t konw why lol. Thanks for the website, I’ll be sure to look it over. Also I’m going to go rent that movie tonight or this weekend so I can get an idea of what you’re talking about.

I had attended one of her families weddings and did notice the very large rosary drapped over both getting married, I was curious as to what that represented.

Thanks for your advice, I’m sure most of these questions I’ll come to ask her in time, just have to get to the point of actually asking her to marry me first. :wink:


I am Puerto Rican, but never lived there for long, mostly here in America. I speak better English than Spanish, but can speak it pretty good. My husband is not hispanic but he knew to ask my dad’s hand in marriage from my brother-in-law who is also hispanic. In fact all my sister’s husband did this. It is a family custom. Since we were raised here, we did not have to have a sister with us while dating. I was also already very old, 33yr old, when I met my husband and before that I rarely dated. I thought I was going to be a nun.

It is true that hispanic family’s are very close and the Catholic Faith is not just a religion, but a way of life. Please don’t do what my dh has done and that is once we were married, he refused to eat hispanic foods and still does, and agreed I could talk to our children in Spanish and he in English, so the children would know both, but again once we had a a child he complained because he could not understand our daughter. So now my daughter know only the Spanish she is learning in school. She is more interested in it now, so I speak a little more to her. I also before marriage asked my husband to learn Spanish, and he promised to, but here we are in our 8th year of marriage and still he doesn’t know any Spanish. It is a part of me that I feel is being lost in our marriage and a part of me, my culture, that my daughter will know nothing about. She doesn’t like hispanic foods either, for when we gather at my parents, my mom cooks my husband something “American” that he likes and my daughter follows.

I know that Mexicans, like any hispanic, is proud of their culture and history, and want that for their children. Language, food and some customs are always nice to learn before and during the marriage.

I will say that I was fearful in not marrying a hispanic, but I will say that I have 4 sisters and two are divorced, both of them married hispanics. These men where just more macho and did not like to be told of anything. That is not how marriage should be. I do know that I had a person give me some statistic, which I don’t remember, except that when a hispanic woman married a non-hispanic marriages lasted longer then when a hispanic man married a non-hispanic woman. I don’t know if that is true.

If you marry this woman, please be prepared to spend lots of time with her family and at family gatherings.

One movie I like, even though there is pre-marital sex, is “Fools Rush In” and this is a Mexican woman who marry’s a "white’ man.

nana, thanks for your great reply. I’m proud to say that I’m learning Spanish at a rather quickly rate, I’ve spent well over $1000 on learning the language, with books, college, and everything. It’s great that I know that I will be involved in their family like that. Something I’ve alwayws wanted, I guess now my fears can move to hoping that they will accept me. We never argue, really, which is excellent, I wouldn’t doubt if that statistic you heard is true. Everyone that hears our story in her family says that it’s true love, which is really good to know. Anyway, I’m extremely sick with food poisoning, sorry if something didn’t come our right, talk to you later.


off topic … but felt a need to say…

My dh and I have often dreamed of all our dc marrying into that culture… Catholic and living it, tight families, …

My dh says everytime he is welcomed into homes of families on his business trips to Costa Rica… he falls in love with the entire culture, complete with an elaborate home alter in every home, and wants to ship us all down south.
And yes, he LOVES the food too, which I’m sure contributes greatly to his affection!lol

Just to say… it’s a culture envied in this house!

**(P.S. Our other dream is to move to Italy (which has the lowest birth rate in the world!:frowning: ) to show them how “it’s” done - raising a Catholic family. lol We figure we’d raise the population in any province considerably to have us live there and since all the schools are closing due to a lack of children to fill them - we could probably still home school.:stuck_out_tongue: **

I highly recommend that you travel to a Latin American country and spend between 2 weeks to 1 month in a total immersion program of Spanish. By total immersion you would be leaving with a Spanish speaking family and all classes/instruction would be in Spanish. It is by far the best way to go. The only “temptation” would be to speak to other English speakers in English. If you do decide to go this route, you will see just how much you have improved in a short time. It is incredible!


Spend just as much time learning about her culture and customs, as you have shown her about America and yours. You did do that didn’t you? She understands, Baseball, hotdogs and apple pie, right? She understands that she will be your “wife” not your servant?

Yes, I would be polite and sit down with “both” parents and let them “both” know your intentions. So when your daughter gets married, “your wife” will be sitting “beside you”.

Welcome her to America…as she will be American and so will your children.

Congratulations! and blessings to you both.

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