Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

Spring 2012

Thesis Advisor

Frances Barg


Recently the sport of bodybuilding (fisicoculturismo) premiered in Santiago Atitlán with the opening of its first gym, Gimnasio Atitlán in February of 2003. Since the gym’s debut, bodybuilding has grown significantly in popularity among male Atitecos (word for natives of Santiago), with the gym seeing an average of 70 men a day. In this setting, I investigated notions of health and manhood. From participant observation and extended in-person interviews conducted over the course of 10 weeks, ideas about body building as an alternative to alcohol and drug use emerged. For this group of male bodybuilders, their notion of manhood is tied to their beliefs about health and contradicts the prevalent notion of machismo as the reason given for poor treatment of women. This contradiction sheds light on the dynamics increased outside influence and powerful forces – such as globalization – are having on gender roles, statuses, and identities in Santiago. The study comprised of a convenience sample of forty semi-structured interviews of forty male Atitecos between the ages of eighteen and thirty to understand: a) their reasoning for engaging in exercise b) their definition of sport; c) their way of defining what it meant to be “healthy” male; and d) what it meant to them a “man” in their community. Participants were students, merchants, policemen, nurses, and teachers; the majority of them being merchants. Supplementing the forty semi-structured interviews, were the copious amounts of ethnographic field notes and reflections taken throughout the ten weeks. Through the analysis of the responses from the 40 semi-structured interviews and the ethnographic field notes taken at GA, three findings were made that negates this claim. First, the sport of fisicoculturismo has been adapted to the Tz’utujil culture. While the aficionados have embodied and reproduced some “hallmark” characteristics of the sport of fisicoculturismo, they were not interested in acquiring status through the presentation of a dominating personality in v Gimnasio Atitlán, i.e. hegemonic masculinity. Also, similarities were found between the notions of manhood, reasons why participants practice fisicoculturismo, and the religion practiced in community. Second, the participants’ notions of manhood serve as fundamental components in the participants’ definition of sport and health. The participants’ definition of sport and health consisted of positive abstract qualities – distinct characteristics that pertain to a person’s individual nature rather than his physical ones – that were derived from these notions of manhood. Finally, and most importantly, the notions of manhood among the participants in this study contradict those associated with machismo. The notions of manhood of the participants were not based of the patriarchal gender order or the negative character traits, now readily associated with Central American Men. Manhood, for the participants was centered on three pillars of character: Respect, Responsibility, and Trustworthiness.

Included in

Anthropology Commons



Date Posted: 08 June 2016


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