Date of Graduation

Spring 5-30-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


International Studies

First Advisor

Annick T.R. Wibben


This thesis aims to draw connections between a culture of machismo, an ideological gender belief distinct to Latin America with heavy traces of patriarchy and misogyny, and the motivations of Salvadoran women seeking asylum in the United States. I develop these connections by first reviewing the literature on structural violence, the form of violence wherein the structure or social institution prevents certain demographics of people from meeting their basic needs and living their optimal lives (Galtung, 1969). I repeatedly use structural violence and its functions to parallel the operations of patriarchy and machismo to suggest that violence against women (VAW) in El Salvador originates from a deep-seeded belief system that defines and dictates gender relations in the country. I further support my arguments that machismo is a manifestation of structural violence with a comprehensive case study on El Salvador and the phenomena of widespread VAW. With extensive collected data and testimony pulled from news, government, and non-government reports, I argue that machismo, in all of its forms and applications (including disregard for women’s human rights), has very real and negative effects on Salvadoran women. I aim to suggest that machismo plays a significant role in the escalation of extreme gender-based violence.

Because widespread violence rooted in machismo has become so dangerous for women, ultimately I argue that Salvadoran women seeking asylum on the basis of gender should not be ignored, dismissed, or quite frankly denied asylum solely because their claims are gender based.