Love and Courtship in Latin America

Latin American dating and courtship customs remain heavily influenced by traditional values of family, Catholic faith, and gender roles, but new generations are slowly embracing more modern practices. Attitudes and traditions around dating vary widely between different countries and regions across Latin America.

Deep Roots of Traditional Courtship Customs

Dating traditions in Latin America have been shaped over centuries by the predominant Catholic faith brought over by Spanish and Portuguese colonizers as well as the enduring importance of family ties.

Chaperones and Family Supervision

Young Latin couples today are much more likely to go on dates without supervision compared to the past, but many still require some level of family approval and awareness of their dating activities. Parents, aunts, siblings, or cousins may accompany couples on dates to serve as chaperones.

As times change and these traditions evolve, those interested in Latin dating and matrimonial prospects might find a valuable resource for understanding and connecting with potential partners within these rich cultural paradigms.

“My older brother had to come with us to the movies when I first started dating my boyfriend. He would sit two rows back the whole time to keep an eye on us,” explains Maria, 21, from Bogota, Colombia.

Restraint and Modesty Prioritized

Most traditional Latin families emphasize sexual restraint and modest behavior during courtship. Public displays of affection even among established couples can be taboo. Women in particular face expectations to dress and behave conservatively to uphold family honor.

Traditional Gender Roles

Across much of Latin America, clearly defined gender roles heavily influence dating norms and practices. These traditional roles stem from a culture of machismo and marianismo coming from the Spanish and Portuguese influence as well as strong family values.

Machismo Culture: Latino masculine ideals emphasize that the man dominates in romantic relationships. As the strong protector and provider, he takes the active lead in pursuing a woman, asking her out, initiating intimacy, and defining the terms of the relationship at every stage. Grand romantic gestures like bringing flowers or serenading are important machismo dating rituals.

Marianismo Values: The female ideal of marianismo holds that Latinas should embrace the virtues of the Virgin Mary – nurturing, passive, moral, and compliant complementary partners to men.

In dating, this manifests as women politely resisting men’s advances to avoid seeming too eager. Saying no at first even if she wants to say yes is a way for a Latina to uphold her virtue. Parents raise daughters to follow strict rules and closely supervise them to protect family honor.

Result: In combination, machismo, and marianismo build a courtship script where men confidently pursue relationships while women hesitate and set limitations. The man asks the woman out, plans elaborate dates, makes declarations of affection first, and decides when to get serious or end it while the woman calibrates her responses to not give too much away too soon. These extreme, complementary gender assumptions cause tensions that some young Latinx are struggling to balance.

Country and Regional Differences

Dating rules and customs take on distinct forms across different Latin countries and regions.


Mexican courtship rituals remain fairly formal and supervised. It is still rare for unmarried Mexican couples to live together unless engaged, and premarital sex remains taboo in more traditional families.

“When my boyfriend wanted to take me out dancing, my grandmother insisted on coming as a chaperone,” shares Dolores, 19.


Brazilians tend to have a more relaxed approach to dating with lighter family supervision and public displays of affection more socially acceptable. With Carnival celebrations fueling a spirited dating culture, sexual norms are also more relaxed.

Andean Region

In Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, the customs of indigenous cultures help shape courtship rituals that rely heavily on family input. Town fairs and festivals are popular dating venues, with parents, aunts, or friends subtly facilitating introductions between eligible singles.


Argentina has a reputation for less formal dating arrangements with group dates or casual hangs popular. Parents have less oversight of dating activities and sexual norms are slightly more relaxed than in other Latin countries.

Modern Generations Navigating Change

Attitudes and behaviors around dating and intimacy in Latin America are slowly shifting with younger, internet-connected generations.

Online Dating Taking Off

While traditional face-to-face courtship still dominates, online dating platforms are making inroads across Latin America. In Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia especially, apps like Tinder, Badoo, and Happn are popular with urban youth.

Youth Rebelling Against Traditions

Many young Latin Americans selectively rebel against the cultural norms of their parents and grandparents’ generation when it comes to dating, relationships, and sex. They balance new notions of romance picked up online and through globalized media with ingrained family traditions.

Gradual Progression of Change

Despite globalization, the predominant norms surrounding dating and courtship across Latin America still emphasize formality, restraint, and family approval. The Catholic church retains influence as well. Changes towards more casual, modern dating arrangements advance slowly and many traditions endure.

Courtship customs across Latin America reveal complex negotiations between traditional norms and modern practices. Core values of Catholicism, family bonds, gender role divisions, and modesty still shape dating rituals. Yet globalized media and online platforms increasingly expose Latin youth to more casual dating arrangements that rebel against conservative conventions.

Still, change progresses gradually in most places as customs like chaperones and restrained intimacy endure, especially in rural areas. Latinx couples continue carefully balancing heritage and progressiveness when navigating intimacy. The path towards more egalitarian, liberal courtship straightens slowly as new generations dissent yet still heed the echoes of ancestral traditions.

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