Federico Fernandez.
Federico Fernandez.
Image: Steve Tanchel for Wanted

This June, Wanted explores the complex world of masculinity through conversations, personal essays and interviews.

Federico Fernandez is a multidisciplinary artist from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Fernandez fell in love with SA, and his wife, Natalia. He has numerous acting credits, modelling campaigns, bands and is skilled in a variety of instruments and poetic forms.

Fernandez and his wife are currently running Meraki Plant Based Food, an organic and healthy vegan alternative that is available across the country.

Who are you?

I’m originally from Argentina. I came here to Cape Town, SA in 2000. I was scouted by an agent; they flew me to Cape Town and put me in a model house in Camps Bay. It worked very well because it was at that time that Latin people weren't as popular, now Brazilians are everywhere. And one thing led to the other and I met my wife, Natalia, in Cape Town doing fashion week, saw each other, spent three days together. I asked her to marry me and two weeks later we were married, that was 20 years ago.

In 2014, we moved to Argentina, we sold everything and acquired a piece of land near the Andes mountains, where all the vineyards are, and we started building a house. Things didn’t go as planned. We moved to Buenos Aires. My wife has always been a vegetarian, and in Argentina, the land of beef, she wanted to try this vegan thing, we started making plant-based burgers using different beans, different veggies, different herbs, binding agents; they were actually amazing. We came back to SA in 2018 and she started making these parties for friends and the friends said we need to sell them.

How would you define masculinity?

My definition of masculinity is a man that takes care of their family, pulls their sleeves up and puts in the work. Cooks, washes dishes, gives back massages to the wife, I believe that. Women have everything on their shoulders; they go to work and are paid less money, because we are in this masculine society. They then have to go home and take care of the kids, cook, clean, wash clothes. I think if the world was run by women, it would be a much better place, much more compassionate, much more aware. I don't think it would be much suffering. Except for Margaret Thatcher.

I think masculinity needs to change, yet it is so hard to change a pattern that is so convenient. We need to look at what every woman has had to endure because of these [patterns] of masculinity. Every big change starts at home and if every man starts being real masculine, drops their beer, drops the remote, gets off the couch and helps their wife, the kids are aware of that, and we can change the world. One masculine man at a time. For some men, not being the breadwinner [destroys] masculinity

I think the most masculine thing you can do is to be of service. A masculine guy is someone that is so full of colour, we are here to live all the colours, to learn, enjoy and experience all that life has to offer.

How has masculinity affected you?

People look at me, they see this South American full of tattoos and they think I’m scary, I’m completely different. I should be this macho man who I’m not at all, I’m very comfortable with my feminine side too. I was raised without my father, who I never knew. I didn’t have any masculine feedback because I was raised by a woman. My only father figure was my grandfather and how he was with my grandmother. They were married for 50-60 years, and they had 24 hours a day together. I had that old style, traditional masculine feedback — that open-the-door, take-the-coat, chivalry. I inherited all of that; however, chivalry is more romantic than masculine for me.

I have had a lot of insecurities; moments when I didn't have any feedback about if I am man enough. But then, who is man enough? What is it to be a man?

I prefer to be with my family. My wife and I are like super best friends and with the kids; we are a very close group, we're a tribe, you know? I think that when you choose a person and you click really well and you have a beautiful family, it’s not over — you have not made it yet, that's where it starts. You have to actually do what you need to do, show your kids what men should be doing, and I think that is about enjoying every moment and finding yourself in the moment. That is rich. That is to be truly rich; it's not materialistic, it's how you feed your spirit. I think that is crucial to the progress of masculinity, to be that kind of man. I meditate every morning and I become nobody, or everything.

What advice about masculinity would you give to your children?

There are great things happening with my children in their lives because I have seen so many patterns that they are challenging — patterns that have been repeated generation by generation. My advice to my kids is to just be yourself, it doesn't matter what it takes. You have to explore yourself, take yourself in and explore you, different aspects of your self. Don't be afraid to be masculine in your own way, whatever is natural.

Masculinity has to be peaceful, because sometimes it is measured by how aggressive it can be or how violent it can be. I'm here to change that.

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