oaxaca muxe

Festival honors ‘Muxe’ community in Mexico

A lively parade of transvestites wearing flowers and ribbons on their heads partied through the streets of an indigenous Mexican town in the weekend of their 40th annual “muxe” festival.

The muxes, also known as a third gender, are mostly gay men of ethnic Zapotec descent, who are widely respected in the southern town of Juchitan, where every year a transvestite queen is crowned in a pageant.

Several dozen muxes were blessed by a Catholic priest at a mass before joining visiting transvestites and other townsfolk at a raucous fiesta on Saturday (November 21) night. The muxes wore either traditional local costumes or ball gowns and high heels. Some of the muxes, a Zapotec word derived from the Spanish for woman, or “mujer”, dress as women year round and others are gays who only don women’s clothes at the annual party, or not at all.

But in Juchitan they found a haven of acceptance in Mexico’s macho society. Jorge Martinez, chosen as this year’s queen, has full support from his family. After preparing his hair style and putting on fake eyelashes, Martinez said he wanted to show society that a school teacher could also be a muxe queen.

“I wanted to show people that a teacher – because I am a preschool teacher – can also be a queen. I am muxe and I accept my role because I am what I like to be,” he said.

Anthropologists say the tradition of blurring genders among Mexico’s indigenous population is centuries old, but has been revived in recent decades due to the gay pride movement.

The area around Juchitan, a laid-back town near the Pacific, has a history of women playing leading roles in public life. Anthropologists have found evidence of mixed gender identities across Mesoamerica, from Mayan corn and moon gods that are both male and female and Aztec priests who ritually cross dressed. The Spanish conquest in the 16th century and the Catholic Church snuffed out much of that tolerance.


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