Friday, August 15, 2014

Juchitán, Mexico

We decided to break up the long journey from Oaxaca’s Pacific coast to the final state of Chiapas with a stop in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the narrowest part of Mexico that’s home to indigenous culture unlike most of the country. A relatively small, isolated area that never became a part of the Aztec empire, it’s a region that carries an air of independence to this day. Each village has its own twist, and we chose to visit Juchitán, famous for its muxes - The local name given to the many openly gay and cross-dressing men who call this place home.

On the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, every family considers it a blessing to have one gay son. Because while daughters traditionally marry and leave the home, muxes will usually care for their parents as they age. They also frequently sell handicrafts in the local markets, a role typically filled by women, which helps the family financially.

Interestingly, in a culture where female virginity is prized, it’s common for men in these parts to date muxes prior to marrying a woman. A practice that’s not only accepted, but celebrated, with wives even visiting their husband’s “ex” muxes for advice. Every November, the town holds a vela (public fiesta) dedicated to its muxe population. This is a far cry from most of the country’s “machismo” culture, where tolerance of homosexuality is a relatively new (to non-existent) concept.

Unfortunately, we didn’t make any muxe friends during our short time in Juchitán. We mostly strolled the local market and reveled in the glory of our first hotel room with air conditioning. We also read a great article featuring an interview with a muxe who was quoted as saying “I don’t dress as a woman. I dress MUCH more expensively!” You go girl.

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