Transvestites are a rare sight in a culture that puts a premium on machismo. But don’t tell that to the people of Juchitan, a town near Mexico’s Pacific coast. The town’s Zapotec population held an annual fiesta over the past weekend. The reason for the party: to celebrate the local muxes (transvestites) and to mark the end of the harvest season.
Why are transvestites revered in this corner of the country? According to Zapotec culture, people with traits from both genders are considered wise and powerful because they are said to have an understanding of both the male and female mind. Muxes are accepted by their familes and the community and even the local Catholic priests, who blessed some of the performers before the weekend’s festivities.
The traditions and values behind the fiesta in Juchitan are nothing new. They date back to pre-Colombian times. Some gods were depicted as having ambiguous gender and some shaman cross-dressed during religious ceremonies. Spanish colonists and missionaries forced these practices underground for hundreds of years.