MUXES: THE THIRD GENDER
Oaxaca is a state in Southern Mexico widely known for its colonial cities, indigenous culture, and breathtaking landscapes. More than one million tourists visit the state every year to explore its colorful streets, its ancient ruins, its magical beaches, and its delightful cuisine. It is one of the most beautiful states in Mexico and it is home to the “muxes”.
In the own words of a muxe: a muxe is “any person who was born a man but does not act masculine. There’s men, there’s women and there’s something in between.” In Juchitán, their hometown, it is commonly known that there are three sexes: male, female, and muxe. Muxes are part of the Zapotec culture, a culture centered around femininity and fertility, and have been acknowledged in their communities since prehispanic times. They are respected and celebrated and are able to freely express themselves. There are some who identify as women and play feminine roles in society, while there are others who simply were born men and are attracted to men.
Muxes play a key role both in the economy and in society. There are some traditionally defined occupations, such as embroidery and craft-making, that have been widely adopted by muxes. However, they are free to pursue any vocation they want. Muxes are known to be in charge of the preparations for local celebrations, such as baptisms, quinceñeras, and weddings. Additionally, they also have an important role in religious ceremonies. Not only do they have their own affiliation inside the catholic church, but they are honored by religious figures of the community.
Every November muxes are celebrated in the Vela de las Intrépidas (Vigil of the Intrepids). This annual ceremony brings together the entire community of Juchitán and combines old traditions and religion with contemporary festivities. The vigil begins with a mass at the local church followed by a procession around town. All kinds of muxes can be seen parading; some wearing traditional long skirts and elegant hairdos, while others simply wearing a traditional shirt embroidered with colorful flowers. But what muxes look forward to the most is the party that takes place after the procession. Men, women, muxes, and children are hosted by the year’s “La Mayordomo”, and all celebrate together.
In a country with one of the highest crime rates against the LGBT community, the muxes are a true inspiration. They are proof that even prehispanic cultures can foster an environment of acceptance and tolerance, and that human beings can live labeless and freely express themselves. The muxes know and understand the inspiration they can provide to others and are using their power and rising fame for the better. The muxes’ culture and traditions show the world how simple gender fluidity can be and are a beacon of hope for a community that is endlessly fighting for equality.