Muxes: Gender Binary in Juchitan, Oaxaca

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In the town of Juchitán de Zaragoza, located on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca, one variation of a local legend goes something like this.

San Vicente Ferrer, the patron saint of Juchitán, was carrying three bags of seeds meant to be distributed around the world. The first contained male seeds, the second contained female seeds and a third bag contained a mixture of the two. But as San Vicente was passing through Juchitán, the third bag ruptured — and from it sprang the town’s famed community of muxes.

Muxes, a group long recognized within the indigenous Zapotec people of Mexico, are often referred to as a third gender. Embodying characteristics of both men and women, their existence challenges the gender binary that is so deeply entrenched in Western society.

“We are people of two spirits,” Felina Santiago says in the Oaxaca episode of “Eva Longoria: Searching for Mexico.” “We are the duality, neither man nor woman. You are neither less nor more.”

Indigenous communities in Mexico have recognized a third gender since before Spanish colonization and its ensuing influence of Catholicism, with anthropologists pointing to Aztec priests who wore clothing associated with another gender and Mayan gods who were both male and female. Today, the muxes of Juchitán are just one of several communities around the world that don’t fit into the gender binary, such as hijras in India, bakla in the Philippines, and fa’afafine in Samoa.

“Their way of life represents a form of resistance against the Western colonizing forces that have historically imposed their beliefs and behaviors on indigenous peoples,” Jacobo Ramírez, whose research with Ana María Munar has explored muxes and gender in indigenous communities, wrote in an email to CNN.

Muxes are generally assigned male at birth but tend to present in typically feminine ways through their behaviors, clothing, and occupations. Many are skilled in embroidery or other artisan crafts or work as merchants in the markets that drive the region’s economy. Often, they are caretakers for elderly relatives and community members, said Ramírez, an associate professor in Latin American business development at the Copenhagen Business School.

Source: Reporte Indigo

The Oaxaca Post