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Gay men celebrated annually in Zapotec Indian town

Monday 23 Nov 2009 12:24 p.m.

A man plucks his eyebrows dressed in the traditional costume of a Zapotec woman at the town of Juchitan (Reuters)

A man plucks his eyebrows dressed in the traditional costume of a Zapotec woman at the town of Juchitan (Reuters)

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Residents in the town of Juchitan de Zaragoza in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca have celebrated an unusual annual beauty pageant.

Brightly coloured dresses abounded, but in this Zapotec Indian town, they were worn by female impersonators.

The annual dance and festival of the muxes celebrates a group of homosexual men who don elaborate makeup and traditional dress to dance and crown a queen, all with the support and excitement of the local community.

Zapotec Indian culture in the Juchitan area, 277 km south of the Oaxacan capital, treats male homosexuality with openness.

Homosexuals, or muxes, are generally accepted in the community as home helpers, embroiderers, decorators, cooks and entertainers.

Most of the muxe men identify themselves as female, and some take hormones to change their physical appearance.

According to anthropological studies, some women encourage sons' muxe leanings because they tend to stay home and care for their parents rather than getting married.

"Women and men get married and leave. But these gay men who are accepted in the family homes are the ones who will close their parents' eyes," said resident Beatriz Lopez, referring to parents' deaths.

On Saturday morning before the pageant, the priest of the local parish welcomed the muxes and their families to celebrate mass.

While Catholicism is still the prevalent religion in the area, there is perhaps no better indicator of syncretism with Zapotec beliefs than with the local church's open acceptance of the muxe.

In the evening, a raucous coronation and dance with local residents lit up the night.

Hundreds of muxe participated in the dance and crowning of the queen, aided by thousands of family members and residents.

They danced with partners, family members and other non-muxe men.

This year's queen, who goes by the name 'Darrina,' expressed delight at being crowned.

"It's a very special day for me since I'm realising my dream of being the sovereign queen of this renowned celebration of the authentic 'Intrepid Searchers of Danger,'" she said, referring to the name of the civil association of muxe that organise the festival.

The association decides who will be the queen before the festival begins, with a new one is named each year.

While muxe men are not one hundred percent accepted in the community and are sometimes the target of attacks, it's a sign of the community's comfort with them that a muxe candidate, Amaranta Gomez, ran for and nearly won a congressional seat in 2003 with a human rights platform.


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