Authentic, Intrepid Seekers of Danger
Directed by Alejandra Islas
Among the Zapotec Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico, boy babies who are born in a certain position, or little boys who prefer to play with girls, are raised as women, and are known as Muxes (pronounced “Mooshays”). In the town of Juchitán, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Muxes have an important role to play in the life of the community. Because they are raised as women, the Muxes prefer to enter into relations with “straight” men. Since female virginity is important for marriage in Juchitán, unmarried boys have their first experiences with Muxes, but usually move on to a heterosexual marriage.
Juchitán – Queer Paradise
Love In The Age of Aids
The Muxes of Juchitán are proud of their identity, enjoy their lives, laugh at themselves as well as at “straight” society, and admit their own foibles freely. They call themselves “Authentic, Intrepid Seekers of Danger,” and have banded together to lead the fight against AIDS in Oaxaca. They talk frankly about their experiences of acceptance and rejection, and their successes in finding freedom, love and delight in their special identity.
A lively and surprising portrait of a group of homosexuals who defend their sexual diversity while preserving their identity as Zapotec Indians in the “queer paradise” of Juchitán, Mexico. Winner of the Audience Award at the Morelia International Film Festival,Muxes examines transgressive boundary-pushing within an indigenous culture that has historically embraced this “third gender.”
On the sun-baked Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico lies the town of Juchitán, whose population of indigenous Zapotec have for centuries warded off numerous invasions to preserve their identity. Today, Juchitán has an additional, more notorious identity, as a “queer paradise” that is just as fiercely protected by the local “muxes,” effeminate homosexual men whose socially defined role within the Zapotec culture pre-dates the advent of gay liberation.
In Muxes, director Alejandra Islas focuses on a dozen “intrepid” muxes who, since the mid-70s, have been more aggressive in ensuring that they are a visible part of the daily life of the town rather than an accepted one. In a country where machismo prevails, this is all the more difficult for those that fall “in-between.” Twenty years after Paris Is Burning explored the self-definitiion of an urban gay subculture through its drag balls, Muxes takes a similar approach to a subculture that may be unknown to the world at large, but raises few eyebrows at home.
In this society, muxes have traditionally filled the roles of sewing, cooking, preparation of celebrations and providing lifetime care for their parents. Likewise, the men we meet here are chefs, salon-owners, housekeepers and teachers, in addition to being inveterate fun-lovers and an acknowledged “outlet” for straight men in a culture that still values virginity in brides. However, all is not perfect in paradise, as Islas occasionally suggests in a frequently amusing way just how low the glass ceiling of acceptance might be for those who push too hard.
—Miami Film Festival, 2006