Welcome to the Dashboard, !

Close dashboard icon
LibreOrganize 0.6.0 - Documentation

Muxes: The Amazing Third Gender Zapotecs

Muxes, now available on HBO, offers up a different kind of documentary. No huge title page, no big list of sponsors, not a gazillion production tricks. What this documentary does have: a glimpse into the lives of five Zapotec men who live as women, for at least some part of their days, in Juchitan de Zaragoza in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

This documentary came as a surprise to me. It’s appearing on HBO, after all. But after an initial change of expectation, I settled into watching this history of muxes in Oaxacan indigenous communities. That history turns out to have important lessons for the rest of the world, and this film makes a good start to getting that history known.

The Zapotec identity has always been central to muxe self-identification. The men, both accepted and rejected by their communities, live with joy and sparkle, strength and confidence. Adversity has clearly not beaten them down. They find support and love from each other, their families, and friends and neighbors, albeit uneven, with huge support in some cases from their mothers.

This visually stunning film, with embroidery the star of the show all on its own, gives us glimpses into everyday life in a Zapotec town. On display at a vela, the muxes wear great costumes, showing off their artfulness, dancing, and strutting, loving themselves all the while. Great make-up, great flowers, great fabric.

This film offering will not meet everyone’s expectations.  You have to read between the lines a bit. Not everything gets spelled out. But I felt as if I had been dropped into a world that I could not have seen on my own.  Just use your imagination and engage with these five beautiful, inspiring third-gender muxes. You’ll be glad you did.

Mexican muxes take part in a traditional procession during the 2018
Muxes Festival in Juchitán, Mexico. Photo: Jan Sochor, Getty Images

For more on México’s muxes, check this article on the film, in the original Spanish and the Google translation English. Also check this Catalyst analysis.

Activist Vicky Hamlin is a retired tradeswoman,
shop steward, and painter. In her painting and
in this column, she shines the light on the lives
of working people and the world they live in.