Diversity in Mexico

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 4.37.47 PMBy Julie Etra

Gay Marriage

Recognition of same-sex marriage varies throughout Mexico and is regulated by the state, although only civil unions are recognized. In this respect Mexico is surprisingly liberal for a predominantly Catholic nation. On December 21st, 2009, the Legislative Assembly legalized same sex marriages in Mexico City and the Mexican capital is one of the few places in the world where gay couples can legally adopt children.

Individual marriages have been recognized in Chihuahua, Colima, the State of Mexico, Jalisco, and Oaxaca. However, since 2010, marriages performed in legal areas are recognized by all of Mexico’s 31 states, as are basic spousal rights such as alimony, inheritance, and social security coverage. In 2012 Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that a law in southern Oaxaca that bans same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, paving the way for same-sex couples to marry in that state and possibly in the rest of Mexico. In a 2012 unanimous decision Oaxacan state law that declared “one of the purposes of marriage is the perpetuation of the species” was struck down. Further, the court stated that to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman “violates the principle of equality.” That said, tolerance of homosexuality varies from the openness of same sex couples in Mexico City, to intolerance in some rural areas. A poll conducted in July 2013 found a significant increase in support for same-sex marriage, with 52% of Mexicans in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage although adoption received much less support (24%).


One of the most tolerant places in the world for ‘alternative’ lifestyles is in southern Oaxaca, in the Isthmus, not far from Huatulco. In Juchitán, they have another category entirely, muxes (pronounced MOO-shays), which readers might consider as transvestites or cross dressers but is actually more complicated. The Zapotec word muxe is derived from the Spanish word for woman, ‘mujer’ and is reserved for men who consider themselves women, or at least women inside, and prefer to live socially as a separate category.

It is really a third gender that has been recognized for decades. Their roots go back to pre-Colombian Mexico, where, according to anthropologists, there are accounts of both Aztecan priests and Mayan gods who were hermaphroditic. Of course the conquering Spanish Catholics attempted to eliminate acceptance of what they saw as immoral behavior.

In an article published in 1995, anthropologist Beverly Chiñas explains that in the Zapotec culture, “the idea of choosing gender or of sexual orientation is as ludicrous as suggesting that one can choose one’s skin color.” In this culture their gender is viewed as determined by God and few muxe desire surgery to change sexes.

Some take hormones while others still dress as men. They work in a variety of sectors, such as traditional embroidery done by the Zapotec women, and they often provide another source of income for the family. Some become sex workers. In perhaps an ironic twist (at least from a US perspective), it can be considered desirable and lucky to have a muxe child, since the parents are guaranteed he/she will not leave home to raise their own family, and can care for them as they age. Not all families share this sentiment but it is widely known to be mostly acceptance and not seen as an aberration. Muxe have been considered to be of above average intelligence and artistically gifted.

Since the 1970s, Juchitán has held a three-day festival known as Vela de las Intrepidas (Vigil of the Intrepids) celebrating the muxes, where a runway features a beauty contest and a queen is selected. The event, held in November, attracts people from all walks of life, and sexes.

And finally, the fish

There is incredible diversity and shades of gray surrounding sexual development and manifestation in the animal kingdom. For example, almost all species of Parrotfish, common in tropical waters and no stranger to Huatulco’s Pacific coast, are sequential hermaphrodites and start as females but develop into males. In other species some females do not change sex, while in others the females that do change to males only do so while still immature (i.e., not at a reproductive stage).

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