Drag queens from the Oaxacan isthmus and Oaxaca’s gay and lesbian community join forces for a gay pride parade and all night party.

THE ISTHMUS OF Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, Mexico, is home to a matriarchal society in which the youngest son in the family is raised to be gay. From a young age this child is dressed up as a woman and treated as such; isthmeñan society embraces this role and encourages it. This is a long-standing Zapotec tradition extending back before the arrival of the Spaniards.

The sons are called muxhes and have historically been treated not as homosexuals, but rather as a third sex. They take up the roles as women in the matriarchy, and they carry the additional obligation of taking care of their mothers in old age.

Nowadays, muxhes are one of those anomalies that both defines a culture and blatantly contradicts it. This was evident during last month’s festivities, as the organization Vinnii Gaxheé (“different people” in Zapotec) held parades and velas (a type of all night party unique to the isthmus region) to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its founding.

During the organization’s gay pride parade, muxhes threw condoms from floats and served beer out of liter bottles to old women, young gay men and lesbians, straight couples, and families. The feeling was one of fiesta, and the Oaxacan community—conservative, Catholic, and traditional—rallied around it without seeming to blink an eye at the drag queens in elaborate isthmeñan dress laughing and holding hands aboard the floats.

Likewise, the atmosphere at the vela held the Friday following the parade was one of jubilance and abandon. Lorena Herrera, Mexico’s Pamela Anderson, graced the screaming, sweating, drunken croad with her presence and crowned Kathy the 1st the new muxhe queen.

There were parades featuring mock soldiers and the virgin Mary, traditional isthmeñan dances, telenovela stars, crates of Coronas piled in heaps on tables, and drag queens getting down to cumbia. Despite a small electrical fire which shut off the lights on half of the outdoor space, the party kept raging, isthmeñan style. And it seems Vinnii Gaxheé only gets stronger as the years go by.

1

Muxhe posing for the camera

Muxhe in traditional Ishtmeñan dress, striking a pose somewhere between folkloric and seductive.

2

Preparing for the parade

Getting ready to board the float. Lots of drama and anticipation in the air.

3

Kathy Primera

The queen, Kathy Primera, poised for a trip through the main streets of Oaxaca.

4

A moment of repose

A brief moment of repose amidst all the trappings of traditional Mexican fiestas--flags, flowers, firecrackers popping and hissing above the crowds.

5

Muxhe waits for the rest of the parade to arrive

The muxhes make their way to the Zócalo, maintaining an air of grande dame grace.

6

Silhouette of Kathy primera

Queen Kathy Primera takes on an otherworldly power, silhouetted against a Oaxacan evening sky.

7

Dancing at the vela

Muxhes dance salsa and cumbia at the vela, which rages deep into the night.

8

Partygoers at the vela

Partygoers dressed to the nines emulate the glamor of queen Kathy Primera.

9

A blend of strong and delicate

Muxhes exert a captivating juxtaposition of the powerful and the fragile.

10

Younger generation of muxhes

The younger generation of drag queens, in tight dresses and mini skirts, gets a lot of attention on the dance floor.

11

The night wears on with food and drink

The night wears on as the crowd goes through cartons and cartons of Corona, glass jugs of mezcal, and plates of isthmeñan tapas.

12

Kathy primera and her escorts

Following her coronation, Kathy Primera is escorted onto the dance floor by stoic, gallant young men in traditional Zapotec dress.

13

Kathy Primera and Lorena Herrera

Queen Kathy Primera poses with Lorena Herrera amidst the ecstatic, frenzied whistling and shouting of the crowd.