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Old 11-19-2007
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Default Muxes in Juchitan, Oaxaca

http://www.kvia.com/global/story.asp?s=7345522

Town's gender lines blurred

JUCHITAN, OAXACA, MEXICO. - A small town where not everything is what it appears, Juchitan is rich in tradition from the fresh cheese made by local women to the hand-embroidered blouses known as 'huipiles.'
But there is another tradition at work; one that may not be evident at first glance. They're known as 'muxes' in the native Zapotec indian language: men who assume the role of women.
Jose Antonio Sanchez said his grandfather and uncle were muxes. Jose's transgender experience began when he was a child. Sanchez has photos of his own 'quinceanera,' the traditional sweet 15 party for girls in Mexico.
Jose now goes by the name Mistica. He wants to be referred to as a 'she". Mistica recalls her mother saying he must be accepted as a gift from God. Many families consider muxes a blessing because of their earning power. In the small town, most men eake out a living fishing or as subsistance farmers.
Muxes build businesses around the town's active social life including festivals, religious ceremonies, and weddings. Mistica makes good money embroidering huipiles. Another muxe that ABC-7 spoke with, Felina, is a successful hair salon owner.
Muxes are so central to life in Juchitan that every November, the town is the site of a gender bending fiesta that attracts people from around the world. The scenes were captured in a recent documentary by a Mexican director who chronicled the muxe tradition.
Juchitan may be tolerant, but muxes who venture beyond the city limits know that in other parts of Mexico they and those who defy gender roles face discrimination and in extreme cases might be the target of hate crimes.
"They're treated equally here," said one Juchitan man. But that tolerance does not always start at home. "It's no paradise," Felina said. While mother's embrace their muxes, many fathers reject these sons who want to act like daughters.
Felina blames machismo. Beatings are a rite of passage for some young muxes. Though the men ABC-7 spoke with ultimately gained their father's acceptance. Muxes are comfortable with their identities, none wants a sex change operation.
They're proud to be different. Felina said she's not a woman but does not want to be a man either. Instead, Mexico's muxes revel in their special status in a town where blurring gender roles date back generations.
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Written for broadcast by Angela Kocherga
Edited for KVIA.com by Miguel Martinez
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