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)