Juchitán: a place like no other
- Published on Tuesday, 29 November -0001 17:00
- By Allendria Brunjes
Located in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Juchitán has quite the reputation. From their big, strong women to the “muxes,” the people of Juchitán have developed a culture like no other in Mexico.
“The people of Juchitán are full of custom, and they’re a mixture of all that’s possible – of magic.”
Resident Geraldina Santiago Velázquez is the president of the local San Vicente Ferrer Society, a group that helps organize some of the famous parties in May called the Velas de Mayo. She says she wants to share her culture with the world.
“We are Zapotec people, still holding on to our roots,” she says. “We invite everyone who wants to know our customs, our traditions.”
Juchitán is located about 250 kilometres southeast of Oaxaca city, in the state of Oaxaca.
El presidente municipal Daniel Gurrión Matías says about 150,000 people live in Juchitán and surrounding areas, making it the second-biggest city in the state of Oaxaca after the capital.
Gurrión also says art is important in the city, which has produced such masters as Francisco Toledo.
“There are many artists – painters, poets, singers, musicians,” he says.
One tradition that people often hear about is muxe culture. Muxes are people who are born as men, raised as women and attracted to men. Unlike most other places in Mexico – where machismo is the norm – muxes are appreciated and celebrated.
Gurríon says muxes are valued in Juchiteco families, where it is helpful to have someone with masculine strength help with the stereotypically female duties.
“I believe that the society allows it and doesn’t see it as bad,” Gurríon says. “There aren’t many problems. Families – mothers especially – like them, because they are hard workers.”
Karla Paola Castillo Matus is muxe. She says there are many muxes in Juchitán, noting they even have their own vela celebrations at the end of November.
“I was born muxe,” she said. “The truth is that I feel very proud to be muxe. It’s really beautiful, because there’s no discrimination.”
She said there are some things that should change, like the fact that muxes were not allowed to enter the last week of the Velas de Mayo parties as women.
Nevertheless, Paola says she is comfortable in her city and society, noting that there is rarely violence or issues of intolerance.
“Almost never,” she says. “All people respect us as we are … Juchitán is very liberal. Here, I can do all of this and no one is going to say anything.”
In addition to the attitude toward muxes, women also seem to be looked upon differently in the Isthmus. For instance, the market is filled with large, strong women managing the stands and sales, and few to no men. More often than not, the women are physically larger than their male partners.
“It’s different from the rest of Mexican or Oaxacan society,” Gurríon said. “Here, women are a strong force in the family. The women work hard, and contribute a lot to the economics of families.”
Things aren’t perfect by any means. Despite their increased role in the economy, women still don’t have equal representation in the municipal government.
But, as Gurríon says, Juchitán has a lot of good things that people should see.
“We want that tourists and the people who visit are happy, that they know our culture,” he said. “We have a lot to show ... A lot of culture.”
Want to read more about Juchitán? Visit our blog at www.oaxacatimes.com.