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Photography by Erin Lee Holland
The majority of muxes start young, in their teens, and are trained in womanly ways by family and friends, taking their place in a Zapotec cultural tradition that predates the Spanish colonizers. Now their traditional role has become that of caretaker.
Local girls march throughout the town as part of La Regada, a parade on the second day of the celebration
Locals marching to Mass in La Regada, which many muxes attend.
“Sons and daughters get married and have families of their own, so the person that stays to care for the parents is the muxe,” explains Pedro Martinez Linares, a well-known muxe who began his training at age 13. “That’s why they are so highly valued.”
A muxe and friends after Mass on the second day of La Vela, a celebration of muxe culture.
A muxe preparing for La Vela
Local muxe and hairdresser (and the 2012 Mayordomo) Pedro Martinez Linares, helps his friends prepare.
Guests at La Vela, the celebration where the new queen and mayordomo are crowned.
The muxes’ annual pageant is the four-day long La Vela de las Auténticas Intrépidas Buscadoras del Peligró, which translates to “The Celebration of the Bold Seekers of Danger.”. This is the 2013 mayordomo.
The vela began nearly four decades ago as a friendly celebration, says Linares. “It all started as a small party, something like a reunion with only six or seven muxes who were already nearing old age,” he explains. “Every year they would celebrate the life they shared together... but you know how it goes. One invited friends, then the others invited their friends and it began growing that way.”
The 2013 mayordomo (left) with family members posing for photos at La Misa, the Mass during the second day of the celebration.