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social sciences

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The population of Mexico, the country of 1,923,040 square kilometers immediately south of the United States, recently exceeded one hundred million (with an estimated annual rate of increase of 1.5%). Thirty percent of the population is entirely or predominantly indígeno (Amerindian), sixty percent mestizo (mixed Amerindian and Spanish descent), nine percent of entirely European descent (blanco), and one percent other.

Preconquest Mexico

Maize (corn) was first domesticated in what is now Mexico and was the staple of diets in civilizations that rose and fell before the sixteenth-century Spanish invasion--most notably, Olmec, Maya, Teotihuacano, and Toltec ones. The Nahuatl-speaking Mexicas (Aztecs) built an empire from a base in the valley of Mexico where the current capital is located. The city of Tenochitlán at the time the Spaniards arrived was larger than any European city except Paris.

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The Mexicas held public rituals that were at times very erotic, but they were very prudish in everyday life. In their pantheon, the Mexicas worshipped a deity, Xochiquetzal (feathered flower of the maguey), who was the goddess of non-procreative sexuality and love.

Originally the consort of Tonacatecutli, a creator god, Xochiquetzal dwelled in the heaven of Tamaoanchan, where she gave birth to all humankind. However, subsequently she was abducted by Tezcatlipoca, a war god, and raped. This event transformed her character from the goddess of procreative love to the goddess of non-reproductive activities.

Xochiquetzal was both male and female at the same time, and in her male aspect (called Xochipilli), s/he was worshipped as the deity of male homosexuality and male prostitution. In Xochiquetzal's positive aspect, s/he was the deity of loving relationships and the god/dess of artistic creativity; it was said that non-reproductive love was like art--beautiful and rare. But in her other side, the deity of sexual destruction, s/he incited lust and rape, and inflicted people with venereal disease and piles.

The Mexicas' mythical history, like those of other Mesoamerican peoples, asserted that there had been four previous worlds. During the immediately preceding one, the "Age of the Flowers, of Xochiquetzal," the people supposedly gave up the "manly virtues of warfare, administration and wisdom," and pursued the "easy, soft life of , perversion, the Dance of the Flowers, and the worship of Xochiquetzal."

There is also a classic Nahuatl word, patlacheh, for a woman "playing the role of a man" penetrating women. The patlacheh is described at some length (as a scandal) in the Florenine codes (one of the two major extant collections of writings about the Aztecs).

Although the Aztecs were publicly sexually exuberant and privately prudish, their subjects varied greatly in their sexual customs. For example, the area which is now the state of Vera Cruz was very well known for practicing same-sex sodomy. When Bernal Díaz del Castillo reached Vera Cruz with Cortés, he wrote of the native priests: "the sons of chiefs, they did not take women, but followed the bad practices of sodomy." Their practices included boy prostitutes and cross-dressed adults.

Although its veracity is somewhat suspect, since such revelations were used to rationalize the European conquest, Cortés wrote his king, the Emperor Carlos V, "We know and have been informed without room for doubt that all [Veracruzanos] practice the abominable sin of sodomy."

Colonial Mexico

The Mexicas had not conquered all the peoples, particularly those living on both the Pacific and the Gulf coasts, who were most notorious for their sexual availability. Thus, the Spanish were able to make alliances against the Mexicas. Malinche, the coastal woman who became the sexual partner of conquistador Hernán Cortés and aided the Spanish conquest, became the prototype of the "fucked/fucked over" Mexican. In Octavio Paz's analysis of Mexico's fatalistic national character, the mixed-blood (mestizo) children are "hijos de la chingada," the children of the fucked one, la Malinche.

The Spaniards condemned homosexuality more vociferously than the Aztecs had. After the conquest, all pagan rituals were banished and their rationale discredited. Mestizo culture came to exhibit a melding of Aztec attitudes towards private homosexuality and those of the Spaniards. The former ritual tradition that celebrated homosexuality as communion with the gods was lost.

In early Colonial times, when Bishop Zumarraga was the Apostolic Inquisitor of Mexico, homosexuality, and particularly sodomy, was a prime concern for the Inquisition. The usual penalties for homosexuality were stiff fines, spiritual penances, public humiliation, and floggings. However, homosexuality was tried by the civil courts as well, from whence people were sentenced to the galleys or put to death.

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Above: The god/goddess Xochiquetzal.

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