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Of all mankind's ideas, the equating of sex with sin has left the greatest train of trouble.
CHRONOLOGY OF MEXICAN GAY HISTORY
By Len Evans
When Spain discovered the New World, the nation had only recently been united through the marriage of its fanatically Catholic and puritanical rulers Isabela and Fernando, who ruthlessly pursued a victory over Granada. the last remaining Moorish stronghold in Spain; the country was animated by the militarist ideal of the mercenary knight, religious fanaticism and intolerance, and an exaggerated fear and loathing of homosexuality.
1492 was not only the year Columbus discovered the new world, it was also the year that Isabela and Fernando defeated the final stronghold of Islam in Granada, and the year Jews were expelled from Spain. The fact that the two previous monarchs were believed to have been homosexuals, and that Isabela’s own succession to the thrown had been contested by her notoriously homosexual half brother, Enrique IV had raised the issue of homosexuality to the forefront of royal and public consciousness. It had also been a convenient insult with which to label both the Moors and Jews. Sodomy had also recently come under the jurisdiction of the various Spanish Inquisitions, which were at their height in 1492.
It is not surprising that when Spaniards reached the new World, they would be quick to label their enemies with charges of sodomy, and justify their own barbarity against the native peoples with a litany of offenses and atrocities , both real and imagined; that the indigenous people were guilty of human sacrifice, cannibalism, the worshipping of false gods, and inevitably sodomy. The fact that the peoples of Mesoamerica held differing views about homosexuality, or that the Aztecs were as intolerant and as ruthless in its suppression as the Spanish was irrelevant.
The first peoples with whom the Spanish came in contact on the American continent were the Mayans, or peoples under their cultural influence, and the Mayans were tolerant of homosexuality. For the Mayan aristocracy, at least, pubescent homosexuality was preferable to premarital heterosexuality. Parents would provide their sons with male slaves to satisfy their sexual needs, while premarital heterosexual encounters were discouraged. Adult homosexuality was also condoned, and the Maya were known to hold large private sexual parties which included homosexuality.
The Aztecs on the other hand were not surprisingly puritanical (a trait that fits well with the blood-thirsty nature of their religion, and-warlike proclivities), and although they celebrated public rituals with remnants of erotic content, they were perhaps more ruthless than the Spanish even, in suppressing private vice. Both cultures accepted female prostitution as inevitable, and as a deterrent to homosexuality. Not only was sodomy among men a capital offense, but also transvestism, and lesbian relations, as well as a second offense of public drunkenness.
It is ironic that the Aztecs and the Spanish and their Indian allies would taunt each other with charges of homosexuality and its supposed concomitant weaknesses through out the period of the conquest. Much of the early reports by the Spanish of indigenous homosexuality has to be seen within the context of these charges and counter charges, and within a cultural context in which both these warlike cultures viewed homosexuality as effeminate and weak.
The Aztecs believed there had been four worlds before their own. In that preceding their own, the "Age of Flowers, of Xochiquetzal" the people had given up the "manly virtues of warfare, administration and wisdom", and pursued the "soft life of sodomy, perversion, the Dance of the Flowers, and the worship of Xochiquetzal." This historic legend likely referred to the Toltecs who the Aztecs conquered about 1,000 A.D.
Extremely sex tolerant, even the Mayans were shocked by the Toltecs public displays of sex and eroticism.
Xochiquetzal, The Feathered Flower of the Maguey, like many other Aztec god/goddesses, had a dual male/female aspect, and was known as Xochipilli in the male aspect, and as such was worshiped as the god of male homosexuality and prostitution. Originally she gave birth to all mankind, but after her rape by the war god Tezcatlipoca she became the goddess of non-procreative sexuality, which in its positive aspects included loving relationships and artistic creativity, and in its negative lust, rape and the infliction of venereal disease and piles.
1513 The Spanish explorer Balboa first encountered homosexuality among the Indians at Quarequa in Panama, where, an early English translation of his exploits recounts, "the most abhominal and unnaturall lechery," was practiced by "the kynges brother and many other younger men in women's apparell, smoth and effeminately decked, which by the report of such dwelte abowte hym, he abused with preposterous Venus." Believing that "this stynkynge abhomination hadde not yet entered among the people", he hoped to make an example of the guilty parties by throwing forty of them to be torn apart by his dogs.” A Spanish account claims that in the prince's house were found clay models depicting acts of sodomy, and other such proof of the open practice of the pecado nefando y sucio, "the nefarious and dirty sin," which was to be seen throughout the province. Obviously this reporter felt that the practice was widespread.
1519 The year Cortez lands in Mexico, an anonymous conquistador reports that the people of Panuco on the Gulf coast were "great sodomites." Upon meeting Moctezuma, Cortes was pleased to note that he was not a sodomite. A Mexican account claims the Spanish sent ahead a young blond boy, who Moctezuma so fell in love with that he was willing to do anything the Spanish asked.
Most Mexican accounts agree that Moctezuma was felled by stones thrown by the Aztec side, but believe his death was caused by strangulation or daggers at the hands of the Spanish. One account claimed the final and fatal wound was of a sword thrust up his rectum, likely a metaphor for his weakness in facing the Spanish. The Aztec defenders of Tenochtitlan during the "Noche Triste", were reported to have shouted "Cuilone,cuilone" ("queer, queer) from their canoes at the retreating Spanish.
1522 Encouraged by Cortez, the town council of Vera Cruz affirmed that the entire indigenous population of Mexico was addicted to sodomy. Lopez do Gomara states that no one in all the Indies could be absolved of the vice of sodomy.
Lopez Medel was loathe to give details about the "nefarious and widespread customs of the Mexicans and Guatemalans, as he did not wish "to offend chaste ears."
1514 As supervisor of gold smelting, Ganzalo Fernandez de Oviedo was in charge of converting Indian ornaments into raw gold. What he saw of their handicrafts confirmed his low opinion of the Indians and contributed to his disagreement with Las Casas over how they should be treated:
“Thus, what I have said of the people on this island and its neighbors is very well known, and applies also to the mainland, where many of these Indian men and women were sodomites, and it is known that many of them are still. Observe the degree to which they take pride in this sin: just as other people are accustomed to wearing jewels or precious stones around their necks, in some parts of these Indies they wear a jewel made of gold, representing one man on top of another in that base and diabolical act of Sodom. I saw one of these jewels of the devil that weighed twenty pesos of gold, cast in a mold and hollow inside, which was acquired on the coast of the mainland in the year 1514, when the Armada that the Catholic King sent to Castilla del Oro, with his Captain General Pedrarias touched there, and they subsequently brought it to be smelted before me as a royal officer and overseer of gold smelting. I broke it with a hammer and pounded it up with my own hands on an anvil in the smelting house in the city of Darien.
1530 Cortés was forced to return to Spain in 1528 to clear his name from charges of Nuño de Guzmán, president of the first Audiencia of New Spain. In the meantime, Guzmán had Archbishop Zumárraga, an advocate for the Indians, drug from the cathedral. When the Spanish crown tried to arrest him, Guzmán organized an army of 500 discontented former conquistadors and 10,000 Indians, looted the Treasury and fled Northwest in a conquest of the Michoacan region. In 1530, Guzmán seized King Tangaxoan and demanded a huge amount of gold. When Tangaxoan couldn't produce it, Guzmán had him tortured, then dragged behind a horse and finally burned at the stake. Guzmán explained that he had ordered Tangaxoan's execution because the king had abandoned Christianity and had lapsed back into paganism and sodomy. In a rare case of justice, Guzmán was arrested in 1536 and shipped back to Spain where he died in prison in 1550.
1542 The Spanish navigator Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo landed at Ventura, California, commenting on the large number of canoes and transvestites found here. The Chamber of Commerce has been forever grateful that he chose to call the place El Pueblo de las Canoas.
1596 The Viceroy, Gaspar de Zuniga, the Count of Monterey wrote to King Phillip II, to inform him that the court officials “merited praise and higher salaries for they had imprisoned and burned some delinquents for the nefarious sin and other types of sodomy.”
1658 Juan Manuel de Sotomayor, a Magistrate of the Real Sala del Crimenin Mexico City, wrote that on Friday, 27 September 1658, he had ordered Juana de Herrera, a `mestiza' laundress to appear before theTribunal and to declare her findings. "Last Thursday" stated Juana, "two men had approached her as she washed some clothes along the wall, outside the city, in the vicinity of San Lazaro." The two men, in a great haste, loudly cried out and encouraged her to "Go see some men playing like dogs." Juana, "stood up and walked some distance until she saw two men, without breeches, one on top of the other, committing the nefarious sin." The "top man's cape" covered the "man on the bottom." Thus, Juana had only recognized the "top man" as Juan de la Vega, `mulato', "the one on the bottom looked like a`mestizo.'" Juan de la Vega had occupied quarters at a boarding house in the neighbourhood of San Pablo. But, by the time Sotomayor visited the area, Vega had moved on. Nonetheless, the Magistrate interrogated several persons at the household, and in particular Tomas de Santiago, an `indio,' who knew Vega and described him as an "effeminate `mulato' also known as Cotita which is the same as Mariquita." Vega walked with "over affected delicacy," stated Santiago. "The `mulato' twisted," or sashayed "his waist, from one side to the other and he ordinarily wore a scarf or melindre, usually worn by women, on his forehead." Too, Vega "wore many pendants.” The ribbons "hung from the openings of his white jacket sleeves." When he "sat on The floor to receive his guests," Vega assumed "the disposition of a woman." He addressed his guests, usually "young boys or mozuelos" as, "My Dears, My Soul, or My Love.” The guests "sat and slept with him in the quarters." Vega "felt offended" if his guests did not address him as Cotita. Cotita also "washed, prepared tortillas and little cakes."
Santiago had on one occasion slept in Cotita's quarters and on that night, with the help of moonlight, Santiago had witnessed Joseph Duran, `meztizo' and Geronimo Calbo commit the `nefarious sin.' Sotomayor eventually located Vega's new abode. When he entered the quarters, he found Vega, Duran, Calbo, Miguel Geronimo`mestizo' and Simon Chaves `indio', together in the nude." Sotomayor ordered their apprehension and had them taken to the Royal Prison.
With the exception of Miguel Geronimo, the other four individuals all "confessed to having committed the nefarious sin an infinite number of times and with many persons." They related the place, time, day, month, year and other circumstances of these occurrences. They all testified against Miguel Geronimo.
These confessions also lead to the arrest of an "old mestizo," named Juan de Correa of "over seventy years of age." Initially, Correa denied all the accusations but later confessed that he had committed the `nefarious sin' for "over forty years with many persons or since the age of seven years old." Correa lamented the past. He” applauded" the fact that "the present century soon drew to a close" for not as many” took pleasure with him in this present century as they had in the past century, before the great inundation of the city when he still esteemed himself a beautiful girl." Correa had then "dressed as a woman with other men as they pleased themselves having committed the `nefarious sin'." Correa had taught his skills to other young boys and the others accused in these proceedings. He had hosted them in his house and he had spent his goods on them. Correa told the boys that although "he was old he was still a beautiful little girl.”
Correa and other older men congregated in another house in the city where they received the frequent visits of other young and older men. At these gatherings, the "men acted like women" having addressed each other as 'girl' or by "the names of the most beautiful ladies in the city." The men referred to "Miguel Geronimo as `la Cangarriana' for he was quite promiscuous just like a very common prostitute that had lived in the city." The men knew Correa as `la Estanpa' the name of a very beautiful lady that had lived in the city. At these frequent `parties,' the men presented themselves as "gifts and they committed the `nefarious sin' with each other." Correa, "his cape lowered and worn around his waist, sashayed from side to side as he danced with the others then complained he felt sickly for he was with child." "My Love, My Soul, "uttered the others as they presented Correa with "chocolate to ease his pain."
The men also frequented the home of an `indio' named " Juan Currador in observation of the feast day of Saint Nicholas, where many men congregated in the oratory of the house danced like women." There, they would cite themselves by word of mouth for future gatherings at different locations. Correa functioned as the courier who provided the men with the particulars of future gatherings, which usually coincided with religious feast days."
The accused too denounced "Nicolas de Pisa, `negro', seventy years old, with whom they had jealously quarreled with, over his guapo--"the name used by these men to refer to those with whom they committed these vile acts with." The interrogations too revealed that Cristoval de Vitoria, "a Spanish man of over eighty years old, missing one eye, half blind of the other, small in stature, bald and humpbacked admitted to having committed the nefarious sin with his guapo, the twenty-three year old Geronimo Calbo `mestizo'. " Furthermore, declared Cristoval, he had "continuously committed the nefarious sin in this city since the great flood over thirty years ago." He had however” lost count of the number of persons he had taught, as had Correa, to commit this harmful sin." The accused also inculpated Benito de Cuebas`mulato'. The day before his arrest, as he "prayed with his beads at night, a very handsome, spruce and well built man with a good plight of a body, a gallant whom he had not seen before, went to his house and instructed him to `flee the city because his friends had been imprisoned accused of being `putos'." Instead, the next day, Benito went to mass at the Cathedral where he again prayed with his beads and implored the assistance of Our Lady the Virgin of Guadalupe for he had sought "liberation from this sin."
The interrogations of Benito and the others led to the arrests of nineteen men. Despite the pleas of the advocates for the defense, the Royal Tribunal convicted fifteen of the nineteen prisoners and had their goods sequestered . In another, 1658 letter to the King, the Viceroy Duke of Albuquerque Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva, surmised that the "actors and patients" had "without the need to submit them to torture, confessed the incredibly vile circumstances of their nefarious sin." "Two surgeons, of great and indisputable repute," continued the Viceroy had "examined each of the nineteen sinful bodies." "Indeed," declared the surgeons, "they had found the bodies very used and corrupted." The Viceroy had "never, in the history of mankind ever heard of such complicities…The idiocies and the circumstances of the nefarious sin are incredible and ancient--some of them have been at it for forty, thirty, twelve, or eight years--it appears that they have all been led astray by ten at the most." However, the Viceroy reassured His Majesty that he should not despair, for "no men of their fabric nor those of the black cloth had been among the convicted who had all been mestizos, indios, mulatos, negros and all the rife-rafe of this Empire and city."
The Royal Criminal Court sentenced fourteen of these to burn at the stake. Also, the Tribunal convicted Lucas Matheo, the lone fifteen years old boy, to 200 lashes and six years of hard labour. And "on that given day," officials led the fifteen men to the site of the execution and burned them in the presence of Lucas as he received his lashes." The interrogations of the nineteen men also led to the arrest of an additional one hundred others. Unfortunately, the fate of these men remains unresolved.
In the process of his investigations, Sotomayor concluded that 'sodomy' or, what he defined as an "endemic cancer" had "extensively contaminated these provinces." "The mortal and nefarious vice" had even "infested and spread amongst prisoners held captive by the Inquisition in their particular jails and the ecclesiastical officials had also begun their own inquires." Not once, since his arrival as judge” twelve years earlier," had Sotomayor realized the "extent of the contamination.”
While heretics and Jews were burned in the Alemeda, sodomites were reserved to a special burning ground at San Lazaro, as they did not fall within the category of heresy. Several hundred people had come from the city to witness the event.
1780 An accusation was brought against a Galician named Francisco Pavia, who had settled in the pueblo of San Salvador el Seco, in the province of Tepeaca, Puebla, for the crime of sodomy. The notary of the Holy Office in Tepeaca, Don Francisco Xavier de Salazar y Perez was consulted over what ought to be done in this case. His decision is not known at this time.
1821 Independence from Spain.
1862 With the French occupation of Mexico (1862-7) the Nepoleonic Code was adopted, which is silent about sodomy, or any other homosexual acts.
1871 Although it remains silent about homosexuality, the 1871 Penal Code establishes as a crime an “attack on the morals and good customs” of the nation. This vague notion is left to wide interpretation by the police and the courts.
1901 "The Dance of the Forty-One Maricones." At three in the morning of a Sunday, 18 November 1901, the police raided a party on Calle de la Paz (today Calle Ezequiel Montes) in the central part of Mexico City. Forty two men were arrested and placed in Belen Prison. Of these 22 were reported as dressed as men and 19 as women. One person was released. The official account is that that person was a real woman, but persistent rumors speculate that number 42 was don Ignacio de la Torre, who was married to the daughter of President Porfirio Diaz. Those arrested were subjected to many humiliations in jail, and some were forced to sweep the streets in their dresses.
Eventually only 19 were drafted into the Army and sent to Yucatán. As one writer put it, “Without fear of slandering the proverbial integrity of the Mexican penal system of 1901, it is certain that 22 or 23 victims of the raid had bought their freedom. El Popular (24 November) explained the reduction in numbers without much conviction. “As was written before, and with facts acquired from good sources, we know, and this we declare because it is honorable to do so, that among many of those apprehended by the police at the dance at Calle de la Paz, there were some individuals who were the victims of a verified prank, since in the early hours of Sunday there were distributed in various cantinas cards signed by one señora Vinchi, in which they were invited to a dance in the cited house that same night. As was natural, there were some who supposed they were going to one of those many dances that are given in certain houses, and they responded to the call to bring themselves to a great prank that now they so deeply lament.” The reporter for El Popular surely knew that none of his readers would believe this, but it served the purpose exonerating the police and legal system in releasing more than half of those originally detained.
While excusing the escape from justice by a majority of the detainees, the press expressed exaggerated scandal at the forced draft of the remainder into the Army. Daniel Cabera, the author of “The Aristocracy of Sodom to the National Service” in El Hijo de Ahuizote (24 November 1901), was indignant. “…but if we can say that until today the political authorities have considered military service as a punishment, they have confused the barracks with the houses of correction and the jails…The army can not receive in its ranks individuals who have abdicated their sex, the nation ought not honor the grief neither of anyone who has degraded themselves with the use of rouge or the dresses of the prostitute, nor of those who serve them as partners. Fortunately, the gag that is put to our lips out of respect for modesty and good taste, can not impede us to protest for the honor of the army, guardian of the peace and part of the society in which we live, against the consignment of the pederasts in the national armed service.” The next day, El Popular was happy to report that “The vagrants, pickpockets and effeminates that had been sent to Yucatán, had not been assigned to the battalions of the Army operating in the campaign against the Maya Indians, but to public works in the conquered populations of the common enemy of civilization” They were inducted into the 24th Battalion and sent to Yucatan to dig ditches and clean latrines.
There was a less publicized raid on a lesbian bar in the suburb of Santa Maria, on December 4th.
1918 In the spring of 1918 Manuel Palafox, Zapata’s general secretary, was accused of homosexual indiscretions by political enemies within the Zapata camp. Zapata’s first impulse was to have Palafox shot, but was persuaded by Gildardo Magaña that this would not be in the Zapatistas political interest. Instead Zapata transferred Palafox to Magaña headquarters where his influence among the Zapatistas was further checked. Palafox had already, for other reasons, become a political liability to Zapata. By November Palafox deserted Zapata, and was urging other Zapatista leaders to join him. None did. Maurilio Mejía replied that “…a poor devil of mistaken sex like you can’t call himself a friend of men like we really are.“ The truth of these accusations has never been established. Palafox died in 1959.
1930's Bars and baths catering to homosexuals opened in Mexico City. Cruising areas included the Alameda, the Zocalo, Paseo de Reforma, and Calle Madero.
1940's During World War II, ten to fifteen gay bars operated in Mexico City, including at least two, El Africa, and El Triunfo that allowed dancing.
1959 Following a grisly triple murder in Mexico City, Mayor Uruchurtu closed the gay bars in the Capital.