One Photographer Showcases Mexico’s Gender-Defying Indigenous Community

The culture in the Zapotec communities of southern Mexico celebrates and cherishes a group of individuals considered a third gender, referred to as “Muxes.”

1. In the communities near the town of Juchitán, men who take on the traditional roles of women, referred to as “Muxes,” are not only accepted, but cherished as symbols of good luck.

Nicola Ókin Frioli

2. Mexico City-based photographer Nicola “Ókin” Frioli traveled to Juchitán to capture this culture through his lens for the series, “We Are Princesses in a Land of Machos.”


3. Muxes are considered a third gender rather than a sexual orientation.

Although, both gay and transgender individuals are accepted in the community. Los Muxes (pronounced MOO-shays) translates roughly in Zapotec language to mean “homosexual.”

Nicola Ókin Frioli

4. According to anthropologist Lynn Stephen, they “may do certain kinds of women’s work such as embroidery or decorating home altars, but others do the male work of making jewelry.”

Nicola Ókin Frioli

5. Some pursue white-collar jobs or become involved in politics.

6. The community believes that these individuals have “fallen from a broken pocket of San Vicente Ferrer,” the patron saint of Juchitan, during his holy walk.


7. A resident in Juchitan told Nicola:

“Thanks to God, we have one of them in every family. They are like women, they work as a man, but they wash, cook, clean the house and when the other sons will get married and leave, they will stay and look after their old parents.”

9. The Muxe culture exists in stark contrast to Mexico’s majority “mestizo” culture, where machismo prevails.

10. Look at more of Nicola Ókin Frioli’s work, including images from Gay Pride in Mexico.

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Sarah Karlan is the associate LGBT editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Sarah Karlan at
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