For some of you ,today is a holiday commemorating the struggle and resilience of an entire nation, to others it is a day for margaritas and all-you-can drink corona specials. Cinco de Mayo, like most other contemporary holidays, is just another marketing gimmick rooted in the fading memory of past historical and cultural richness. As a Mexican, it is a day for me to remember the triumph of my ancestors against European invaders and the great pride that comes with being the child of a revolutionary and resilient people.

As a child I was taught to be proud of my Mexican identity; I was also taught to look up to and admire certain cultural and behavioral values that prevail within Mexican culture, which included a considerable degree of Machismo. My family never truly promoted machismo, but the general ether of the culture in which I was raised was riddled with messages of male supremacy embodied by Ranchero culture. Mexican icons like Pedro Infante and Vicente Fernandez set the standard for males by creating glorified masculine archetpyes of the noble Vaquero male.

Few know, however, that this stereotypical macho imagery associated with Mexican culture is the relatively young and spoiled child of imported western values and Pan-American frontier culture; indigenous cultures had different ways of perceiving gender roles as is the case of the Zapotecas of Oaxaca.

Oaxaca, a state largely populated the indigenous Zapotecas, is a cultural oasis offering relief and tolerance for third gender individuals. In the last century this third-gender culture has birthed the modern incarnation known as muxeidad, the essence of the Muxe. The Zapotecas see the Muxe as third-gender individuals who are gifted and important fixtures of their community. Much of Muxe culture today is the hybrid product of contemporary Mexican LGBT culture and the native third gender cultural legacy of the region.

The Muxe play major roles in their society without encountering many of the restrictions that would be imposed on them in other parts of the world such as: holding public office, being community leaders, etc… Ironically in a nation like the United States, which is praised for its cutting edge modernity and progress, is far more medieval in its treatment of third-gender individuals.

The repressive political atmosphere of our time forces people to de-humanize themselves into American typecasts in order to be eligible for political office; there’s no room for individuals whose human nature deviates from convention and is often the source of undue scandal and prejudice. At some point in my life, when I was confronted by the choice of pursuing a political career at the expense of my freedom of expression or the choice of owning my gender and jeopardizing my viability for political office, I chose the latter. Maybe some day people will not be forced to decide between living fruitful human lives and being able to hold political office. Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

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