Oct 182012

More than half (51.3%) of Mexico’s total population of is female. (There are 94.8 men for every 100 women.) However, with isolated exceptions, Mexico has been a male-dominated society for a long time and the spirit of machismo is still very strong in many parts of the country. There is ample evidence for this. For example, Mexico has never had a female head of state and very few female cabinet members have ever been appointed. There have been very few female candidates for president; they include Cecilia Soto González (1994), Dora Patricia Mercado (2006) and Josefina Vázquez Mora (2012). [Thanks go to Manuel and other alert readers for correcting an earlier version]. In business, male executives earn more than their female counterparts, though the wage differential is much smaller for lower-paid positions.

There are also vast differences across the country in the economic and social well-being of women. Some women, such as billionaire María Asunción Aramburuzabala, have proved that Mexican women can be incredibly successful in business, yet tens of thousands of women face a daily struggle against starvation and violence in the home.

The precise roles of women in Mexican society vary greatly from one region to another. The indigenous Zapotec community of Juchitán in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca is at one extreme. It functions as a matriarchal society where women play a much more important role than men in trading and decision-making.

Juchitán is also possibly the most tolerant place in Mexico in terms of attitudes to the gay and transgender community, especially to transvestite men, locally called muxes (pronounced moo-shays).

A 5-minute video, The Third Gender, produced by Deborah Bonello for GlobalPost, explores the extent to which the residents of Juchitán accept cross-dressing muxes as an integral part of society.

Want to read more?

  • Nicola Ókin Frioli. Princesses in a land of Machos (short essay and outstanding photographs by a highly accomplished photographer)
  • Bennholdt-Thomsen, V. 2005 A matriarchal society in the age of globalization: Juchitán/Southern Mexico.  Paper presented at 2nd World Congress on Matriarchal Studies, San Marcos and Austin, Texas. 2005
  • Isabella Tree. The women of Juchitán (Inside Mexico)
  • Marc Lacey. A Lifestyle Distinct: The Muxe of Mexico (New York Times)

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