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Mitos, Musas Muxe, y Mujeres Zapotecas: Illuminating Magnolia

  • Author(s): Lessing, Angela Cruzan;
  • Advisor(s): Weems, Jason;
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY-NC' version 4.0 license

Since the mid-nineteenth century the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, Mexico, has been a well-traveled site for various artists as a place to document the beauty and projected ethereal nature of the Zapotec womxn that inhabit the area. An ancient matrifocal society––rather than a matriarchy––Juchitán de Zaragoza’s residents are fiercely independent and stereotypical gender roles are frequently non-formalized. Juchitán is also a site of ethnic resistance, working against a centralizing Mexican national culture, and home to the muxe, who adhere to a fluid sex/gender hybridity.

This study focuses on Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide’s decade long series Juchitan de las Mujeres (1979-89), and specifically the images of Magnolia, a muxe, whom Iturbide befriended throughout her time in Juchitán. Critiquing Iturbide’s inclusion of Magnolia within her series serves to prompt those who view photographs of gender non-conforming bodies to consider the implications of taking such photographs and what they become when presented as documentary. Ultimately, this study considers the Juchitán de las Mujeres series as stylistically anachronistic and unrepresentative of an accurate version of the muxe, or the Juchitecas, Iturbide photographed. The intention of this thesis is to provide an alternative history of gender identity and normativity within Juchitán, in addition to remaining critical of Iturbide as a photographer in order to understand how complex cultural rhetoric and photographic processes create slippages within meaning and effect image consumption.

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