According to The New York Times, some “trace the acceptance of people of mixed gender to pre-Columbian Mexico, pointing to accounts of cross-dressing Aztec priests and Mayan gods who were male and female at the same time.”
Photographer Neil Rivas, who met Hernandez at California College of the Arts, says he felt empowered to find “this history that I didn’t know.”
The images capture Hernandez in his personal transformation — as well as blurred lines between gay and Catholic cultures, lines he was not encouraged to cross as a child. But in Juchitan de Zaragoza, where the festival is held, some Catholic priests hold services for muxes.
“They have an important role,” says Hernandez. “They take care of their parents. … It was nice to know that … there’s this history where queer people had special roles in society.”
And Rivas says he hopes the photos will expand perspectives about modern queer culture.
“I was more than impressed with all the work that the muxes do. … There’s good reason for why they’re often referred to as the Intrepidas,” he says.
The project, “Searching for Queertopia,” is on display at San Francisco’s Galeria de la Raza through the end of June.