Del Otro Lado: Critical Analyses of Mexican (Homo)sexualities as History, from the Colonial Period to the Present

AHA Session 174
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 7
Conference on Latin American History 35
Saturday, January 8, 2011: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Boylston Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Pete Sigal, Duke University
Jocelyn Olcott, Duke University

Session Abstract

Since the 1980s, and especially in the past decade, the field of sexuality studies has emerged as one of the most dynamic fields within the study of Latin America. This presentation brings together historians researching (homo)sexuality as a critical means for understanding Mexican history from the seventeenth century to the late twentieth century. In particular, the panelists explore the ways in which the contentious category of “homosexuality”—an integral component of Mexican history—should be problematized both as a term and as a subject of historical inquiry. The panelists engage issues of narrative, evidence, and experience with regards to sodomy and homosexuality (among both men and women) as it was expressed in legal, political, social, and cultural spheres, particularly in regards to regulatory processes and the intervention of religious, judicial, and medical authorities in the everyday lives of Mexicans. In the process, we open up new spaces for understanding the complex ways in which same-sex desire—both as an experience and as a discourse—has been regulated and engaged within Mexican society at different historical junctions. Moreover, we will model methodologies for integrating critical theories of sexuality into the study of Mexican history. Ranging from colonial case studies of sodomy to modern criminological evaluations of “deviant” bodies and the emergence of the homosexual liberation movement, this panel frames the history of (homo)sexuality as central to the project of writing Mexican cultural histories. For example, Zeb Tortorici's essay examines how individuals constructed narratives of sodomy in colonial Mexico and how such stories acquired meaning through eyewitness testimony, tangible evidence, medical examinations of the penetrated body, gender and the markers of femininity, displays of affection, and coercive sexual acts. Ryan M. Jones's essay focuses on press reports, media sources, criminological records (such as from the Tribunal de Menores), and civics primers to demonstrate the significant role that experiences and discourses of homosexuality played in the creation of post-revolutionary Mexican ideas of nation, citizenship, and culture, especially those related to youth during processes of urbanization and modernization. Rodrigo Laguarda's essay demonstrates through oral histories the overlapping interests of activists and everyday Mexicans in the crucible of the late 1970s and how these interests directly influenced Mexican society at the twilight of the PRI's rule. Global histories of homosexuality still tend to center on Europe and the United States. This panel, therefore, aims to fill a gap in the historiography of Latin America—by demonstrating the importance of engaging (homo)sexualities—as well as the gap in the historiography of sexuality in general—by offering Latin American counterpoints to the research conducted elsewhere. The panel thus brings together a diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, and methodologies into one engaging, exciting conversation that will be of interest to historians of Latin America, colonialism, imperialism, nation-building, transnational identities and cultures, gender and sexuality, and lesbian and gay history.

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