In macho Mexico, the extraordinary
Zapotec Indian women of Juchitan dominate their men, celebrating
fatness and fertility. British journalist and Journeywoman, Jocasta
Shakespeare sent us this story after she travelled to Juchitan
for their spring festival. She writes...
her skirt, embroidered with yellow sunflowers, to expose lace
underskirts and fat ankles. Swaying to the oapaca music, her face
is flushed and distracted like a somnambulist in an erotic dream.
of fertility rites...
For seven days and
nights during the spring Velas (Candles) fiesta in Juchitan,
southern Mexico, Zapotec Indian women dance in a celebration
of ancient fertility rites and to confirm their matriarchal
power. The women of Juchitan are very different from their
Mexican sisters. Here, it is the women and not the men who
rule. They are the head of the household, they control the
finances, and they dominate the men physically, too. Huge
and sensual, their size is a status symbol and not a reason
to feel ashamed.
weighs 14 stone and is considered to be a local beauty.
"We like plenty of woman here," says Jose, her lover, who
is half her size. "Fatness is a sign of a woman's sexual
energy and lack of inhibition in bed"
"We are not like all
the whimpering little housewives of Mexico," says Carmela,
Rosa's sister. A string of medieval gold coins, symbolizing
her erotic merit, cascades between her enormous breasts.
"Our men do what we say," she declares, passing me a piece
of iguana meat, rolled in its shriveled green skin and roasted
in red chillied tomatoes. This delicacy is also said to
be an aphrodisiac.
take the best seats...
the dance floor (a tarpaulin on swept earth) wooden chairs
are arranged in rows. Families from the surrounding villages
have travelled here to show off, gossip and dance. The first
four rows are occupied by the women of the Morales family,
who sit solid as a female Mafia. Abrisa, 63, is head of
the family and sits in the center.
Behind the women sit
the Morales men, wearing sombreros, dull, black trousers
and white shirts. Two dance to the oapaca music: a hopping
step with hands held behind their backs, while the women
sway and turn, their skirts fanning and nickel-capped teeth
are the frame of the picture," Miguel says, when asked if
the men felt overshadowed by such flamboyance. Around the
edges of the arena they sit, some gazing from stools at
the back, not daring to penetrate the multicolored female
ghetto to ask for a dance.
Marina is a single
mother which, she says, is "not a problem". Religious
restrictions controlling the sexuality and the lives of
so many Mexicans have been repulsed here by a traditionally
rebellious spirit. This rebelliousness, that has also kept
the spirit of the Velas alive, has not diminished. Outsiders
are not welcomed here and can provoke rare outbursts of
aggression in these normally quiet and henpecked men.
run the markets...
In the Juchitan marketplace
it is the women who run the show, buying and selling as
only they are allowed to. While men work in the fields,
hunt iguana, fish or weave hammocks, it is wives and daughters
who sell the produce, watchful of every half-peso that
Barter and repartee
are the hallmarks of a good marketeer. Girls inherit a
stall from their aunt or mother when they have learnt
to trade. Marita sells coconuts pierced with a straw to
suck the juice "like mother's milk". She sorts through
sheaves of wilting coriander and says, "This is a woman's
world. Men can't buy or sell - they don't have the mentality.
They are soft and need the guardianship of women. I give
my husband Luis pocket money every week to buy beer, get
a shave or a shoeshine. Only women know how to look after
money. Men have a different kind of brain. They are good
for nothing but making babies."