In Tenochtitlań there were deities that represented every aspect of human existence and the natural world. Today I want to tell you about Xochipilli , “the prince of flowers”, protector of those who were dedicated to the arts and who was also the lord of plants, of games, of dance, of fertility, of pleasures, of games in childhood and all expressions of human happiness ( Borgia codex ).
But what brings us here is that according to the sociologist David Greenberg – in his book “The construction of homosexuality” of 1990 – Xochipilli would have also been the deity of homosexuals. Now I tell you why he says it and you decide if his hypothesis is forced or not. From now I clarify that this article is going to leave you, like me, with more questions than answers, but you will tell me what your opinion is.
Let’s start by noticing that, in his representation, Xochipilli has flowers and plants tattooed on his body.
Not much is known about homosexuality in pre-Hispanic America, but in general, we can say that, as now, it was rejected by some societies and accepted by others.
Although Spanish informants such as Bernal Díaz del Castillo and Hernán Cortés have said that Mexica’s people in Tenochtitlan practiced homosexuality, they have also come to contradict some other chroniclers such as Bernardino de Sahagún, who says it was a very punished situation. So the value of the testimonies of one and the other can be questioned regarding these issues, so we can not say if homosexuality was accepted, tolerated or punished in pre-Hispanic Mexico.
The “Letters of Relationship” by Hernán Cortés , for example, tell us:
“Because even beyond what we have above related to your majesties of children and men and women who kill and offer in their sacrifices, we have known and we have been informed of certain that all are sodomites and that they use that abominable sin”.
That is to say, Cortés assures that in Tenochtitlan homosexuality is a common practice and, what is more, generalized for the population.
On the other hand, Bernardino de Sahagún relates through his Nahua informants:
“Sodomite, fucking. Corruption, pervert, excrement, shitty dog, miser, infamous, corrupt, vicious, disgusting, disgusting. Effeminate. He pretends to be a woman. It deserves to be burned, it deserves to be put on fire. “
Now, is this testimony that Sahagun cites was actually delivered by a Nahua inhabitant or is Sahagun’s own opinion as a Catholic? On the other hand, is it only the opinion of a native convert who is forced to think like a Christian?
To add to the confusion, one more testimony, from the “Historia Eclesiastica Indiana”, by Fray Jerónimo de Mendieta , tells us about the daily life of homosexuality in times before Nezahualpilli, son of Nezahualcóyotl :
“(Nezahualpilli, tlatoani of Texcoco) by natural reason and its good inclination abhorred in a great way the nefarious vice, and since the other caciques allowed it, it commanded to kill those who committed it”.
Now, as we told you in another article, in Tenochtitlan there was prostitution and there was a distinction between sex workers of the state and civil servant sex workers. If we take into account Cortés’ comment on homosexuality, then we must assume that male prostitution also existed.
At that time, in the codices there were some elements or icons that characterized who practiced prostitution and, in general, sexual excesses. Let’s see the specific case of the ahuianimes (joyful) , as it was called to the sex-servants at that time, who -according to the Florentine codex- , were characterized for carrying:
Tattoos on his legs.The loose hair A flower between your hands.
Now, there is a testimony of Bernardino de Sahagún about a male character with the same functions as the ahuianime in Tenochtitlan. This was called “xochihua” , which translates as “flower bearer” , which was a man dressed as a woman who practiced prostitution.
“… the xochihua dressed as a woman, spoke as a woman, corrupted, confused and deceived people and possessed the flower …”.
That is, it was a transvestite, since homosexual as such is translated into Nahuatl as “cuiloni” or “chimouhqui” .
Some codices such as the Bourbon, the Nutall and the Vatican show a ritual acceptance of transvestism, because in them you can see the deities being represented by people of different sex. In the Bourbon, for example, a priest dresses as a woman to represent the goddess Chicomecoatl; in the Nutall we can see Mrs. 6 Águila dressed as a warrior to face her enemies; and in the Vatican, the moon is represented as a transvestite, which seems to indicate that the ritual nature of transvestism gave it a certain tolerance when it came to religion and the gods.
Another reference is found in the “Historia de las Indias”, by Fray Bartolomé de las Casas .
“Certain Spaniards found in a certain corner of one of the said provinces three men dressed in the habit of women, who for only that they judged to be of that corrupted sin (sodomy), and not for more proof they were later thrown to the dogs that were carrying , who cut them up and ate them alive, as if they were their judges. “
Therefore, Greenberg induces, homosexuality was accepted, but through transvestism. Now, given the circumstances that surround this topic and because of the scant information about it, the reality is that modern archeology has had to put together an immense puzzle from the clues that are shown in some vestiges, as is the case of Xochipilli .
As we have seen, this deity carries tattoos and is adorned with flowers (like prostitutes) and is the protector of sexual pleasures (this includes the sacred prostitutes). Greenberg points out then that, being the same Xochipilli represented as a man, but with the attributes of a prostitute (tattoos, flowers) or a transvestite who practiced prostitution (xochihua) , may have also had a homosexual aspect. And here comes the most interesting: that homosexual aspect would have been inherited directly from the Toltec worldview .
So, did the Toltecs have more sexual openness than their heirs?
According to Greenberg, Mexica considered it that way, which did not seem right to them. To place you, the Mexica were the last migration to reach the Valley of Mexico and, lacking a cultural identity, they assimilated some customs and traditions of the inhabitants of the valley that had been permeated by centuries of a Toltec heritage.
However, it seems that the Mexica did not consider this legacy to be entirely praiseworthy and even criticized other peoples who maintained this heritage and focused their efforts on cultural and artistic flourishing and not on war, such as the Texcocanos or the Cholultecas, the latter , direct mythical heirs of the wisdom of Quetzalcoatl and to those who would have been referred to as “effeminate”, according to William H. Prescott in his “History of the Conquest of Mexico”:
“The choluseses were accused of being effeminate; and according to their rivals, they were less distinguished by their value than by their perfidy … “.
However, within the legacy that the Toltecs left to the peoples that developed later were, in addition to their language and art, their worldview and, as part of it, their deities, among whom is Xochipilli as regent of art, the games, the pleasures, the poetry and the flowers … and homosexuality?
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