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Zapotec Advocate for Muxe and LGBTQ Rights Murdered in Mexico

LGBTQ activist Oscar Cazorla. (Miho Hagino/Facebook)


On February 9, 2019, Óscar Cazorla, 62, was found murdered in his home in Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, Mexico.


Cazorla was an Indigenous Zapotec activist and an advocate for Muxe and LGBTQ rights. He self-identified as Muxe, a non-binary third gender originating within Zapotec culture in the region of Istmo de Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, Mexico. Muxes combine roles typically assigned to both males and females in Zapotec society.

While Western society has categorical terms that could loosely equate with the concept of Muxe, Lukas Avendaño, an active member of the Muxe community in Juchitán told the BBC that “‘Muxe’ is a Zapotec term and it can’t be understood without knowing more about their culture.”


Muxes live throughout the Istmo de Tehuantepec region, however, Juchitán is historically regarded as a safe haven for Muxe culture and self-expression. Fernando Noé Díaz, a primary school teacher in Juchitán, commented on the general sentiment the citizens of the municipality feel towards Muxes. He notes “I guess Muxes are so respected because they are more a social gender rather than a sexual one. They have an important role in the community.”


While Muxes are both inherent and revered members of Zapotec culture, they still confront nonacceptance and persecution from those opposed to gender diversity and nonconformity to a binary structure of gender. Óscar Cazorla fought to maintain and and raise awareness of Muxe culture. He was a founding member of Las Auténticas Intrépidas Buscadoras del Peligro or “The Authentic Intrepid Seekers of Danger,” a Muxe- run group created in 1976 to foster solidarity amongst the Muxe community and celebrate sexual diversity.


As an Indigenous person, a human rights activist, and member of the LGBTQ community, Óscar Cazorla existed in an intersection of targeted identities. Indigenous Peoples, human rights activists, environmental defenders, and members of the LGBTQ community remain targets of hate crime both within Mexico and throughout the globe. The Mexican office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reports that there were 13 registered murders of human rights defenders in Mexico in 2018. Since the start of 2019, there have been five additional murders of human rights advocates, including that of Óscar Cazorla.


The International Trans Fund (ITF), in their Trans Murder Monitoring Project, reveals that from October 1, 2017 until September 30, 2018 there were “369 reported murders of trans and gender-diverse people” worldwide with 71 of these murders taking place in Mexico. ITF also reports that there have been five unresolved assassinations of Muxe community members in the last 15 years.


Since the death of Cazorla, CENCOS, a Mexican-based human rights advocacy group, has reported the deaths of two more human rights defenders. Journalist Reynaldo López Salas was murdered on February 16, 2019 and Indigenous rights activist and community radio founder Samir Flores Soberanes was murdered on February 20, 2019.


The murder of Óscar Cazorla is a tragic loss for the Zapotec Muxe community and human rights activists alike. Cultural Survival laments his death and stands in solidarity with his family and friends demanding for an investigation into his death. Óscar Cazorla’s legacy will continue to inspire change.