Gender, male homosexuality, and power in colonial Yucatán
Elites among the Maya considered passivity in males feminine and viewed the vanquished warrior as symbolically if not actually passive. The Maya nobles, lords, and priests at the time of the Spanish conquest used this notion of activity and passivity to assert their ability to harness the powers of the gods for community well-being. They ritualistically raped the gods, thus asserting themselves as the active partners to the passive gods. The Maya appear to have viewed this act as a way to harness sacred power. Maya elite discourse did not place commoners in the realm of endemic sodomy but viewed them as blind followers of the nobles. Thus, when the elites were corrupt, sodomy reigned throughout society. When "good" nobles came to power, sodomy was curtailed, perhaps to nonexistence. This discourse asserted that the commoners were followers of the nobles and that the central issue was not commoner sexuality but noble control. In both the Spanish and the Maya case, notions of same-sex sexual desires and behaviors were constructed in a gendered universe to assert the superiority of one elite faction over another. What was at stake in this discourse was nothing less than the establishment of a hegemonic ideology. This article analyzes the place that homosexual desires and acts were given in the literature of both the Maya and the Spaniards in colonial Yucatán.
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