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N I N E Ritualized Bisexuality In Western fables about Mayans, we are told that sodomy was discovered in the founding myths of several of the Mayan peoples and that the acts always were shown as belonging to “outsiders” or to the realm of ritual. According to some highly speculative sources, the story went something like this: long before the Spanish conquest, the Olmecs, in conquering the Quiché Maya of Guatemala, demanded that the people give them two young men for the purpose of sodomy. While the people resisted, they had no choice but eventually to give in to the demands. In Yucatán during the same time period (or so we are told), there was a strong association between ritual and homosexual behavior. Some shamans engaged in homosexual acts with their patients. And priests engaged in ritualized homosexual acts with the gods. When the Toltecs arrived to conquer the region, they brought more sodomy and public sex of all kinds.1 Then when the Itzá conquered the area, they brought more sodomy, more eroticism, and extensive sexual ceremonies.2 Bernal Díaz del Castillo found remnants of this past when he discovered idols of men committing sodomy with each other.3 But by the time of the conquest, Antonio Gaspar Chi, a Maya informant, assured us that sodomy no longer existed because a former leader of Mayapán, Tutul Xiu, had destroyed it.4 After the conquest, however, sodomy reappeared in the figures of the ix pen and the cobol.5 These were rather fanciful stories which cannot be substantiated. In this chapter the challenge is to understand the roles presented as homo-, hetero-, and bi-eroticism. I discuss elements of ritualized and nonritualized bisexual and homosexual acts in order to analyze more about Maya erotic desire. This desire continued to be linked with power, and notions of identity based on sexual behavior did not emerge in any real way until the late colonial period. SODOMITES, HOMOSEXUALS, BISEXUALS Given the fact that the Maya before the conquest were a non-Western people with no contact with Europe and no understanding of European sexual norms, the reader may legitimately ask how it is possible to understand “homosexuality ” and “bisexuality” among a people seemingly so far removed from the current Western notions of homosexual and bisexual identities. The concept of a homosexual or heterosexual identity was invented during the modern era. This identity, with the advent of modernity, became something that was seen to be ingrained in the psychological or biological makeup of the individual. So homosexuality and heterosexuality as ingrained identities only have existed for a relatively short period of time.6 However, such a definition can be used to limit the study of sexual desire among societies outside of this modern Western paradigm. While other societies have developed psychosexual processes in different manners than they have been understood in the modern West, all of the societies of which I have knowledge have understood some forms of sexual differentiation, and they have categorized people based partly on the society’s conceptualization of gender and/or sexual desire. I follow other historians and anthropologists in discussing the frameworks of sexual desire, rather than allowing the concept of identity to be the core of the analysis.7 The acts cited here did not and could not correspond to modern Western notions of homosexuality, as the colonial Maya did not have any similar way of conceptualizing and categorizing sexual desire. Did the Maya Persecute Sodomites? The stories with which I began this chapter very well may have been flights of fancy by a conqueror, a tourist, and a Maya leader trying to tell the Spaniards whatever would benefit him and his community. While it is believable that the Maya presented themselves in such a light to the Spaniards, this said more about the use of power during warfare: friends and enemies who lost wars were said to be the passive recipients of sodomy; friends and enemies 2 1 4 From Moon Goddesses to Virgins who won wars were said to be the active partners. This the Spanish would have understood. Was there a Maya abhorrence of sodomy? Or were these statements essentially power games that the Maya informants were playing with their Spanish listeners? Mythology about sodomy structured some discourse in the Maya sources, but significantly more in the European narratives. All of the stories discussed above were told through European sources. Although many of them claimed legitimacy through an...


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