Martine Gutierrez's "Demons" and the Queer Latinx Experience

Xochipilli, The Flower Prince

In the first photo of her Demons feature in her publication Indigenous Woman, Martine Gutierrez dons the role of Xochipilli, a lesser known Aztec god of art, beauty, song, and nature. Xochipilli stands out from his male contemporaries such as Huitzilopochtli, god of war and sacrifice, and Tezcatlipoca, god of the night, as his symbols are more aligned with traditionally feminine deities from both Aztec and worldwide mythologies. Xochipilli has been interpreted as a patron god of homosexuals and male prostitutes, possibly because the Toltecs, who absorbed him from the Mayans, were known by other ancient civilizations as being the most tolerant of sodomy and homosexuality.

Gutierrez takes the traditionally feminine aspects of Xochipilli’s symbols and explores her own balance of masculinity and femininity as a trans woman. Using pink, a color that the Western world has come to associate with women, Gutierrez feminizes Xochipilli and highlights the queer aspect of his history. The choice to use metallic flowers in the hair is also one of significance. The choice is one of the camp aesthetic and highlights Gutierrez's identity as a queer woman by evoking a sensibility commonly associated with the LGBTQ+ community. Camp has been most famously defined and detailed by essayist Susan Sontag in her work “Notes on ‘Camp’”. “Indeed the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration” (Sontag 1). Though Sontag’s work does not specifically make note of the relationship between the sensibility and the queer community, it is perhaps the definitive text on defining such an indescribable phenomenon. The same portrait when viewed through the lenses of such scholars as Judith Butler and Sontag, Gutierrez's use of the flowers and other over-the-top accessories would be considered an example of gender performativity.As defined by Butler, gender performativity would be the culmination of all gendered or perceived-as-gendered actions or behaviors that a person develops throughout their lifetime. In such a way, Gutierrez, a trans woman, is simultaneously performing femininity with her portraits and details. Gutierrez does not live her day to day life in this regalia, but her art allows her to explore the full range of the masculine and feminine spectrum.
Aside from her accessories and stylings, the main item of clothing Gutierrez wears as Xochipilli is a huipil. This loose-fitting tunic is common among indigenous women in Mesoamerica. Huipiles are not an item frequently worn by men, as men in such Latinx cultures, specifically Guatemalan, would usually wear a plain white shirt and brightly colored pants. The Gutierrez Xochipilli's role as a crossdresser is significant in relaying her views on gender and gender expression. Clothes do not dictate a person's identity just as a person's identity does not dictate what clothes they should wear.

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