HAVANA TIMES, April 30 – Last Thursday I received news that is probably not new to anybody at this point, except perhaps a large part of the Cuban population, because this news has not been covered in the official press here.
While our media did in fact gave wide coverage to the Cochabamba Summit in Bolivia, I believe they steered clear of mentioning a detail in the statement by that country’s president, Evo Morales, concerning transgenic chickens and male homosexuality in his speech on Wednesday, April 21.
I found out about this because it was the first thing a friend told me on Thursday after having read it on the Internet. “Evo Morales said transgenic chickens cause homosexuality in men because they contain lots of female hormones,” she exclaimed.
By coincidence, I had just sat down with a life-long homosexual guy who rarely eats chicken because the monthly ration that people receive at the butcher shops here is only enough for one meal, and he didn’t have the money to pay the 23 pesos [$1 dollar USD] a pound in the street. The news brought to mind a vegetarian I know, who is also a homosexual, as well as a wide group of heterosexual men from several countries who eat lots of chicken without worrying if it’s transgenic or not.
My first reaction was an attack of laughter, but after a short spell the only thing I felt was a deep disturbance as I tried to concentrate on my friend’s computer monitor.
Evo Morales was a semi-illiterate, hungry indigenous man, an ignorant coca leaf farmer who barely knew how to read. However, that’s precisely why I was glad he won the presidency of Bolivia. Only someone who came from a similar background —someone who knew hunger and the misery of his people after having suffered these personally, and not of having observed them from a car or on television— could truly represent his country.
Our continent has seen a parade of officials pass through the various presidential offices. There have been more than enough graduates, doctors and representatives of the elite, without forgetting to mention military authorities who have suspended democracy with their coups every time they’ve considered it in danger.
For a change, the Bolivian people now have an Aymara Indian in the presidency, someone who is trying to improve the lives of the poorest people in his country. It’s not strange that he is receiving constant criticism from the Bolivian oligarchy, which sees its interests threatened. They are taking advantage of Morales’ low level of education to describe him as ignorant. This time, however, he seems to have shown them right.
The colonized mentality still prevails
The brief statement of Evo Morales, on which he didn’t spend more than thirty seconds, had the effect of making him look ridiculous. It removed the seriousness of anything he might have said at the Summit. In addition, he offended the gay community by referring to male homosexuality as deviant. In the end, what he demonstrated was the colonized mentality that prevails on our continent.
Morales ignored the fact that before the arrival of the settlers on our continent, many nations of indigenous people had a vision quite different of people who carried out roles that traditionally corresponded to that of the opposite sex.
The Lakota used the word winkte to designate a male who played the part of a woman. The Mohave used the word alyha and the Zuñi called them llamana. These males, despite dedicating themselves to female labor, also participated in hunts and other activities considered masculine. They played important roles in tribal councils and in ceremonies performed to name children.
They were also attributed magical and curative powers. In these tribes, the existence of more than two genders was recognized. If a boy who was born anatomically male showed the inclination toward activities of the other sex, he was encouraged to live according to the gender that best fit him.
Between denigrating and honoring a person who didn’t fit the genre patterns, many groups of Native Americans preferred to find a place of respect for the individual. According to the Mohave history of creation: “Since the beginning of the world there have existed transvestites, and since the beginning of the world it was supposed that there should be homosexuals.”
For Native Americans, sex was much more than a means of reproduction, it was an activity to be practiced and appreciated. Indeed, sexual pleasure was considered a spiritual gift. Nor were sexual relations limited to couples of the opposite sex. A “berdache” (a word Europeans used for designating the winkte) could marry another man who would treat him as his wife, not only for domestic chores (which they could perform with more strength than a woman), if not also for a socially accepted homosexual relationship. These relationships within the same sex were not practiced only by the berdache, there also existed women who adopted male roles, though this is less documented.
The historian Gracilazo de la Vega amassed astonishing myths that existed all along the Ecuadorian coast where the main characters were homosexual heroes. This was a tradition repeated generation after generation. He narrated how, swept along by the fury of the sea, some giant men arrived on the Ecuadorian coasts, all of them possessing great bravery. He described how, after emerging victorious in bloody battles on land, they built beautiful stone buildings with “deep wells, works that certainly make their memory worthwhile.”
This same history recounts that the rest of these sailors of admirable greatness could be found dispersed between Manta and Portoviejo, and that all of them were homosexuals. This and other chronicles allow it to be affirmed that homosexuality was extolled along the Ecuadorian coast before and during Inca domination.
Likewise in Peru, the Spanish colonialists dictated the first law against transvestism. According to this, any indigenous male dressed in women’s clothing or any female dressed in men’s clothing would be arrested and subjected to one hundred lashes; the male would also have his hair cut off in public.
Upon the second offense they would be tied to a post for six hours in plain view of everyone. The third time, they would be sent to the mayor of Villa of Miraflores to be subjected to justice according to the law. The origins of this disposition were in the Bible, where it is stated: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God” (Deuteronomy 22:5).
The Spanish colonialists re-organized the aboriginal societies they conquered. This was done from the economic and family point of view —but also according to sexuality, gender and sexual roles— in order to facilitate their exploitation, oppression and enslavement.
They considered homosexuality as a sin against nature and as the corruption of the soul in alliance with the devil (according to their own religion). The Spaniards persecuted those who committed acts of “sodomy” and punished them on a wide scale by burning these “sodomites” at the stake. The Spaniards themselves confirmed the veracity of this terror crusade. Antonio de la Calancha, a Spanish official in Lima, wrote that during the raid of Vasco Núñez de Balboa in Panama, “He saw men dressed as women; Balboa learned that they were sodomites and threw their leader and forty others to the dogs, which ate them. A correct action carried out by an honorable Spanish Catholic.”
When the Spanish invaded the Antilles and Louisiana, they found men who were dressed as women but were respected in their societies. Thinking that they were hermaphrodites or homosexuals, the Spanish murdered them.
It also seems that some pre-Columbian tribes —considered inferior by the conquerors— were more prepared to accept the differences and peculiarities of each human being and to find a place for them in society, from what we can surmise.
During these times, there were no transgenic foods to blame for the existence of male and female homosexuality.
It’s sad that Bolivian President Evo Morales has not found more intelligent arguments against transgenic foods and that he was only able to appeal to machismo, which served to reinforce existing prejudices against male homosexuality.
Could it be for Morales that cancer, asthma and malformations —which many scientists cite among the noxious effects of transgenic foods— are less serious than male homosexuality?
Finally, we must ask whether he is concerned about the planet or other people’s sexuality. If we guide ourselves by his argument, I suppose women can continue eating these chickens because, after all, female hormones will not cause “deviations” in them.