The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
This story details one of the basic reasons for the scandal of the Forty-One: the excesses of the upper class, who lived for dances and social display. With Pedro Rincón Gallardo, governor of the Federal District, presiding, the dictator and the Porfirian court are in attendance, all dressed in formal attire. What is new, according to this short article, is the presence of several young men disguised as women; such is the case of F. Algara, who attends as a demoiselle de compagnie [hired escort]. At an elite sumptuous ball, organized by one of the most important families of the time, it was not a problem if a man dressed as a woman, as long as it did not go beyond certain parameters. It was all part of the entertainment and the rules of decency imposed by the families themselves. It was until that time, part of the extravagance and the apparent right of the sons of the best families to participate openly at homosexual parties, limited to a close circle of friends. Starting on November 19, 1901, they would be exposed to public notoriety.
The presence of transvestites, homosexuals or lesbians was not unusual in society under the Porfirio Díaz administration. Implicit in history and in popular gossip, between the lines of the literature, there was a veiled presence of sexual diversity that ran through the nineteenth century like an underground river. In the words of Carlos Monsiváis (1938-2010): “to be decent and have good manners was little more than a fabricated amnesia, little more than arrogance that improvises a past and invents traditions to obtain verification and legitimacy.” Given the indulgence of their peers, they may assume [a role] under a mask, [create] challenges without any risk. They are rich and powerful, owners of haciendas and human lives: why not try dances with a close circle of friends, far from the mask of good manners, edging close to perdition but appealing to temptation? Anything like this, even within the strict parameters of the carnivals, becomes impossible after the dance of the Forty-One. In the words of José Joaquín Blanco in his work Función de medianoche [Midnight Show] (1998): “When he loses himself in the urban mass, the homosexual gains freedom. This depends on having sufficient means to move fearlessly around in clandestine places and pay their high admission fees. He must also have the means [to make payments exacted] for toleration of his habits (through outright or veiled extortion). Above all, he must have the means that underlie the sense of entitlement to live his life in a different way. This is why in past centuries, only a few artists, aristocrats or members of the bourgeoisie were able to afford this luxury.” Years later, in portraits and caricatures, artists such as Diego Rivera (1886-1957), José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) and Antonio Ruiz (1897-1964) both ridiculed and attacked the feminization of a certain cultural sector in Mexico.