Homosexuality in The Maya & Aztec Empire

The majority of information on the pre-Columbian peoples comes from the reports of the Spanish conquest. These accounts must be taken with caution, given that the accusation of sodomy was used to justify the conquest, along with other accusations real or invented, such as human sacrifice, cannibalism, or idolatry. 

The first peoples with whom the Spanish came in contact on the American continent were the Mayans, who were tolerant of homosexuality. 

For the Mayan aristocracy, at least, pubescent homosexuality was preferable to premarital heterosexuality. Parents would provide their sons with male slaves to satisfy their sexual needs, while premarital heterosexual encounters were discouraged. Adult homosexuality was also condoned, and the Maya were known to hold large private sexual parties which included homosexuality.

The Aztecs on the other hand were not surprisingly puritanical and although they celebrated public rituals with remnants of erotic content, they were perhaps more ruthless than the Spanish even, in suppressing private vice. 

Aztecs placed a high premium on “manly”, “assertive” behavior, and a corresponding stigma on “submissive” behavior. When conquered people were not sacrificed on temple altars, the males of conquered nations were often demoted to the status of women. The penalties for male homosexual intercourse were severe. Mexica law punished sodomy with the gallows, impalement for the active homosexual, extraction of the entrails through the anal orifice for the passive homosexual, and death by garrote for the lesbians. In Tenochtitlan, they hanged homosexuals. In nearby Texcoco, the active partner was “bound to a stake, completely covered with ashes and so left to die; the entrails of the passive agent were drawn out through his anus, he was then covered with ashes, and wood being added, the pile was ignited. 

The existence of lesbianism is testified to by the Nahuatl word "patlacheh”, which designates a woman who carries out masculine activities, including the penetration of other women, as revealed in the General history of the matters of New Spain by Bernardino de Sahagún. 

In spite of the puritanism of the Mexica, the sexual customs of the people conquered by the Aztec Empire varied to a great extent. For example, Bernal Díaz del Castillo speaks of homosexuality among the ruling classes, prostitution of young people, and cross-dressing in the area of Veracruz. The yauyos had prostitution houses full of men with painted faces and women’s clothing.

There was a general tolerance of homosexuality and transgenderism among Ancient Mesoamerica, but this harmony was disrupted by Christian conquerors, who forced their ways upon the indigenous peoples, turning homosexuality from a celebrated status to one of shame and death.

Incense burner base

Early Classic period

Object Place: Tiquisate, Guatemala, Pacific Slope

Hour glass-shaped base for a Teotihuacan-style incense burner (see 1988.1229a). It is embellished with a stylized nose ornament, and two circular elements attached to each side of the base recall typical Mesoamerican ear flares.

Elaborate incense burners may have served as oracle vessels through which the spirit realm was contacted. This two-part incense burner is modeled in the form of a temple, complete with an elaborate “roof comb”. A figure, standing in the temple’s doorway, is adorned with divination mirrors. He is flanked by attendants holding incense bags. Burning coals and incense were placed in the burner’s base, the smoke rising through a chimney at the back of the burner’s top, and emerging from the temple’s roof.

Elaborate incense burners may have served as oracle vessels through which the spirit realm was contacted. This burner-produced by Maya artists influenced by Teotihuacan culture-was modeled in the form of a temple. A figure, perhaps a religious specialist, is adorned with divination mirrors and stands at the temple’s entrance, with attendants holding incense bags. Burning coals and incense were placed in the base, the smoke rising through a chimney at the back and emerging from the temple’s roof.


A King's Apotheosis: Iconography, Text, and Politics from a Classic Maya Temple at Holmul

Excavations at the ancient Maya city of Holmul, Petén, have led to the discovery of a building decorated with an intricately carved and painted plaster frieze. The iconography of the frieze portrays seated lords, mountain spirits, feathered serpents, and gods of the underworld engaged in the apparent rebirth of rulers as sun gods. Large emblems carved on the side of the building identify the structure as a shrine for ancestor veneration. A dedicatory text carved along the bottom of the frieze contains a king list and references to the political and familial ties of the ruler who commissioned the temple. Together, the iconography and text of this structure provide evidence of function and meaning. They also shed new light on a century during Classic Maya history known asthe Tikal “Hiatus,” for which a limited number of texts are available. The information derived from this monument also broadens our understanding of the nature of hegemonic relationships among Classic Maya states. 

This was a very good read in this summer’s Latin American Antiquity. I hope you will take the time to read it over.


Ski lodge ends with riley and maya back in the original bay window, talking,riley tells maya that her extraordinary relationship isn’t with lucas , is with maya.Then they do “thunder” “lighting” and both say “forever.
For the ones who don’t believe in this friendship,who say stuff like “i wish riley die” or “i wish maya die” you have to use your brain and realize that they are always partners no matter what.Friendship is the real endgame.