Friday, November 2, 2012

Unnamed lesbian bar (Santa Maria, Mexico - 1901)

Santa Maria La Ribera, Mexico
Unnamed lesbian bar

Location: Santa Maria, Mexico

Opened/Closed: c. 1901

This is another one of those random finds that perfectly illustrates the disproportionate amount of scholarly attention and energy devoted to male spaces (in this case, a gay male space) as opposed to female spaces (in this case, a lesbian space).

In Mexican gay (male) history, the Dance of the Forty-One Maricones is considered a pivotal event. Here's one account from a chronology of Gay Mexican History:

"The Dance of the Forty-One Maricones." At three in the morning of a Sunday, 18 November 1901, the police raided a party on Calle de la Paz (today Calle Ezequiel Montes) in the central part of Mexico City. Forty two men were arrested and placed in Belen Prison. Of these 22 were reported as dressed as men and 19 as women. One person was released. The official account is that that person was a real woman, but persistent rumors speculate that number 42 was don Ignacio de la Torre, who was married to the daughter of President Porfirio Diaz. Those arrested were subjected to many humiliations in jail, and some were forced to sweep the streets in their dresses.

Los 41 (1901)
This incident even has its own Wikipedia entry here. It's also mentioned in the Wikipedia entry on LGBT History in Mexico. At least one blogger has discussed it as well, with scholarly references to boot. Check out the contemporary illustrations as well.

As for that lesbian bar I mentioned? In all these accounts, somewhere towards the end, you generally find a variation of the following throwaway sentence:

There was a less publicized raid on a lesbian bar in the suburb of Santa Maria, on December 4th.

There was a lesbian bar raid in December 1901??? Meaning there was a real-life lesbian bar in Mexico in December 1901???

Realize that in the United States, the earliest bars identified as "lesbian" as such are typically dated no earlier than the 1930s. So this 1901 lesbian bar would be quite a find! Unfortunately, the (male?) scholars assembling "LGBT history" don't even notice. As for digging up any more detail? Yawn. Not interested.

The particular quotation above is from the aforementioned chronology of Gay Mexican History. But we see a similar statement in the Wikipedia article on LGBT History in Mexico:

Although the raid on the Dance of the 41 was followed by a less-publicized raid of a lesbian bar on 4 December 1901 in Santa Maria, the regime was soon worried by more serious threats such as the political and civil unrest that eventually led to the Mexican Revolution in 1910.

The same sentence appears here, showing that too many scholars are lazy indeed.

But then maybe this wasn't a bar? From the Wikipedia entry on the Dance of the 41 cited above:

On 4 December 1901 there was a similar raid on a group of lesbians in Santa María, but that incident received far less attention.

But then to add to the general disarray and sloppiness, there is this entry from the GLBTQ Encyclopedia:

The raid on the dance of the 41 maricones was followed by a less-publicized raid of a lesbian party on December 4, 1901 in Santa María.

Huh. So we can't even verify whether this was a commercial establishment (a bar), a "group," or lesbian party? If this wasn't a bar, I suppose that partly explains why we can't even be bothered to report the name of the place.

If you figured our LGBT scholar/allies would establish, at minimum, what kind of lesbian space was actually raided, you would be wrong.

My backlog of scholarly projects is getting overwhelming at this point, so if somebody with decent Spanish language skills would like to tackle this story, I'd sure like to see what you come up with.


  1. I'm trying to find out more about this incident at the mysterious lesbian bar of 1901 too. I'll let you know if I track down the truth!


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