Tag: Huastec



Artist: Unknown
Media: Sandstone
Date & Location: This sculpture was made between 900 and 1450 CE, but we do not know a precise date. You can currently find it at the British Museum
Image Source: Image from the British Museum website

Significance to Queer Art History

This statue would have originally been part of a temple or shrine in ancient Mexico. It was made by the Huastec whose culture is thought to date back to the 10th C. BCE and continues today. Tlazolteotl was a Huastec goddess who was later adopted by the Aztecs (perhaps more accurately called Nahuas).

Tlazolteotl was especially associated with steam baths, midwives, childbirth, adulterers, and purification. This goddess was said to be able to both incite lust and purify people of their sexual excesses. Her significance to queer art history stems from her genderfluidity. She was often depicted as a woman warrior with both vulvic and phallic genitals. Contrary to the stigma surrounding intersex and trans* people today, for the Huastec this likely symbolized her supernatural powers.

Some also suggest she was the mother of the Maize God who was likewise famous for being able to move across genders.

Forms of queerness were celebrated (and continue to be celebrated) by many Indigenous cultures around the world prior to colonization, and contemporary homophobia and transphobia are just some of the ongoing harms of colonization. The suppression of queerness was often cited as one ‘reason’ for colonial violence. As noted in R.B Parkinson’s A Little Gay History, in 1519 “the invading Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes declared–very conveniently–that ‘they are all sodomites.’

In more recent queer art history, Tlazolteotl was also a figure frequently referenced by famously bisexual artist Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera.


Comisarenco, Dina. “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Tlazolteotl.” Woman’s art journal 17, no. 1 (1996): 14–21.

Parkinson, R.B. A Little Gay History: Desire and Diversity Across the World. London: The British Museum Press, 2013.