On 17 November 1901, police raided a crossdressing ball in Mexico City and arrested a group of 41 men, half of whom were dressed as women. The initial reports of el Baile de los 41 quickly introduced Mexican readers of the time to the "sordid" lives of homosexuals, and instantly sparked the first major social and political scandal to openly confront the subject of homosexuality in modern Latin America. The men were publicly humiliated, and some of them even sentenced to forced labour away from their homes in the Yucatán peninsula.
The events surrounding El Baile de los 41 were captured in contemporary newspaper articles, in the famous Posada print "Los 41 maricones" (1901), and subsequently in the novels Los cuarenta y uno: Novela crítico-social (1906) and 41, O el muchacho que soñaba en fantastas (1964). Today, el Baile de los 41 is a symbol of homosexuality in popular culture in Mexico - the number 41 still stands for male homosexuality - and a graphic reminder of the history of oppression against LGBTQ+ peoples across the Americas.
Like the Stonewall riots in New York in 1969 and the Toronto bathhouse raids in 1981, el Baile de los 41 was also the result of police brutality against LGBTQ+ and other marginalized and racialized groups. As we come together to celebrate and observe Pride, take a moment to learn about the role of these events in the response of LGBTQ+ liberation movements accross the Americas.
The Fisher Library has a full subscription to the Archives of Sexuality and Gender, which "provides a robust and significant collection of primary sources for the historical study of sex, sexuality, and gender." Recently, we have also digitized and made available via Flickr our holdings of illustrations by José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913), who made the illustrations for the rare print of “Los 41 maricones” (1901). They can be seen below.
- David Fernández, Rare Book Librarian