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A New Paradise: The Gender Fluid Tribes of the Colombian Amazon

Nelson Morales

Sensual, transgressive, and playful portraits of the Ticuna tribe in Colombia.

This article originally appeared in the Colombian edition of VICE magazine.

My first experience of photographing LGBT tribe communities was the muxhes of the Oaxaca isthmus in Mexico, where I'm from. They are part of a homosexual community that has transcended the idea of gender to assume an exaggerated female identity—based on the constant search for beauty. You might say they have developed a so-called "third gender." I photographed their world for several years.

Later, I got involved with a photography project in the Colombian Amazon jungle called 20 Fotografos Amazonas. I wanted to immerse myself in the jungle—in its colors, its myths, its legends. It was there I discovered the Ticuna tribe, another homosexual community with strong similarities with the Oaxaca muxhes. I was struck by how similar their skin color was, how both tribes were preoccupied with the accentuation of excess, and, above all, how the identities of both communities are shaped by femininity.

The Ticuna have loudly campaigned for the right to be able to express their fluid gender, and to be seen and admired by others without prejudice. You see them in the jungle, wading in the river, walking down the streets in their villages, adding color and flavor to the region. Their community accepts them. Some work. Some study with the ambition of one day obtaining a degree. Others help their families with the housework.

Fifteen years ago, none of this would have happened in the Amazon jungle. Only recently—thanks to the influence of mass media—queer culture has taken a hold in these communities. I wanted to create portraits that transmitted the energy I found here—sensual, transgressive, and playful.