Latina/o Gender and Sexuality

By Deena J. González and Ellie D. Hernández
A statue of a woman surrounded by ivy
La Malinche, detail from the Monumento al Mestizaje by Julian Martinez and M. Maldonado (1982). The monument is of Hernan Cortes, La Malinche, and their son, Martin Cortes. The monument was originally located in the Center of Coyoacan, Mexico City but was moved to Jardin Xicotencatl.

Photo by Javier Delgado Rosas, 2009.


Gender and sexuality among US Latina/o populations encompass a continuum of experiences, historical, cultural, religious, and lived. Gender and sexuality varied by culture or ethnicity and by era across the many different Latino populations descended from Latin Americans. Latino national histories, born inside the thirty-three different Latin American countries in existence today, are united in one irrefutable link to the conquest, by Spain. The Spanish and Portuguese warred against many indigenous empires, towns, and communities encountered in 1519, and the wars continued subsequently into the 1800s, during the colonization of the Americas by other countries, including the United States.

When in 1519 the Spaniards landed on the Veracruz shore and made their way into what was the most populated city in the Americas, Tenochtitlan, and in the two years it took for them to lay claim to what would become México City and its environs, gender and sexuality played a key role among people who survived the conquest and those who as conquerors remained in México as well as in Central and South America to create nations across three centuries of time (from 1521 to 1898). A primary example is Malintzin Tenepal (Malinche or Doña Marina as the Spanish called her), the mistress and lover of the conqueror, Hernán Cortés, who had two children with him. From the outset this racial and ethnic mixing of people known as mestizaje shaped gender and sexuality, because it imbued the outcomes of these unions, many of them violent, with legal, economic, and sexual consequences. Gender and sexuality were foundational in the story of Malinche and Cortés because the woman was memorialized as the mother of the first mestizo children of the Americas, which was not the case, but also as the supreme betrayer of the Mexicans. Read more » [PDF 3.0 MB]

The views and conclusions contained in the essays are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Part of a series of articles titled LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History.

Last updated: August 11, 2017