Mema's house is in the poor barrio Nezahualcoyotl, a crowded urban space on the outskirts of Mexico City where people survive with the help of family, neighbors, and friends. This house is a sanctuary for a group of young, homosexual men who meet to do what they can't do openly at home. They chat, flirt, listen to music, and smoke marijuana. Among the group are sex workers and transvestites with high heels, short skirts, heavy make-up, and voluminous hairstyles; and their partners, young, bisexual men, wearing T-shirts and worn jeans, short hair, and maybe a mustache.
Mema, an AIDS educator and the leader of this gang of homosexual men, invited Annick Prieur, a European sociologist, to meet the community and to conduct her fieldwork at his house. Prieur lived there for six months between 1988 and 1991, and she has kept in touch for more than eight years. As Prieur follows the transvestites in their daily activities—at their work as prostitutes or as hairdressers, at night having fun in the streets and in discos—on visits with their families and even in prisons, a fascinating story unfolds of love, violence, and deceit.
She analyzes the complicated relations between the effeminate homosexuals, most of them transvestites, and their partners, the masculine-looking bisexual men, ultimately asking why these particular gender constructions exist in the Mexican working classes and how they can be so widespread in a male-dominated society—the very society from which the term machismo stems. Expertly weaving empirical research with theory, Prieur presents new analytical angles on several concepts: family, class, domination, the role of the body, and the production of differences among men.
A riveting account of heroes and moral dilemmas, community gossip and intrigue, Mema's House, Mexico's City offers a rich story of a hitherto unfamiliar culture and lifestyle.