Of Lady-killers and ‘Men Dressed As Women’: Soap Opera, Scapegoats and the Mexico City Police Department

Vek Lewis


Over two days in October 2005, police in Mexico City conducted a series of raids on male-to-female transgender (travesti) prostitutes working in the streets. The motive of the investigation was not related to sex work at all, but rather, the hunt for a serial killer responsible for the deaths of elderly women between 2003 and 2005. With few leads apart from reports by a couple of eyewitnesses that they had seen ‘a man dressed as a woman’ enter the houses of the victims, the Chief Public Prosecutor announced that the killer could be a travesti.

On January 25, 2006, the ‘lady-killer’ was finally discovered to be neither a ‘man dressed as a woman’, nor a travesti. The suspect, a female former lucha libre wrestler, Juana Barraza, was taken into custody.

In the period leading up to the October raids, Mexico’s chief television channel, Televisa, finished up the season of its popular soap, La Madrastra, with a plot line that features a man who dresses as a woman to disguise his usual male identity and kill his female victims.

This paper examines the case, looking at the influence of the soap opera narrative in the profiling of travestis as suspect ‘men dressed as women’. It draws on studies of soap opera and mass media forms in Mexican society, as well as the work of transgender theory in understanding how crossgender identities are circumscribed by discourse.

Full Text:



Allen, R.C. 1995, 'Introduction, ' in R. C. Allen (ed.), To Be Continued: Soap Operas Around the World, Routledge, New York, 1-26.

Anodis. 2006, 'Dialogan grupos gays con directivos de Televisa, ' Anodis.com, 5 abril. Online. Available: http://www.anodis.com/nota/6752.asp (Accessed 5 Sep. 2006).

Aprea, G. y Martnez Mendoza, R. 1996, 'Hacia una definicin del gnero telenovela, ' en M. Soto (coord.) Telenovela/telenovelas: Los relatos de una historia de amor, Atuel, Buenos Aires, 17-30.

Archivo, La Reforma. Online. Available: http://busquedas.gruporeforma.com/reforma (Accessed 12 Sep. 2006).

Arriaga Ornelas, J. L. 2002, 'La nota roja: Colombianizacin" o "mexicanizacin" periodstica, ' Sala de Prensa, vol. 2. Online. Available: http://www.saladeprensa.org/art375.htm (Accessed 5 Sep. 2006)."

Baker, R.W. (dir.) 1971, Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde, Hammer Studios.

Barrn Cruz, M. G. 2006, 'Homicidios seriales en la Ciudad de Mxico. Un fenmeno viejo o nuevo?, ' Revista Cenipec 25 (enero-febrero), 141-64.

Becerril, C.A. 2005, 'El mata viejitas" ... libre, brillante y precavido, ' El Mundo Austin, 13 octubre. Online. Available: http://www.elmundonewspaper.com/news.php?nid=2512 (Accessed 14 Sep. 2006)."

Bettcher, T.M. 2007, 'Evil Deceivers and Make-Believers: On Transphobic Violence and the Politics of Illusion, ' Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, vol. 22, no. 3, 43-65.

Bourdieu, P. 1990, The Logic of Practice. Polity Press, Cambridge.

Bourdieu, P. & Wacquant, L. 1992, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Cabral, M. (A. I. Grinspan) & Viturro, P. 2006, '(Trans)sexual Citizenship in Contemporary Argentina, ' in P. Currah, R. M. Juang, and S. Price Minter (eds), Transgender Rights, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 262-73.

Cabrujas, J.I. 2002, Y Latinoamrica invent la telenovela, Alfadil Ediciones, Caracas, Venezuela.

Davenporth, H.G. 2005, 'De asesinatos, autoridades, travestis y telenovelas, ' Notiese, 21 octubre. Online. Available: http://www.notiese.org/opinion.shtml?cmd%5B55%5D=x-55-4dc3b8c3b9c3bcc5bec39d7b221e5bc2 (Accessed 8 April 2006).

De Palma, B. (dir.) 1980, Dressed To Kill, Cinema 77 Films.

Disforia de gnero 2005, 'Trans de Mxico protestan en derechos humanos por accin polica caso asesino ancianas, ' Disforia de gnero. Online. Available: http://www.disforiadegenero.org/modules.php?name=News & file=article & sid=238 (Accessed 15 Sep. 2006).

Fernndez, J. 2004, Cuerpos desobedientes: Travestismo e identidad de gnero. Edhasa, Buenos Aires.

Foro La Madrastra n.d., Online. Available: http://www.networks54.com/Forum/376482/page-76 (Accessed 12 July 2006).

Fundacin Televisa n.d., 'Nuestra visin.' Online. Available: http://www.esmas.com/televisa/notas/nota_8.html (Accessed 12 Sep. 2006).

Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), n.d. 'Mission.' Online. Available: http://www.glaad.org/about/mission.php (Accessed 22 Oct. 2007).

Gonzlez, H. A., 2005, 'El mataviejitas ataca de nuevo, ' La palabra.com, 4 octubre. Online. Available: http://esp.mexico.com/lapalabra/una/21414/el-mataviejitas-ataca-de-nuevo (Accessed 24 Oct. 2007).

Gonzlez Prez, C. O. 2003, Travestidos al desnudo: Homosexualidad, identidades y luchas territoriales en Colima, Mxico. Miguel Angel Porra, Mxico, D.F.

Hall, S. 1980, 'Encoding/decoding, ' in S. Hall et al (eds), Culture, Media, Language: Working Papers in Cultural Studies, 1972-79, Hutchinson, Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, Birmingham, 128-38.

Hitchcock, A. (dir.) 1960, Psycho, Shamley Productions.

Irwin, R. M. (ed.) 2003, The Famous 41: Sexuality and Social Control in Mexico, c.1901. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Jimnez, G. & Snchez, A. 2005, 'La PGJDF detiene y ficha a 36 travestis por sospechar que alguno est vinculado con los asesinatos de ancianas, ' La Crnica, 20 octubre. Online. Available: www.cronica.com.mx/nota.php?idc=208096 (Accessed 5 Sep. 2006).

Kulick, D. 1998, Travesti: Sex, Gender and Culture among Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226461014.001.0001

Lpez, A. M. 1995, 'Our Welcomed Guests: Telenovelas in Latin America, ' in R.C. Allen (ed.), To Be Continued: Soap Operas Around the World, Routledge, New York, 256-75.

La madrastra 2005, Episode 120, 18 agosto [TV Series]. Televisa S.A. de C.V., Mxico.

Macassi Lavander, S. & Ampuero, F. 2001, Prensa amarilla y cultura poltica en el proceso electoral. Calandria, Lima.

Martn-Barbero, J. 1987, De los medios a las mediaciones. G. Gili, Barcelona.

Martn-Barbero, J. 1995, 'Memory and Form in the Latin American Soap Opera, ' in R. C. Allen (ed.), To be Continued: Soap Operas Around the World, Routledge, New York, 276-84.

Martn-Barbero, J. 2000, 'The Cultural Mediations of Television Consumption, ' in I. Hagen & J. Wasko (eds), Consuming Audiences? Production and Reception in Media Research, Hampton Press, Cresskill, NJ, 145-63.

Melhuus, M. 1996, 'Power, Value and the Ambiguous Meanings of Gender, ' in M. Melhuus & K.A. Stlen (eds), Machos, Mistresses, Madonnas: Contesting the Power of Latin American Gender Imagery, Verso, London & New York, 230259.

'Mexico Police Hunt Serial Killer' 2006, BBC News, 11 October. Online. Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4332042.stm (Accessed 5 Sep. 2006).

Monsivis, C. 1997, Mexican Postcards, Verso, London.

No manches, 2005, 'La travesti de Tlalpan con tres bubis, ' [TV Series], 8 mayo. Televisa S.A. de C.V., Mxico.

Otro rollo - Buscando a Memo 2005, [TV Series]. Univisin, Mexico.

Prieur, A. 1998, Mema's House, Mexico City. On Transvestites, Queens, and Machos, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Reding, A. 2003, 'Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in the Americas, ' World Policy Reports. Online. Available: www.worldpolicy.org/globalrights/sexorient/2003-LGBT-Americas.pdf (Accessed 20 May 2005).

Rotker, S. (ed.). 2002, Citizens of Fear: Urban Violence in Latin America. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick.

Sabsay, L. 2002, 'La representacin meditica de la identidad travesti" en Buenos Aires, ' en L. Arfuch (ed.), Identidades, sujetos, subjetividades, Prometeo Libros, Buenos Aires, 165-84."

Salgado, A. 2005, 'Del mataviejitas, 24 de 32 asesinatos: Renato Sales, ' La Jornada, 17 noviembre. Online. Available: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2005/11/17/043n1cap.php (Accessed 24 Oct. 2007).

Seidman, S. 2004, Contested Knowledge: Social Theory in the Postmodern Era. 3rd ed., Blackwell Publishing, Malden, MA.

Serano, J. 2007, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Seal Press, Emeryville, CA.

Servn, M. & Salgado, A. 2006, 'A Juana Barraza Zamperio le gusta el rojo y prefera los martes y mircoles para matar, ' La Jornada, 26 enero. Online. Available: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2006/01/26/042n1cap.php (Accessed 24 Oct. 2007).

Slade, C. 2003, 'Telenovelas and Soap Operas: Negotiating Reality from the Periphery, ' Media International Australia (incorporating Culture and Policy), no. 106, February, 6-17.

Van Dijk, T. A. 2003, 'The Discourse-Knowledge Interface, ' in G. Weiss & R. Wodak (eds), Critical Discourse Analysis: Theory and Interdisciplinarity, Palgrave-MacMillan, Houndsmills, UK, 85-109.

Velzquez, G. 2006, 'Un thriller para el DF, ' El Universal, 30 enero. Online. Available: http://weblogs.eluniversal.com.mx/wweblogs_detalle.php?p_fecha=2006-01-30 & p_id_blog=2 & p_id_tema=1739 (Accessed 24 Oct. 2007).

Wieviorka, M. 2003, 'The New Paradigm of Violence, ' in J. Friedman (ed.), Globalization, the State, and Violence, Alta Mira Press, Walnut Creek, CA, 107-40.


DOI: https://doi.org/10.5130/portal.v5i1.480

Share this article: