‘Blossoms of Fire’


“Utopia” is a heady word; a “matriarchal utopia” is cause for investigation. Blossoms of Fire tackles the myth of the Zapotec women of Juchitán, Mexico, opening with a villainous Elle magazine article that depicted a land of “red-hot mamas,” dominating men and taking on lovers. A lawsuit resulted; more immediately, the women told a magazine vendor to “stop selling it or they’d beat him up.” Proceeding respectfully, with a measure of skepticism, Maureen Gosling and Ellen Osborne’s doc doesn’t exactly crumple but loses momentum through vagueness (women manage the money because men would buy beer). The most compelling bits come late and abbreviated. One is the idea of a more fluid sexuality in the pre-European Americas, which comments from lesbian tortillería owners and a tranny seamstress, though inspiring, fail to open up. The other is Juchitán’s role in sustaining a leftist government, the first successful challenge to Mexico’s one-party system. Backed by folk songs and swirling shots of fiestas and markets, Blossoms is feel-good tourism but by its own bounds only woolly anthropology. That a balanced—and poor and indigenous—society of inner strength and work ethic must “come from” somewhere is in itself unwittingly exposing.

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