This essay analyzes problems related to the colonial archive and queer history through the case of Juana Aguilar, a suspected hermaphrodite who was tried for sodomy in early nineteenth-century Guatemala. These problems include the power dynamics involved in the archiving of documents, the structural limitations they place on studying sexuality in the past, and the challenges that approaching them from different angles, disciplines, and performative acts can present for history and politics. Interweaving discussions of the archive, colonial sodomy discourses, and the use of the Aguilar case by performance artist Jesusa Rodríguez to critique current forms of sexual discrimination, the essay explores the role of the imagination in historical reconstruction and the place of embodied or performative practices in radical queer art, history, and politics. It also reflects on ethical questions that using history to make political claims raises for historians, performers, and others who mediate between the past and the present publics.

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