MARCH­ING IN MEX­ICO

Cel­e­brat­ing gay Pride in Mex­ico City

Pride Life Magazine - - CONTENTS -

As we break through the cloud cover I press my nose to the smudgy glass, cran­ing to see as much of Mex­ico City as I can. In the morn­ing haze, the cityscape seems to un­furl for­ever, right up into the foothills of Popocatépetl which has been smoking for sev­eral weeks, since a re­cent erup­tion. “El DF” (Mex­ico City’s alias, an ab­bre­vi­a­tion of Distrito Fed­eral) is hu­mon­gous, a sprawl­ing 2,000 kilo­me­tres square com­pris­ing 16 bor­oughs and hun­dreds of neigh­bour­hoods. It’s a dense, com­pli­cated clus­ter, best picked apart like you’d undo a tan­gle. Step one: Find a thread. Step two: Tug.

What I’m here for— my thread, if you will — is the Mex­ico City Pride March (La Mar­cha LGBTTTI del Orgullo y Dig­nidad, in Span­ish), and though there’s only a week un­til the big day, the of­fi­cial web site is still show­ing in­for­ma­tion for last year’s event. I start draft­ing a mes­sage.

“For­get the pinche email. You know how it works here.” My lo­cal friend, Tanya, has hosted me be­fore and she’s im­pa­tient for me to synch up with the city. “Face-to-face,” she says. “Just like the old days.” I close my lap­top.

Mex­ico City’s gay area is fa­mously (if a touch ob­vi­ously) known as the Zona Rosa, and Calle Am­beres is the main strip. A business and en­ter­tain­ment dis­trict clot­ted with night­clubs, restau­rants, and sex shops, it’s also home to the city’s les­bian book­shop and café, Vo­ces en Tinta (Niza 23, Zona Rosa, vo­ce­sentinta.com). From the stacked trans­la­tions of Daly, Dworkin, and Lorde to the dis­play of vag­ina art, the place feels a lot like the 1970s. They’ve got fly­ers stacked at the front counter, but they haven’t yet re­ceived any printed Pride Guides.

Like so many gay vil­lages around the world, the area’s a lit­tle seedy. Restau­rants ad­ver­tis­ing meals in English vie for space next to canti­nas with Pride flags in the win­dows, and a mostly young crowd cruises the streets un­der the glare cast from con­ve­nience store flu­o­res­cents. Ven­dors use mu­sic and lights and their own voices to at­tract at­ten­tion. When it starts to rain, they pull tarps over their heads and the tourists dis­ap­pear into the canti­nas.

We carry on from venue to venue, blindly fol­low­ing the di­rec­tions given by each per­son asked, like we’re in a liv­ing trea­sure hunt. It makes for a pretty good tour of the area. We find Pride mugs, flags and un­der­pants at Rain­bow­land (Es­tras­burgo 31 esq. Am­beres Zona Rosa, rain­bow­land.com.mx) but no guide.

A few in­quiries lead to an im­promptu in­ter­view with a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial work­ing in the min­istry that han­dles LGBT is­sues, and leaves me with the im­pres­sion that the depart­ment is most con­cerned with health and le­gal ser­vices — HIV screen­ing and hu­man rights leg­is­la­tion. Fi­nally, we get lucky at the Erotika Love Store (erotikaen­linea.com); they have a stack of Pride guides on the counter next to a bas­ket of sam­ple lubes. We re­tire to a cantina to plan the rest of our week.

The next morn­ing, my in­box is busy. I’ve re­ceived in­vi­ta­tions to a les­bian foot­ball tour­na­ment, to a meet­ing at the tourism of­fices, and to speak on a panel at a les­bian con­fer­ence

“Restau­rants ad­ver­tis­ing meals in English vie for space next to canti­nas with Pride flags in the win­dows”

the fol­low­ing day. “See?” Tanya asks. “Now peo­ple know you’re here.”

Mex­ico City held its first an­nual Pride in 1979; about one thou­sand peo­ple par­tic­i­pated. Thirty years later, in 2009, the Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly le­galised same-sex mar­riage, be­com­ing the first ju­ris­dic­tion in Latin Amer­ica to do so.

De­spite the city’s van­guard po­si­tion on LGBT hu­man rights, it’s the cap­i­tal of an over­whelm­ingly Catholic na­tion and the re­sult is a gay cul­ture that, from my per­spec­tive, feels like it’s still emerg­ing. The Mex­ico City com­mu­nity has yet to gal­lop off on a uni­form agenda; it is still tak­ing the time to have its con­ver­sa­tions. Face-to-face, of course.

“In Mex­ico City, there’s no place for women to have sex with women. Pe­riod.” I’d sent the ques­tion to a pro­fes­sional domme who works in LA and DF. “There are bath houses for men, but the women are a bit more… ro­man­tic.” It’s a sen­ti­ment I’d heard echoed at the les­bian con­fer­ence. Ac­cord­ing to one speaker, a women’s sex club had opened in DF but closed after a month, and only two vis­i­tors. But back in the Zona Rosa in Kinky Bar later that night, I get an en­tirely dif­fer­ent im­pres­sion as I el­bow my way to the front of an en­er­getic throng of women crowd­ing the go-go dancer’s podium. Th­ese ap­par­ent con­tra­dic­tions make me cu­ri­ous, and I ask around for a scene out­side the Zona Rosa.

El Viena, on Calle República de Cuba in Cen­tro His­torico, is Mex­ico City’s only gay cantina. Inside, soft lights il­lu­mi­nate the dé­cor and the barkeep; both ap­pear to be orig­i­nal — 1930s. A taste­ful bou­quet bright­ens one end of the bar. Tanya and I are the only women in the place.

Over time, the cantina fills up with col­lege boys, va­que­ros, and busi­ness­men gen­tly court­ing while Mex­i­can pop songs crackle over an an­cient speaker. Right next door, disco blasts out of the door­way to Bar Oa­sis (República de Cuba 2G), and I learn that be­tween here and cabaret-cum­drag- venue La Perla (Re­bública de Cuba 44, cabaret-laperla.com), a rock bar, dance club, and lounge — all gay-friendly — line the street.

On the Satur­day of Pride, we ar­rive early at El Án­gel de la In­de­pen­den­cia, a statue com­mem­o­rat­ing the Mex­i­can War of In­de­pen­dence, and sym­bol of the city, where par­tic­i­pants are gath­er­ing to march. Peo­ple clus­ter around ban­ners: LGBT-friendly fam­ily mem­bers and teach­ers and ath­letic teams and trans peo­ple. A group of va­que­ros mount their horses in match­ing dress shirts, and I no­tice that there are few floats.

Most peo­ple are on foot. I strug­gle to trans­late the hand-made plac­ards: Ed­u­cación sex­ual laica y gra­tuita para to­dos (Free and sec­u­lar sex ed­u­ca­tion for all), says one. Yo apoyo a mi amigo gay (I support my gay friend). I see almost no cor­po­rate lo­gos.

The throng of thou­sands un­spools along the Paseo de la Reforma, lit­er­ally in the shadow of el Án­gel. Our des­ti­na­tion is the Zócalo, the sec­ond largest pub­lic plaza in the world; only Moscow’s Red Square can hold more peo­ple.

I walk through the crowd, tak­ing in this ver­sion of Mex­ico City — queer and cel­e­bra­tory, po­lit­i­cal and con­tra­dic­tory — and won­der where it will lead next.

PRIDE CEL­E­BRA­TIONS IN MEX­ICO CITY. PIC­TURES KEPH SENETT

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