Mexicans do not blink an eye at two guys stopping to steal a kiss along Mexico City’s broad Avenida Juárez. And the mood is always festive in adjacent Alameda Central park. Families bite into crispy churros, kids leap for airborne strands of cotton candy, taco meat sizzles on hotplates, people take photos in front of lit-up fountains and couples smooch on benches.
These are the flavours of Mexico City, where being gay is just another ingredient in the lime-and-chilli mix of the Mexican capital. And the Alameda, a park that was once overgrown with bushes where men met other men in the dark, has become a bright and grand space of landscaped paths and trees. The park’s remodelling finished in November 2012, becoming the most recent example of the live-and-let-live attitude towards sexuality that extends across Mexico City.
“Having been in Mexico City nearly two years, I still have yet to hear a gay slur uttered from a car window as vehicles zoom by,” said Dale Stein, an English teacher from Los Angeles. “It is here, ironically, not in San Francisco, where I have actually become more comfortable being gay in public and comfortable to hold my husband's hand. ”
In 2010, gay marriage became legal in Mexico City, giving important rights to same sex couples and marking the city as a flagship of tolerance in often-conservative Latin America. As of July 2013, it is one of only 15 countries with national or regional same-sex marriage laws (with New Zealand and Uruguay bringing the number to 17 by the end of 2013).
“I think that the laws have really only reinforced the tolerant nature of the Mexican people,” said Stein, who married his Mexican partner soon after the legislation came into effect. “Mexicans are really very much into creating harmony.” This acceptance is reflected in the government metro billboards that promote sexual diversity and in the thousands who join the celebratory gay and lesbian Pride march to the Zócalo (city centre plaza) in June each year. The Mexico City tourism board even promoted this openness by offering Argentina’s first same-sex married couple a free honeymoon in the Mexican capital in 2010.
This harmony is most celebrated in the colonias (suburbs) of Roma, Condesa and Zona Rosa. Roma, with its high population of hipsters and fashion-forward residents, is the place to go for eating on-trend food (Vietnamese and Japanese this year) in cafes such as Mog, a restaurant adorned with antique picture frames and wooden mannequin limbs. The easygoing artsy crowd loves Mog’s food mashups, such as minty Vietnamese summer rolls and Thai pad thai noodles washed down with refreshing cold sake.
Leafy Condesa is a popular home for expats and nice (posh) Mexicans who enjoy the mix of taquerías, health food stores and swanky bars. At the convivial green space of Parque México you can see everything from silk dancers climbing skywards to organ grinders; and just off the park, sample a no-fuss falafel tasting plate with a Mexican twist of spicy green salsa verde at Falafelito; it is an outdoor delight.
Three swift Metrobus stops away is La Zona Rosa (The Pink Zone). Its gay epicentre status is made obvious by the open glorieta (square) outside the metro station, which is dotted with gay couples whispering and playfully wrestling. The main street of Amberes proudly flies its colours – quite literally at Rainbowland gift store, which sells hundreds of rainbow-coloured items, including teddy bears, G-strings and books, as well as t-shirts, mugs and wallets plastered with Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s face. Gay and lesbian Mexicans have a love stronger than their tequila for querida (dear) Frida, whose self-portraits express an image they find appealing and relatable – a struggling, but defiant woman who had love affairs with both men and women.
Mexico City with Lonely Planet
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