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.
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. ”
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).
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.
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
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
it is an outdoor delight.
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.
visit to Frida Kahlo’s La Casa
Azul (the Blue House) in villagey Coyoacán in the south of the city is an
unmissable step into Kahlo’s world – this is where she was born, grew up, lived
for many years, produced art and died. (Kahlo’s friend Leon Trotsky also hid
from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin here from 1937 to 1939.) It is now a museum
with walls that are indeed electric blue (and a kitchen floor in sunny yellow) and
rooms filled with personal items as if Kahlo had just popped out, including notes,
letters, photographs, easel, empty perfume bottles-turned-paint pots, a wheelchair,
earthenware pots, papier-mâché monsters and thousands of handicraft and folk
art items collected from around Mexico. One room is dedicated to paintings by contemporary
artists such as Paul Klee.
there is good reason why most visitors – gay or straight – stick closer to La
Zona Rosa. “Zona Rosa treats gays and lesbians especially well,” said Paulette
Landeros, a Mexican bartender at the always packed 42nd Bar. “Being
gay [here] is something normal and free.”
that may sound commonplace elsewhere in the world, the air is charged with a
different energy at 42nd Bar. People are dressed in smart shirts that err on
the side of looking church-ready – a Mexican gay club can be both loud and well
behaved, reflecting the modern-traditional mix of Mexico City. On the street,
food stands still make tacos much like their ancestors did hundreds of years
ago, and the patrons, despite being tipsy, politely address the women who make them
as señora (madam).
fiercely class-conscious country, people judge you in a heartbeat by the cut of
your jeans and the brand of your phone – and often how güero (white) and tall you are. Yet in the Zona Rosa clubs, even
the neatly dressed are clutching messy, massive Styrofoam cups that drip red chilli
sauce from the rim. These traditional, lime-spiked michelada beers are cheap, strong and addictive. Accompany them
with Mexican beer-snack favourite, crunchy lime-and-chilli chapulines (dried grasshoppers).
terraces are plentiful in balmy Zona Rosa, including Lollipop,
a favourite of young karaoke-lovers; and Lipstick, where blazer-and-jeans-wearing
cocktail-sippers peer down from the roof gardens over the city. A simple hola (hello) will lead to open, warm chatter
in varying levels of English; tourists are few but welcomed with curiosity.
on the dance floor, a common question is “why aren’t you dancing” – even if you
are. Mexicans seem to be born with rhythm and merengue in their hips – even the shyest clubber can keep a beat. In
the centre of town at El Marrakech
Salón, or just “Marra” as locals affectionately call the club, the floor rumbles
to the drums and trumpets of classic Mexican and Latin tunes, wedged between tracks
by Die Antwoord, the Pixies and Madonna.
party continues at late night eateries in Zona Rosa, such as La Casa de Toño where avocado-topped flautas (long crispy tortilla “flutes”
filled with meat or potato) and margaritas keep coming at 5 am, accompanied by
a ranchera guitarist in a cowboy hat.
You may have things to do tomorrow, but you will get to that mañana.