Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A memorable gay day in Mexico City

If we may wade into stereotypes for a second, the organization of Saturday's Gay Pride parade in Mexico City was typically gay—that is to say, rather chaotic—and its punctuality typically Mexican—it started a couple of  hours late. Next to the big-city Gay Pride parades in the U.S. that over the years have acquired glitz and production values approaching Mardi Gras, Mexico City's version was huge yet small-time. That is precisely what made it so memorable for Stew and me.

Most of the noise came from people, not bands.
There was no official lead contingent with people carrying flags or banners announcing the event, but just hundreds of people soon to grow into tens of thousands, cheerily meandering down Paseo de la Reforma, the most majestic boulevard in the city and perhaps the world. Some participants came on horseback, dressed as cowboys headed for a roundup, others as sequined vedettes sashaying and waving to imaginary fans as if en route to a cabaret gig downtown. There were, of course, dozens of Frida Kahlo wannabes with the starched Oaxacan headdress that appeared in one of her self-portraits but no Diego Riveras. A placid and clean-shaven young man also walked by wearing nothing but a dusting of talcum powder and tennis shoes.

A hefty Frieda looking for her Diego
The noise came mostly from the lungs of the marchers and an occasional battery of drums. There were very few bands or floats, and those didn't arrive almost until the end. The only visible corporate participant was Google which sent a large van full of screaming people, including a shirtless young guy on the roof melodramatically waiving the rainbow flag in the style of a citoyen during French Revolution.

No mayors, governors or other prominent politicians were seen, as we would expect in big-city pride parades in the U.S. Although Mexico City approved marriage equality years ago along with legislation protecting the rights of gay residents, I suspect that to actually show up at the parade and lock arms with a line-up of high-kicking drag queens would be a step too far for any Mexican politician.

This marcher seemed mesmerized by the rainbow flag 
The parade ostensibly began at the traffic roundabout with the iconic, gold-clad statue of the Angel of Independence lightly perched atop a huge classic-style column, within shouting distance of the Zona Rosa with its dozens of gay bars. From there the parade moseyed along at an erratic pace—we didn't see any parade marshals or even police officers to keep the growing human avalanche moving—past dozens of statues of Mexican heroes and notables that line Reforma, to end in Mexico City's Zócalo, the vast main square that is the heart of the city and one could say Mexico itself. Right at the foot of the imposing Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Palace and an enormous Mexican flag, the parade dissolved into a raucous party.

Despite its enormous size the parade ultimately looked more like a wild block party that had caught fire and engulfed the center of the city and along with it tens of thousands of people of all ages and sexual persuasions.
Brokeback Mountain, Mexican style. 
Fingers with flashy jewelry and manicured nails
 wrestled with a restless wig.
Get ready Las Vegas, here I come!
Grass-roots marchers vastly outnumbered the glamour types.
And it was that ordinariness and spontaneity, crudeness even, that made the parade so memorable—awesome, spectacular, amazing—sure to induce goosebumps if you paused to think about how far and fast the movement for gay liberation has  advanced worldwide over the past ten or fifteen years, including in this capital of 20-odd million residents. 

There were few screaming drag queens carrying on the stereotype of Gay Pride parades that newspapers pick up every year, and even fewer gym bunnies, those young men who cloister themselves in health clubs in preparation for the one day a year on which they get to tear off their shirts and walk across town to a chorus of oohs and ahhs.

From where Stew, our friend Ron and I stood for two or three hours before hunger and fatigue set in, there seem to be little organizational backbone to the parade: No Association of Gay CPAs or Presbyterians United Against Homophobia or some such with professionally printed banners, though some Socialist groups showed up with their tired signs with tiresome slogans.

Instead, most of the folks were individuals or couples who may have stayed up late the night before hand-painting signs or cooking up some special costume, or who joined the march on impulse.

A mother and son duet. She in a plain denim shirt,
he with perhaps the most most peculiar outfit of the day:
A purple wig, black lipstick, Anna Wintour shades and a dress
to resemble the lid of a grand piano with a keyboard running
across. I forgot to ask for an explanation. 
This little queen came with her father who was on the
sidewalk a few feet away, wrestling an Aztec bird costume
with a plumed headdress about four feet high. 
The Individual Initiative Prize went to Carlos,
who cooked up this Liberacian outfit, complete
 with a scabbard-like contraption to hold a
rainbow flag that was almost bigger than him. 
Other than a religious group revving up their rage at the parade before it had even started, there was no jeering, booing or any hostility from the crowds on the sidelines.

A troop of Girl and Boy Scouts gathered
on the plaza in front of the Palacio of Bellas Artes,
oblivious to the roar of the parade a block away. 
Even the weather cooperated. Overnight rains had scrubbed away the perennial smog clearing the way for a rare sight of the mountains that surround this enormous metropolis. A fabulous dinner that night with our friend Ron at Dulce Patria, a restaurant in the Polanco neighborhood, guaranteed that Stew and I will return next year, especially now that we know there's no point in getting up early to arrive to the parade on time.

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4 comments:

  1. I've suggested to our mutual friends, Ron and Fred, that they should go to DF for the parade. They have declined. I was there about 8 years ago. I was trying to get to the Hotel Marlowe. Impossible to cross the parade route so the taxi let me out about a mile from the hotel. I just plopped my suitcase down, sat on it and watched the parade for 4 hours. My thought was, "All those gorgeous men and not a one is interested in me". It was fun and interesting. I agree, after going to the one in Houston in Montrose, the DF parade is way classier! Great experience.

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  2. Part of my childhood was spent in the Montrose section of Houston, Texas, and I was brought up with "prohibitions" of ANY femininity shown by males through my high school and college at SMU (that's "Southren Methodist University" in Dallas). In my second year of law school at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, I was sabotaged by rumors which caused the top-secret U.S. Army Security Clearance I'd had to be rescinded, and I couldn't work for Vice-Pres. Lyndon Johnson (who was on record as saying he owed his political success in no small part to my father, James V Allred, who, along with Ann Richards, was the only liberal-progressive governor in Texas history. I dropped out of law school and got a job playing piano and singing at a gay bar in Southeast DC, 4 blocks from the Marine Barracks where President Kennedy's "Honor Guard" was "stabled." Over the next 2 years of performing there 7 nights a week, I learned a lot about Marines, and I established a 50 year career for me as an entertainer. I'm very fortunate. Peace and love, Sam Houston Allred (415) 816-9901

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  3. Gay Pride parades are a way to communicate with the world that many people celebrate their sexuality and that they should no longer have to hide it.

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  4. It sounds like a lot of fun, and you guys are making me want to Mexico City more and more sometimes. Love the pictures! ♥♥

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