Letter from Mexico: Equality in Mexico’s Mega-City

Posted on 05 Sep 2014 at 9:00am

Mexico City is a bastion of liberalism in Mexico, but GHAI is leading the way in the battles still left to fight

Chairez.Jesus

Jesus Chairez
Letters From Mexico

Although Mexico City is mostly liberal and the LGBT community here won the right to legally marry and to adopt children in December 2009, the fight for complete equality continues.

There are several LGBT organizations in this mega-city, which has a population of about 22 million. One of these organizations is Grupo Homosexual de Acción e Información [Homosexual Group of Information and Action], or GHAI.

GHAI was started in 1995 by a core group of activists in their 20s. Today those activists are in their 40s. Like most other LGBT organizations, GHAI has focused on HIV/AIDS prevention and health, coming out advice and sponsoring social events and field trips.

For example, when a young man wanted to leave his home because of problems with his family over his sexual orientation, GHAI helped him find shelter, employment and a place of his own as well. Today that young man is doing well and standing on his own.

And of course, GHAI participated in all the marches and protests for same-sex marriage and child adoption.

But there are a couple of ways in which GHAI stands out from the rest of the LGBT organizations in Mexico City. GHAI created a gay Lucha Libre (free wrestling) icon called Super Gay, and has its own weekly Internet radio show called Los 41 (The 41).

Super Gay, a gay luchador that fights homophobia, has been featured not only in print media and TV in Mexico, but also in magazines and film in Europe. When Mexico City’s LGBT community won the right to marry, it was Super Gay’s image that was picked out from the crowd of protesters by the wire services and plastered on front pages around the world.

(Super Gay was on the front page of Dallas Voice in July 1997 when I wrote an article about gay life and the Pride Parade in Mexico.)

Super Gay was also the inspiration for Dallas’ gay Latino luchador, Santo Gay. Super Gay’s high visibility and personal appearances help keep GHAI in the public eye.

GHAI’s weekly two-hour Internet radio show, Los 41, airs live every Saturday at 5 p.m. CST. There are four core members that produce the show, which gets its name from what is considered Mexico’s Stonewall story.

Los-41

Community Voice | Co-producers Joselo Castillo, lower left, Donato Rangel, top left, and Luis Melo, top right and GHAI member Juan Manuel, top center, talk during a recent production of Los 41. (Jesus Chairez)

On Nov. 18,1901, police raided an upper class gay party attended by 41 men, half of whom were dressed as women. Rumor is that there were really 42 people at this party but one was allowed to escape because he was the son-in-law of Porfirio Díaz’s, Mexico’s dictator at the time and the reason Mexico had a revolution beginning in 1910.

Those arrested were put into the military and made to perform hard labor, never to be heard from again.

GHAI remembers this historical milestone and honors those that suffered from homophobia in Mexico then and still today.

“Starting Los 41 Radio was a natural evolution of GHAI’s development into global social media,” says Joselo Castillo, one of GHAI’s founding members and radio team member.

Los 41 radio show started six years ago at a Starbucks in La Zona Rosa (the Pink Zone, Mexico City’s gayborhood). But a year later, it was moved to a Sanborns restaurant in the same neighborhood.

“Waitresses would even save the best table for us to comfortably do our show,” Castillo said. “I was glad to see how [restaurant patrons] would somehow be interested in taking part,” sometimes laughing and even joining in on the discussions.

But because public places get noisy, Los 41 moved to Castillo’s home, which he shares with his husband, Bael Bautista.

The lack of what might be considered a “conventional” radio studio is immediately obvious to visitors to the Castillo/Bautista home. In the middle of their small apartment is a sofa and love seat — the heart of Los 41 radio show — and on a nearby computer table is 27-inch iMac — the show’s  and GHAI’s brains.

There no mixing boards for sound checks nor does anyone have a microphone. But everyone does seem to have a comfortable place to sit, and the iMac picks up every word.

Los 41 begins with Castillo taking the lead, then the others joining in. They offer up lots of LGBT news from Mexico and beyond, mixed with lots of personal commentary, laughing and sometimes just plain, old silliness.

The Los 41 radio show DJ’s don’t take any live telephone calls, but they do field questions and comments coming in in real time via Los 41’s Facebook page. Though the radio show appears to be impromptu, it does take a whole week of planning Castillo said.

While México City is Mexico’s gay mecca, Castillo stressed that the community still has plenty of work ahead. “If you take a look at the newspapers, or the media online, there are hundreds of cases of hate murders, discrimination cases, harassing cases — this job is far from finished.”

CastilloEven when Los 41 is not transmitting live, GHAI team member Donato Rangel has started a 24/7 music feed, and the team hopes to add podcasts to the menu soon.

More information visit www.los41.com or facebook.com/los41radio.

Jesús Chairez is gay Latino activist and freelance writer. He produced and hosted U.S. first two-hour LGBT Latino radio show, Sin Fronteras, which aired on KNON 89.3

FM in Dallas from 1993 to 2005. Chairez now resides in México City and may be found at facebook.com/JesusChairez.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 5, 2014.

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