Postcards from Mexico: Ghost town resurrected

Here’s the latest travel installment from Our Man South of the Border, Jesus Chairez:

MINERAL DE POZOS, Guanajuato, México — Pozos was a mining town before fortunes left it a ghost town. But now, that ghost is receiving a resurrection.

Pozos, located geographically in the center of México (about 185 miles northeast from México City and 40 minutes from San Miguel de Allende), won a UNESCO World Heritage award in 2008, is now becoming the place to be for artists, writers and for gay bohemians types; and for city folk that want to escape the city.

Though Pozos has a resident population of about 3,000, that didn’t stop Dallas natives residents Nick Hamblen and his partner Manrey Casas Silva from moving to Pozos, a town they discovered when they attended a friend’s wedding in 1997.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Postcards from Mexico: Lesbian wedding

Here’s the latest from Jesus Chairez:

MÉXICO CITY — I went to my first lesbian wedding ever last month … and it happened here in México City. The women getting married weren’t Mexican, or even Latina, but gringas. The very gay wedding of Cristina Potters and Judith McKnight (center) was held in their charming apartment in México City’s chic neighborhood Col. Condesa on July 22.

What struck me as fascinating was the guest list. Those who came to see included México City’s first lesbian couple to marry, Lol Kin Castañeda Badillo (left) and Judith Vázquez Arreola (right), who wed when México City’s same-sex marriage law took effect on March 4, 2010.

So I wondered: How do two retired, mature, easy-going, non-political American ladies living in México City meet two of México’s A-list lesbian activists?

Facebook!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Small-town gay life

GAY MICROCOSM | With fewer than 50,000 residents, San Luis de la Paz doesn’t even have a gay bar, but that hasn’t stopped queer Dallasites from calling it home. (Photos by Jesus Chairez)

JESUS CHAIREZ  | Special Contributor
chairezstudio@gmail.com

SAN LUIS DE LA PAZ, Guanajuato, México — No rainbow flags, no gay bars, no Pride parade, but for ex-Dallasites Ron Austin and Lamar Strickland, this small Mexican town has plenty of gay life in it.

Austin and Strickland sold most everything and packed up what they could, moving to San Luis de La Paz four years ago. Austin says that he first discovered San Luis years ago when accompanied his best friend Manolo Arrendondo, also from Dallas, back home to visit his family for Christmas one year. When Arrendondo moved back to México to care for his ailing mother, Austin and Strickland soon followed.

Austin used to work for AIDS Arms for many years before retiring from the Baylor Geriatric Center. Strickland still works but telecommutes to his job in the U.S.

Though most people think that it is not safe — and even dangerous — for LGBT people to vacation much less live in México, Austin says that he and his partner feel safe.

“In general I have not found much homophobia here and for most people it seems like a non-issue. But yes, there are homophobic people in San Luis and Mexico. We get called names now and then, but then we sometimes got called names in Dallas, too.”

RURAL DRAG | Clockwise from above: Karla aka Carlos and ‘La?Mosca’ aka Adry staged a successful drag pageant this month in the new hometown of Dallas transplants Lamar Strickland and Ron Austin.

Things have changed in San Luis, says the couple, who have spoken to their trans friends Carlos, now known as Karla and Adry Pardo Garcia, known by his nickname, la Mosca (“the Fly”) about the changes: Harassment is basically verbal today and not physical like in the past.

Though there are no gay bars in San Luis, a town of about 49,000, gay people do go out and dance. It is sort of a don’t ask, don’t tell situation where gays blend into the crowd; two men dancing together is something gay men just don’t do.

Though Austin and Strickland say they don’t feel much homophobia in San Luis, “Only the drag queens get by with gay behavior, like dancing together or displays of affection,” says Austin.

Though there are no official gay events in San Luis, five years ago Karla and Adry Pardo Garcia, leaders in the trans and drag queen community, and several of their friends got together to have a Ms. San Luis de la Paz annual pageant called Nuestra Belleza Gay (Our Gay Beauty). Carlos and Garcia say their pageant does give pride to San Luis’ growing LGBT community.

In the U.S., drag queens and transsexuals are often at the forefront of the LGBT movement; it is no different here in México, especially in San Luis. For example, earlier this month the girls got into a Blazer and put loud speakers on the roof of the automobile that blared out announcements for their Ms. San Luis Gay 2011 event held at Bar One, a club almost in the center of town.

As the Blazer drove down San Luis’ narrow streets, the girls — in full makeup and outfits — handed out flyers as they approached anyone on the street. Everyone seemed to be fine with all the glitter and glamour. The Nuestra Belleza Gay marketing worked; it was a sold-out crowd at Bar One. Austin was a judge for this year’s event, as he was last year.

Even before the pageant started there was enthusiasm: As the sun was setting all Nuestra Belleza Gay participants, along with their supporters, gathered at the main bus station where the contestants sat on the hood of a car and everyone caravanned through town with a police escort — basically a very small Pride parade. Small clusters of people did wait along the route that went through the center of town to wave and enjoy the beauty.

Though there may not be gay bars or a gayborhood to speak of, Austin and Strickland, along with their two dogs, Osa and Hoppy and a cat named Miche, are enjoying their new life in  México.

Jesús Chairez is an activist and freelance writer; former producer and host of U.S.’s first LGBT Latino show Sin Fronteras (Without Borders) on KNON 89.3 FM. He resides between Dallas and México City.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

LGBT Latino history to be published this summer

Jesus Chairez
Jesus Chairez

Dallas’ “gay Latino godfather” Jesus Chairez is participating in a project to produce a national history of gay Latino activism.

Chairez, who was appointed president of LGBT radio station KNON’s board of directors in October, said he recently resigned from that position to focus on the history project and to allow more time for travel in Mexico.

Serving on the KNON board was rewarding, but the volunteer work was time-consuming, said Chairez, who returned to Dallas last year after retiring in Mexico City. He lived there for three years and plans to return there for a long visit this summer.

“It was a full-time job,” said Chairez of his KNON work. “I was not following my dream. Since being on the board I had not blogged, not written a column, nor even started my own book.”

Chairez and several other gay Latino writers are cooperating in the writing of the planned book “Latina/o GLBT Activism in the U.S. and Puerto Rico: A Social History.” The writers will present first-person narratives about events they witnessed from the 1970s through the 1990s. The release of the book is planned for this summer.

“This project is a response to both the invisibility within mainstream Latina/o organizations, and a gringo GLBT movement,” Chairez said in a statement. “This book aims to preserve our GLBT Latino history as Latinas/os and activists as we experienced it, and in that sense my contribution is essential.”

—  admin

With gay marriage legal in Mexico City, this year’s Marcha del Orgullo LGBT expected to be largest ever

By Jesus Chairez, SantoGay.com

With same-sex marriage and adoption finally being made legal in 2010 in México City, this year’s 32nd annual Gay Pride Parade is expected to be the largest ever.

Past Pride parades have drawn 500,000, but this year’s is expected to draw 1 million.

The Gay Pride Parade, known as Marcha del Orgullo LGBT, will be Saturday, June 26, at 11 a.m., beginning at the Angel of Independence on Paseo de la Reforma in México City’s La Zona Rosa. La Zona Rosa is known as México City’s LGBT business and entertainment district.

This march is also being called the “La Marcha del Bicentenario,” the Bicentennial March, since México celebrates 200 years in 2010 of independence from foreign occupancy.

—  Dallasvoice