Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Happy 37th Pride Mexico City!

Saturday was Mexico City's Pride. During the previous weeks a number of smaller events took place, like lectures, some performances, seminars, etc. But the main, biggest, central event is a march. And note I said MARCH, not parade. In a way, it reminded me of Toronto's Dyke and Trans marches, with heavy political undertones, demands for rights, denouncing of rights violations, and the like. So much energy!

Also, as a march, basically everybody is welcome to participate. Like, if you want, you can just step away from your vantage spectator point and join the ongoing march! Of course, if you have a vehicle, you still have to register. But if you want to make a point and dress up, or carry a sign, or gather a group of people, and walk, you can do so and march together with everybody else. Period. If you think it's weird this caught my attention, just remember that, before this, I had only seen Toronto's and Montreal's events, and it was very clear that the only people parading/marching were the ones that had signed up.

Anyhow, there we were, my habib and me, on a prime spot for viewing, right on the elevated platform of a sculpture exactly where the march had to make a turn towards the historic centre. Just two weeks after our Superior Court of Justice declared as unconstitutional all civil codes that didn't allow for same-sex marriages, basically making same-sex marriage legal countrywide! And at about the same time that the office of the Presidency changed their twitter icon for a rainbow flag and tweeted that Mexico is an inclusive country where everybody is equal – a welcome token, no doubt, regardless of your own personal stance towards the current government. 

I had had some 4 horus of sleep (thanks to one ridiculously good and crazy birthday party the day before) and a slight hangover, but there was nothing that was going to keep me from witnessing my first Mexico City Pride March! 

We're here! We're queer!

We had no idea how many people were participating, but it looked so massive! An endless crowd extended as far back as we could see. Later I read some half-million participated. Whoa! And it was one nice, big, diverse crowd! There were people demanding a federal law for gender identity. A group of women over 30. A group from the state of Durango and a group from Venezuela. The leather community was there. The bears. The transgender community. Mexican cowboys. The asexuals. The BDSM community. Deaf queers. Lesbian groups. And the usual floats with hunks dancing on them to electronic music, too. We watched from where we were for, I don't know, some 3 or 4 hours? And it was obvious we had seen but a fraction of it all! And it was encouraging to see how many young people were marching, too! An open-minded, politicized youth? Awesome! 

I'll be honest, seeing this really moved me. Just your average citizen, right there, marching with everybody else, chanting slogans, making a point, taking a stance. When I saw that big contingent at the beginning, for example, clamouring for a federal law for one's gender identity to be legally recognized (for example, if you identify as a gender different from the one assigned to you at birth), my eyes got teary. I may be a softie, but it moved me to the core. 

Faggotry is also Defiance

Many people were holding signs. There was a grandmother walking with her lesbian granddaughter, holding a huge sign saying how proud she was about her. And you couldn't believe how radiant her granddaughter looked! She looked the happiest and proudest you ever could! It was such a beautiful scene I actually just watched and didn't take a photo. There was a guy with a fantastic sign that read "La jotería también es rebeldía" (faggotry is also defiance). There was a dramatic one, held by another guy, that on one side read "Russia is not for me" and, on the other side, "My mom hates me"; needless to say the crowd of onlookers didn't hesitate to yell at him "we love you!". How could anybody hate a child just because they're not straight? How?! There were also those with signs with a number of slang words (some more pejorative than others) and with the message "Todos somos humanos" (we are all humans). Inspiring, moving, rebellious, creative. Amazing.

Sissy that walk

Of course, why bother get all dressed up and not show it off, right? I read somewhere that people complain that it's the more outlandish people that "ruin it" for the "normal gay and lesbians" who want to "be accepted". I understand, some people prefer to blend in, or they prefer their sexuality not to be an issue at all. That's perfectly understandable. What's not understandable is that other people who can't or won't blend in have to be shamed for not being invisible? Visibility is an incredible weapon. And if we're where we are right now legal-wise, it's not thanks to those who prefer to lay low and not cause a stir. It's thanks to those who dared cause a hell of a stir. And you can't do that by being invisible. Not lashing against those who pass and who are happy to pass as "normal" and/or "straight", mind you, just against those that denigrate or criticize those who don't pass because they can't or because they won't.

So, for those of you bold enough to go and strut your own selves just as you want to, you're fierce! Hats off.  

Party at the Zócalo

The march started at the Ángel (the monument to Mexico's independence) and ended at the Zócalo, Mexico City's main square and heart. Wow, the place was so alive! There was a stage with singers, mariachis, and drag queens. And the square was packed with people, rainbow flags, young people carrying signs that read "free kisses" (gotta love the transgressiveness of that, right? kissing total strangers in public?), and costumes of all kinds.  Oh, and the gogo-dancers from one of the old buildings! Super cool! It just felt completely right that this most emblematic part of the city to be completely taken over by the LGBTQ crowd. Totally right. We even spotted a drag-queen-mariachi!

Born this Way

By 10pm we were totally exhausted from a full day out walking and cheering and taking photos and celebrating, so we began the walk home. But then we remembered there was this small gay nightclub on the way, and figured we could just take a peek. After the drag-queen-bouncer fondled-frisked me (well, she did it gracefully, so she's forgiven), we walked into the main area to see... a drag-queen impersonating Lady Gaga and singing Born this Way! Woohoo! What a fantastic way to end the night!

I'm afraid we only stayed for that one song, though. I was really aching for home and my bed. We still had another small very cool surprise on our way home, but that one is not strictly related to Pride, so I'll write another post about that later. 

Anyhow, this exceeded my expectations. Sure, I would have loved to see a bigger trans contingent. Or one from my own workplace (I'll try and see that next year there is one!). But overall it was incredible to see this huge and sincere march, and to realize that home has indeed changed. And to feel proud and excited about it. Well done, Mexico City. Well done. You have some way to go, but you're definitely moving forward. Congratulations, and thanks for a fun and inspiring Pride!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

sun and more craft beer

I'm still amazed at the diversity of Mexican craft beer, including porters and stouts! I guess I should've figured, since even before the era of craft beers there was already quite some variety of local commercial beer. But still! 

Last Sunday we came across these two at a nice place - Conde Sandwich Bar - by leafy Álvaro Obregón Av. in hipster Roma Norte neighbourhood: Házmela Rusa, an Imperial Stout from Mexico City, and Yubarta, a Porter from Querétaro. And sun. And peace. And free refreshing mezcal and chaya leaf shots that paired surprisingly well with our dark beers. Keep surprising me, Mexico City, I'm liking it.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

porn in the convent


Last Saturday, after my fantastic morning seminar on feminism, I took my habibi to what I thought was some kind of (an also feminist) exhibition, with some shorts and maybe some performances. This was in the evening, and after a torrential downpour that left me almost completely soaked despite my (apparently pitifully small) umbrella.

This event, called Muestra Marrana, was taking place at the Ex Teresa Arte Actual, a former temple/convent turned into an art space, right in the middle of the historic centre of Mexico City. It's really an old, very beautiful space...

But the very best part is that, once we got our dripping wet selves inside and got to what used to be the nave, we realized this was no ordinary exhibition. This was a feminist porn fest! Woohoo! Like, we walked in, and they were showing this very alternative short, called Hello Titty, from Germany, by Skyler Braeden Fox. And what were we watching on the screen? Well, a few transmen, a dominatrix, puppy play (where a person plays the role of a dog or puppy)... The story? Well, a transman (Tit Star Showboy) is enjoying his breasts one last fun time before he undergoes mastectomy, and in his caravan a number of diverse characters fight to get one last chance with him. How's that for non-commercial porn?

This was the 7th edition of the festival, with the 6 previous ones apparently taking place in Barcelona. The crowd? Pretty diverse, queer-ish feminist-ish alternative-y... Obviously, I was elated! 

After that previous short, there was a break, and then we had some porn by differently-abled people. Well, actually, first there was a documentary, called Yes We Fuck, from Spain, by Raúl de la Morena and Antonio Centeno. A pretty well made docu, if I may say so. One of the directors is also differently abled, and you get to see many different kinds of disability and how people handle their sexuality in their different situations. Very, very eye-opening. And the director and the people that took part were there! 

Now, after that, there were going to be a few porn shorts on that subject, but I was in real bad need of a hot coffee, as I was still a bit wet from the rain and we were sitting on the floor, so we had to leave quickly for a bite and to warm up. But we were more than ready for the final session of the day!

But wait, before I go there, someone could be wondering "porn? why porn? feminist porn? isn't porn always violence against women?" Well, this kind of porn they were showing was specifically aimed at showing non-heteronormative sexualities (that is, sexualities that do not conform to what is usually considered "normal" "male-female" sexual interaction). This is about giving marginalized, invisibilized, or stigmatized groups a space and a voice. It is, therefore, empowering, mind-broadening, inclusive, and non-stereotyping of any group. The Muestra Marrana team's motto is "otro porno sí es possible" (a different porn is indeed possible). OK? So, that being said, this is a sample of some of the shorts they showed in the last session:

"Dear Jiz" (Australia), by Ms Naughty: A gorgeous trans artist takes a bath in an old tub, while we hear the e-mails of the artist's fans read aloud, ending with a strong orgasm under the faucet's stream.

"posComunicado 1de1" (Argentina) de GATASWARRIORPORNOGIRLSLATINOCUIRS: a feminist communiqué read by naked, masked women smoking through their vaginas.

"this is not courbet’s cunt" (Israel), by Rinat Schnadower: instead of analyzing the painting or discussing it either for its symbolic or artistic merit, we watch as someone does a most simple, natural thing - stroking it.

"erraseshumanx" (Colombia / México), by Una and Eunuca postporno: when sex is decoupled from the genitals, what happens?

Now, let me be frank. I'm not sure all the shorts would qualify as art. But that's beyond the point, because, like I said before, this was a festival about different porn. DIFFERENT. And inclusive of other sexualities, and groups. And in that sense, it's hard not to watch all this and not leave a bit broader of mind. 

And the very end? Well, the organizers had to give an award to the best DIY short, of course! The prize was called the premio de la Cofradía de la Inmundicia (Guild of Filth). And it was given by a couple of women, one of which managed to avoid gendered speech by substituting words ending in "o" (which are generally masculine in Spanish) with "e", which is absolutely non-standard, rarely seen outside some rather radical written texts, and absolutely fantastic! Kudos to them! And the winner? A short with differently-abled people. Cool!

It's pure luck we caught this festival on its last day. It's so invigorating to see normally invisibilized (by heteronormative consumer patterns) sexualities, bodies and attitudes being celebrated and rendered visible . Absolutely loved it!

Friday, June 12, 2015

let's talk feminism

Last weekend was amazing! There were two events I enjoyed greatly, but right now I'll just talk about the first one.

So, this friend of mine had told me there was going to be some conference on transsexuality or diversity or something. It sounded interesting (as vague as it was), it wasn't far (a 20-30 minute walk), and this guy is pretty interesting and intellectual, so I figured the conference should be ok.

Well, when we arrived, we found out it wasn't so much a conference as a seminar, at the Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México (UACM). That actually meant that people that hadn't registered weren't supposed to be there. But we found out that while already in our seats... so we figured we could stay there for an hour or so and leave, or even stay less if it became obvious we were occupying much needed seats, right?

Anyhow, so, what was the seminar about then? Well, first, we heard a lecture by a woman that talked aplenty about feminism. It was fantastic! I had read quite a bit about feminism, but this time I was hearing an approach from a Mexican feminist, and that meant becoming aware of issues like the intersection of ethnicity and gender, which has a very strong relevance in Latin-American. That is, sometimes ethnicity-based discrimination has a bigger impact than gender-based discrimination or, at least, cannot be disentangled from it. Or, in more specific terms, being African-Mexican or an indigenous Mexican that speaks little Spanish is a much bigger hurdle than being a woman. Which is not to say that gender-based discrimination in Mexico or latin-America is not a serious issue, just that it sometimes needs to factor ethnicity in. Enlightening. 

And on top of that she mentioned issues like the problem of inclusion of transgender women in some feminist groups that base their arguments on biology. Or of lesbian issues in circles that consider other feminist issues (beyond queer ones) more important, therefore giving rising to lesbo-feminism...

All in all, very interesting for me. Totally.

Afterwards, it was the turn of Dr. Ignacio Lozano. No, I didn't omit the previous speaker's name out of chauvinism, I just don't know her name! We arrived right after she had started, and her presentation didn't had her name on! On the other hand, the second lecturer had his name on his presentation, and voilà.

Anyhow, you know what's really cool? Well, this was a male that's apparently been excluded a number of times from feminist circles for his biological makeup, yet who argued for the usefulness of feminist theory in his latest study regarding gay males in Mexico City. A very interesting lecture, and a very poignant reminder that feminism may be originally a women-centred movement, but that it has something to say to everybody, especially when it comes to power relationships where people feel a sense of loss upon their realization that they don't participate anymore of the "correct" gendered performance.

This was really one fantastic way to start the day. And it just got better from there! But that will be my next post.

Monday, June 01, 2015

this is how we entertain - Part III

Yes, our wonderful Canadian guests came back for one last weekend with us, after a number of days of adventure in Mexico's smaller towns and wonderful mountains full of micro-climates. And after almost two weeks of Mexican food non-stop, they had but one request - hopefully some non-Mexican fare? LOL Since they arrived Friday night after a long drive, a flat tire in the middle of a deluge, and a super long wait for a cab, we took them to a place around the corner with no fancy food, but definitely a choice between Mexican and foreign dishes. A nice chance to relax, and for them to tell us about their adventures! 

And we agreed that the next day we'd play it by ear. If they got up early, we could go to the pyramids of Teotihuacán. If they got up late, we had back-up plans. If it rained, we had more back-up plans. So we all went to sleep and let Morpheus decide.

Now, not unsurprisingly, we all got up late. And happy. Nothing better than a good night's sleep! And we kept our part of the deal - we winged it, deciding one thing at a time. Which meant going for a late breakfast... but not before a short stroll around the Plaza de la Ciudadela, a square where on weekends mostly senior citizens go to dance or to learn how to dance salsa and the like!

And once we shared with our friends that part of the old historic centre, we were ready for a fully non-Mexican breakfast at one of our favourite places, Panadería Rosetta, with lots of - mostly French-based - delicious options, including amazing bread and super good coffee. And me, I tried something I had never had: oven-baked oatmeal with berries, with frothy almond milk with cinnamon. So. Good. 

With a full and happy stomach, we were ready for the historical part of the day - the ruins of Tlatelolco. I love that place. It really shows the mix Mexico City is, with very clear Aztec ruins, surrounded by both Colonial architecture and the modern city. A real contrast. Plus, for some reason, it's usually overshadowed by both the ruins of Templo Mayor and the ruins of Teotihuacán, so it's normally quiet, calm, and offers itself just to you and a few other strange souls. Quiet, green, ancient. Truly special. BTW, for better pictures of the site, go to the post I mentioned above. These two are just random ones I liked.

But guess what, the ruins have a quite nice museum too, a site devoted to the ancient Aztec city of Tlatelolco. We saw codices (you know, their version of books, like the one below that shows four priests walking, the god Huitzilopochtli speaking, and three men being sacrificed), the emblem of Tlatelolco, some gorgeous flutes (a red one with one end representing a flower, another one with a butterfly antenna at one end), and plenty of items we had never seen or that were carefully placed within context. There were even interactive screens, and I got to know in gruesome detail about hearts and sacrifices too. It might seem a small museum, but I say it's one of those that is exactly the right size. 


And that wasn't all. You see, the square by the ruins is the Plaza de Tlatelolco. It has seen a generally violent history, but the most recent event was the Masacre de Tlatelolco, when the Mexican government unleashed chaos and its forces upon peaceful students and mostly ordinary people demonstrating. It was one dark day, October 2nd 1968. My mother was there, and she luckily escaped by leaving early. So, there's this incredibly detailed memorial, that takes you along from even years before the event until that very night. It's really superbly done, although there are absolutely no English translations. It even goes  a bit beyond that fateful night, showing you Mexico's newspapers unashamedly publishing ridiculous stories about "foreign terrorists" trying to "tarnish" Mexico's upcoming Olympic games. Which went on, as expected. It seems the Olympic Committee was about as worried about human rights back then as it is now. But I digress - this is one great exhibition about one horribly shameful event in Mexico's history where human lives mattered way less than putting on a nice show for the world to celebrate sport.

After that very, very intense experience (the ruins, the museum about Tlatelolco, the massacre memorial), we were ready for lunch. And since we were still in the "no more Mexican food, please" mood, we took our friends to another favourite of ours - Min Sok Chon, for authentic Korean food! The banchan (the side dishes) is amazing and abundant, and the food is unbeatable. And at some point they offered us a second round of banchan! It was good, good, good. And we shared another favourite of ours with our friends! Even better!

By then, one of our friends and my habib were ready for a nap, so we headed to Paseo de la Reforma for a brief look at one of the more iconic monuments of our city, the Angel of Independence. Because, like, I was not letting these friends leave without a look at it!

And then we were ready to drop my habib and a friend off for a nap, while my other friend and me went off in search of sweets to take back to Canada as sweets and, having failed at that (the place was already closed) we brought back home some interesting artisan chocolates for one last simple dinner we had planned with a couple other friends (one of which had celebrated her 40th birthday recently). That was one long, interesting walk, where we talked about opportunities, inequality, poverty... we both had similar worries, but we did have to admit Canada and Mexico faced challenges of rather radically different degree...

Anyhow, once back home, soon our friends showed up for a taste of fig and passion fruit tarts, and the chocolates we had bought (lime and chocolate, mezcal, red berries and chile, and so on...)

And that, I'm afraid, was pretty much the end of it all. Our Canadian friends went to sleep, the rest of us still went to local bar for a mezcal, and next morning I was saying goodbye to our visitors as they took their taxi to the airport, very happy to have shared my city with them, very sad to see them go...