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Mexican Capital Aims To Be Oasis For Gays
email this pageprint this pageemail usJennifer Gonzalez - Agence France-Presse
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July 28, 2010

A reveller takes part in the Gay Pride Parade in Mexico City. (Agence France-Presse)
Mexico City Mexico City's gay community has in recent decades turned the capital into a relative oasis in a strongly Catholic country reknowned for its conservatism and machismo.

The authorities in the Mexican capital are now seeking to attract gay tourism, even though there is still widespread discrimination against them.

The city is well placed "to become the first gay friendly destination in Latin America," said tourism secretary, Alejandro Rojas.

In March, the urban sprawl of some 20 million people celebrated the first legal gay and lesbian weddings in Latin America. And this week, authorities said they had opened the first tourism office for homosexuals in the region.

Gay tourists are discerning, respectful and spend 47 percent more than heterosexual tourists, Rojas said.

His leftist city government last week offered a free honeymoon here to the first gay couple to wed in Argentina after that country legalized same-sex marriages in the whole country.

In Mexico City's Zona Rosa district, a hub for the homosexual community, gay actor Tito Vasconcelos applauded the advances but underlined that "there's a lack of consistency between statements and reality," for Mexico's gay community.

Vasconcelos, the owner of Los Cabaretitos chain of discotheques, was among a small group who joined a student protest in 1978 in the first public appearance of the gay and lesbian community here. Last June, more than 400,000 people took part in the capital's annual gay pride march.

"There's a lot more to do," Vasconcelos said.

"One of the most important things is training for justice officials," he said, adding many did not know how to respond to attacks on gay people.

He also underlined that the attorney general has lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court against the capital's approval of gay marriages and opening of the way for adoptions.

The law provoked a wave of uproar from religious groups and conservatives including President Felipe Calderon, and a string of states are seeking to apply measures to specifically prohibit gay marriages.

Nora Huerta, from four-girl lesbian theater group "The Pretty Queens," said that, even in the capital, attitudes had not changed much.

"Mexico City is an oasis, but there's still a long way to go, starting with the fact that there's still discrimination in the capital even though there's a law which prohibits it," Huerta said.

Dario T. Pie, who dresses up on stage as legendary Mexican actress Maria Felix, said it had been a long fight to be able to put on such shows.

"We've suffered attacks from conservative sectors, but with enormous benefits because when something is banned or censored, people run to see it."

Pie said institutions needed more guidance on avoiding discrimination.

This year, complaints from homosexuals across Mexico doubled, although that was partly because people are more aware of their rights, said Ricardo Bucio, from the National Council to Prevent Discrimination.

Some 645 homophobic killings have been reported since 1995, according to the council, including the death of a transexual activist this month in central Hidalgo state.

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