Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mexico City: Gay Gringos Engorge

New friends at Tom's Leather Bar!
The frenetic, friendly La Cuidad de Mexico is among my top 5 favorite land-locked destinations – rivaled in the Americas only by Sao Paulo and Bogota. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be a gringo – that is, exotic in such a spot. Whether they offer each other seats on a bus – or even to you first – or eagerly provide directions (even if they don’t have the right ones) everyone tries to help you. Mexico City offers the most inexpensive, manageable big city with a giant gay scene in the Americas – with amazing food and the best people in the world.

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Yumm molé!
While the temperature here at a higher altitude stays relatively constant (and never very cold, or very hot) heavy rains from June through October (though the sun shines through between downpours) mean you should plan your visit for early spring or late fall. Pride in June is typically includes rain – but when you’re around so many smiling faces, the rain doesn't matter! My recent 2 week visit around Halloween and El dia de los Muertos (another exciting – and gay – period; you know gays love costume!) only had a couple brief periods of rain – definitely my recommendation for a time to go!

Can't beat those tacos - just drink them with beer, not the water!
While the first reason to come to Mexico City is for the people – the second is definitely for the food. Try the 6 different types of Mole – or have the incredible tacos or tamales. You like spicy things right? That’s what truly makes some of the foods – but others won’t need it. For a reasonable good place in the center try the sopa at La Parroquia (Centro Historico location). Feeling like kitsch-old fashioned but yummy meal? Get the Chiles de Nogada at the Hosteria de Santa Domingo. It’s true that especially for those with untraveled tummies may have trouble here. My advice is always just to have a beer with your meal – or perhaps a margarita or mojito! Although I’m not a beer drinker most everyone is here – try Indio or Victoria for great darker selections (that’s usually my choice) – and add the michelada (usually lime & spices) to make it more Mexican! Remember in mexico our limes (green) are called "lemon" - I'm still unclear if they have (yellow) lemons!

Dependable fun, each night of the week, karaoke & drag!
The gay scene is divided basically into three areas – enough to truly provide something for everyone, the traditional “Zona Rosa” (PinkZone) has a number of bars and a few clubs where you can go anytime. Papi or next door at Candyland for a drink and lively music or Cabaré-Tito for a drag show any night, karaoke also there or over at Touch. Country Western? Vaqueros. Weekends find the 18+ crowd (who can drink here) at Lollipop or try Kinky. The problem is that there are few places to get decent food in this area. However, I used Kemi Pizza as my base of operations because they had dollar (13 pesos) slices and free wi-fi that worked next store at Papi.

Gritty gay clubs in the center!
In the city center, La Purisima and Marrakech on the weekends (especially on Thursday nights, when it's still packed but not ridiculous) anchor a grittier gay section. Honestly, I stayed in the grittier parts – and attended Halloween parties – so I missed the regular weekend in the city. After hours, meaning 4am and on - go to Teatro Garibaldi - friends will guide you there. Across town in the rich area, Polanco is where you’ll find posh clubs, drink prices on par with NYC and you should probably wear more than just graphic T. Main clubs Envy for Friday’s and GUILT every Saturday both require $20 cover – and come early – at 11pm since it fills up fast.  If you truly want to be fancy you can reserve a table!
8 bucks for a vodka pitcher!
Outside of any particular area - but still downtown - include Tom’s Leather bar which is packed full of not only older but younger guys on Tuesday nights (and often gives out free entry if you stay till the end, for the following week) and Club 52, a cool venue and decent party on Wednesdays (enjoy one of these cocktail pitchers - like 4 drinks for $8! If you want a map of every spot - check out this google map of the many flagged locations - but be sure to double check things often change. Also Time Out has a great section on gay Mexico City - if you speak spanish!

Friendliness abounds – but sometimes (especially as a gringo) this might also mean drama. As I drunkenly danced (as well as up on stage) with new friends La Purisima on a Thursday – an adorable (young) guy and I started to exchange glances – but when I approached his friend pointed out his (also dashing) boyfriend. I backed off – but my guy still kept grabbing me behind his bf’s back! Somehow I managed to give him my card (yep, it does take two) and days later he Facebooked me and we met up in Zona Rosa for dinner. He told me he broke up with his boyfriend – but guess what happened when we sat down at the only decent, very popular & gay spot in the pink zone Casa de Toño and - his ex sent a picture of us, moments earlier – walking arm and arm along the main gay street Amberes…  He still messages me daily – and I’m thankful for the great Spanish practice! He wants me to come live with him in Mexico City… I’m sure you can guess how old he is.

Protests for the disappeared close the city center
Despite all the fun and frivolity – Mexico City can be but an island of functionality, [marriage] equality and general prosperity juxtaposed against a backdrop of drug-cartel-controlled surrounding areas. September 26 will go down in history as a major flash-point – that day Iguala city police (just 130 miles outside of Mexico City) rounded up 43 student protesters and handed them over to brutal drug traffickers who allegedly then tortured and killed the students, burning and dumping their remains. Thousands of Mexicans have disappeared (even a friend noted he knew someone hiding from drug lords because he refused to pay a tribute). This egregious massacre turned heads and hearts. Yet, with the drug trade alive and well – (due also to use in the US) it’s still unclear what it will take to change the power of drug cartels.

While I was there, students from every school in Mexico City marched in a protest-parade to call attention to the many disappearances across the country. It was incredible to see the main thoroughfare of the city closed and filled with agitated people shouting for justice – this may disrupt transportation – be wary of the subways during these periods – and also rush hour (especially the central pink line). Unless you don’t mind being squeezed into subway cars and jostled!
Teotihuacan - Pyramids of the Americas

If you need to duck out from the hustle – take a trip over to UNESCO site Teotihuacan to see some of the “Pirimides” some of the oldest structures in North America. Definitely worth the 1-2 hour bus trip (and $4 ride) take a friend and enjoy the beautiful stonework – and the grand sight. Although this is one of those, check-off-the-box places – meaning I’m not likely to go back unless I’m showing a close friend – it’s definitely worth seeing!

While it may be in some general (justified) upheaval over the recent disappearances– Mexico City itself seems as safe as any big city can be – and the vast majority of its people will always bend over backwards to help you if you do find yourself in a jam (although don’t trust those taxi-drivers, watch for your destination on GPS!). And you don’t really need to worry about the narcos if you’re not Mexican – but of course be mindful of your surroundings. Easier still to simply find yourself a guide – some Mexicans are so generous they will beg you to be at your side!

Video coming soon - my coup - dancing on stage with
Spanish DJ/drag group "Que Trabaje Rita" in Mexico City