Saturday, February 28, 2009

"No on 8" goes south of the border: Gays in Puerto Vallarta

The plane-ride down to Puerto Vallarta yesterday was crammed full of happy vacationing Americans. No "Great Depression" in evidence here. There were families, surfers, rich dowagers, middle-class couples in Spandex, hotties and druggies on my plane -- but I didn't see any obvious homosexuals. This is surprising because Puerto Vallarta is known for its highly-visible gay community.

"Do you want to go to the coronation of 'Miss Gay Puerto Vallarta' tonight," asked a friend of mine who used to live in Berkeley but who now lives down here year-round. Do I? I can't make up my mind. There is just so much to do down here, I can't seem to fit it all in. Today I have an invitation to go to a talk on Mexico's hallucinogenic plants up at the local botanical garden, an invitation to attend a gathering of local artists and writers, and another invitation to go to a QuinceaƱera -- a coming out party for someone's 15-year-old daughter -- held in one of PV's many working-class neighborhoods. That would be nice except you are supposed to dress up and I have nothing to wear except blue jeans. And then there is always the town of Puerto Vallarta itself to explore.

The issue of homosexuality is being hotly debated in America right now and there is a big movement in California to recall Proposition 8. I'm sure that you all remember that Prop. 8 was that election proposition funded by the Mormon church which now makes marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman illegal -- so I'd like to write something in support of the "No on 8" movement while I'm down here in the so-called gay capital of Mexico, except that writing something about the "Miss Gay Puerto Vallarta" coronation might not exactly help the cause. I think that the image that the "No on 8" people are going for is sort of like June Cleaver marrying June Cleaver or "Father Knows Best" marrying that dad on the Brady Bunch. Clean, wholesome and very Norman Rockwell. And from what I can tell from the posters I've seen around town so far, the newly-coronated Miss Gay Puerto Vallarta is not gonna be staying at home in the kitchen looking like no Betty Crocker.

"I'd like to know more about what the Mexican gay community is like," wrote my friend Richard. Hmmm. I always thought that the gay community in Puerto Vallarta was mostly composed of gay Americans on vacation. But apparently I was wrong.

According to one local resident here, "Many of the homosexuals in Puerto Vallarta are actually Mexican. There are a lot of gays in Mexico and they are fairly well tolerated here too." But are they allowed to marry? Apparently they are. Gay unions are perfectly legal in both Mexico City and in
Coahuila. And there is supposed to be a town somewhere in Guerrero that is populated entirely by gays.

But according to one source I talked with as I was eating tacos I had just bought from a street vendor next to the Cuale River, Americans are not allowed to own land in Mexico. "This restriction came into place when Americans bought land in Texas and California and then used this as an excuse to take Texas and California away from Mexico. But American can become dual citizens of both countries and buy land that way."

So. I spent my first warm and balmy evening in Puerto Vallarta walking along its cobblestone streets, taking funky buses, eating tacos, gawking at tourists soaking in the ambiance -- and buying lemon meringue pie from the PV branch of the Yelapa pie shop. But will I spend my second night in Puerto Vallarta at the "Miss Gay Puerto Vallarta" coronation?
QuiƩn sabe?? Who knows?