photo RSMAtnWebAdRed13.jpg

San Miguel Becoming One of México’s More Gay Friendly Cities

Morgana

Portada 1

Diputada Katya Soto

Guadalupe Álvarez

By Jesus Aguado

In Guanajuato, where the conservative PAN party has held power since 1995, legislators have never legalized same-sex marriage, even though it is legal a mere four-and-a-half hours away in México City. To date, Guanajuato politicians have treated the question of same-sex marriage as a cultural and family matter, not one that should be legislated.

While this would appear to make San Miguel de Allende a city that is intolerant of gay rights, in some places where the rubber meets the road, the city has emerged as one that embraces diversity. The latest bit of proof is a likely official Gayfriendly designation for the city by federal tourism officials, in cooperation with the local tourism council.

The Secretaria de Turismo Federal (Federal Tourism Secretariat), known as SECTUR, together with Comisión Nacional para la Prevención de la Discriminación (National Commission for the Prevention of Discrimination), known as CONAPRED, have been collaborating to make México a gay-friendly country, and the Gayfriendly designation is one of the ways they reward Mexican cities for having a tolerant atmosphere among local businesses and in the city’s culture.

According to these two agencies’ data, more than 3.5 million LGBTTTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Transvestite and Intersex persons visit México each year When asked what incentives cities have to market to such tourists, representatives from these agencies point out, for example, how LGBTTTI tourists are more frequently childless and tend to spend more money when they travel because they have a great deal of disposable income not committed to childrearing costs. SECTUR’s data indicates that, on average, members of the LGBTTTI community spend up to four nights in México even during the lowest points of the tourist season. Some of the most popular Mexican destinations for this traveler demographic are Puerto Vallarta, Cancún, México City, and Guadalajara.

According to SECTUR, México is the third most-visited place in Latin America after Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. And so the agency has strategized to attract the LGBTTTI community by working with various Mexican tourist destinations like Oaxaca, México City, Puebla, Morelia, and San Miguel. It has worked to standardize services and to accredit tourism professionals focusing on this demographic group. In the last four years, SECTUR has signed international agreements in a further attempt to attract the LGBTTTI community worldwide to vacation in México.

Gay-friendly businesses

Even though there are is no official data as to how many members of the LGBTTTI community live in or visit San Miguel annually, it is believed that the numbers are large. Edgar Zamudio, director of San Miguel’s Consejo Turistico (Tourism Council), said that because of these high numbers, the Tourism Council has offered a Gayfriendly certification to businesses that advertise services specifically to LGBTTTI tourists.

“The response was interesting. SECTUR could certify 15, and we certified 18,” Zamudio said.

Certification helps LGBTTTI customer identify gay-friendly businesses where they will be sure to be welcomed, and it helps the participant businesses identify the demands of the sector.

“The certification lasts two years,” Zamudio added. “The service providers attend workshops to learn [how to better] serve and promote [their services] to the sector. We can then be part of the list of Mexican gay-friendly places promoted nationwide by SECTUR. We want to make more noise, but the issue of LGBTTTI continues being a taboo subject for people—families are uncomfortable with the issue. [So] we want to open [San Miguel’s] market so that everyone will come.”

The fact that San Miguel has not positioned itself as a place for same-sex weddings is not state legislators’ responsibility but that of families, he said. “It’s not a political issue, it’s a cultural one.”

Same-sex destination weddings

In San Miguel, there are more than 600 weddings celebrated each year, bringing in an economic flow of up to three million pesos. Guadalupe Álvarez, a representative of Penzi Weddings, told us that she has officiated same-sex weddings but that the local Registro Civil (Civil Registry) would not give out a marriage license to same-sex couples..

And so, foreigners “get married in their country or state, where it’s legal, and then come to San Miguel for a spiritual ceremony,” she said.

Nick and Guillermo are an example of this phenomenon. They came from the United States to get married in San Miguel. Guillermo told Atención they did so because San Miguel is one of his favorite cities.

“The architecture, crafts, and, above all, the friendliness of the residents—this made it better to have our wedding here,” he said.

Another reason he gave was that they could have their wedding, organized by Penzi, over a three-day period here.

“Our background is Mexican. We very much enjoyed exposing our families and friends to our culture. To have our wedding in San Miguel was a phenomenal experience.”

The couple’s guests did not stop talking about how much they liked the city and how everything was near their hotel in Centro, Guillermo said. They and their guests all went shopping while in town.

“We always felt safe and were never worried about having a gay wedding in Centro. All the people with whom we dealt were extremely helpful and friendly and made us feel at ease.” The grooms ended their ceremony by declaring, “Love is love.”

Even though same-sex marriage is not legal in Guanajuato, when people see these wedding processions, “They love it,” Álvarez said. “They clap for the brides or grooms. More than anything, it makes them more accepting of the idea.”

Even though Álvarez believes San Miguel is more open to LGBTTTI issues, she did add, “It comes down to how each person is,” she said. “I have always had gay friends, but this is probably not the norm.”

Learning to serve

One establishment certified as Gayfriendly is Hotel la Morada. In an interview with Laura Torres Septién, one of the hotel’s business partners who arrived in San Miguel 16 years ago, she said that the hotel recently decided to become Gayfriendly certified—although it has always been inclusive—because the hotel wanted to specialize professionally in this demographic.

To obtain certification, businesses take SECTUR-sponsored workshops on marketing to the LGBTTTI community.

“The workshops gave us an opportunity to get to know what was expected from the sector and how to attend to them in the best way,” she said.

Since the hotel is centrally located, it was important to learn and deal with all kinds of tourism, including LGBTTTI, she said.

“They are adults who normally come looking for culture and gastronomy, and a hotel near Centro is close to all of that,” she said.

In San Miguel, she added, the community continues to grow because of the amenities the city offers. Since her arrival 16 years ago, she has seen the question of diversity become a more open one.

“San Miguel has found the balance between being a city for families, young people, and adults and one that is sustainable. We are looking for alternatives, something other than traditional tourism. The mix is happening, and we can have perfect coexistence.”

One congressperson’s response

Katya Soto represents Guanajuato’s ninth congressional district, which includes San Miguel de Allende. She said that she is working for equality among all men and women, so that everyone has the same rights in their public and private lives. However, when we pressed her on whether or not that includes the LGBTTTI community, she answered in generalities, saying, “We legislate for men and women independently of their condition. We have a family-oriented vision. That equality is for both men and women, as people, as members of families.”

We asked her if she supports same-sex marriage. She stated again that she believes in the family, and did not want to elaborate.

“I could not promote something different for the family,” she said. “We should all be equal. I am working. It’s difficult for us to share our visions, but I want San Miguel residents to feel secure that the issues of equality and parity will be respected.”

Morganna Love, a woman who raises her voice

Atención also interviewed Aleiza, a San Miguel resident and professional soprano who is a member of the local LGBTTTI community. She performs under the name Morganna Love. She has frequently raised her voice to defend the community.

Jesus Aguado: How do you feel when you are in San Miguel?

Morganna Love: I feel at home, which I did not feel in the past from this viewpoint. This is where I am mentally and emotionally. This is where my house is, my family, my friends, the people who support me.

JA: Have you seen changes in San Miguel regarding sexual and gender diversity?

ML: A lot of changes. I never had an opportunity to talk about this with anyone. Now I see that the issue is up front. I see my friends; I see the children of my girlfriends, who are talking about the issue. They put it out there and have more confidence in speaking about it. A society that has trust in the family creates better human beings, with values and with communication and expression.

JA: With the transition that you have lived through, how do you think that people see you?

ML: People see me as a woman who has fought against everything, [as someone for whom] it was very difficult to get what she wanted, but she got it because she had the courage to confront aggression and bullying, what a woman confronts in society aside from ingrained machismo. They see me as a woman of courage.

Yes, I have to say that many people see me and will always see me as an aberration; they’ve written me about that. There is some of everything. I like to see how people react, but I do know who is happy and who isn’t because they criticize others to make themselves feel better.

JA: Where have you felt the happiest?

ML: I feel happy everywhere. After [gender reassignment] surgery, my “chip” changed and I’ve felt content. Three favorite places: Aside from SMA, which is wonderful, Playa del Carmen, Belgium and London, I loved being there.

I spent three months in Europe; it was the first time I was there for work, for my passion, for what I am, and for what I love to do. It was not for the transition. I was there for the new life that I am living. I feel at ease, in my element. I worked. I focused on acting, concerts. I enjoyed it. It was me. I was at peace.

JA: What is your opinion about same-sex marriage?

ML: Nobody is in a position to deny rights to people. We all have the same rights. Everyone has a right to love and to marry. My male and female friends don’t want to get married, but that’s not the point; we cannot deny anyone the right.

JA: How do you support the movement?

ML: I support the community by being visible, more so all the time, by the things I do, like La Voz México. We touch on the issue. I wanted people to see that diversity has talent and that sexuality is not what defines us but talent, just like the rest of the world.

I support them by doing important things as an actress, as a singer. Diverse people can do good things and lift México up.

 

Love will perform August 10 at the La Vindimia harvest festival, organized by the Vincola Toyán vineyard. She will perform songs from her album, Dos Vidas en Una (Two Lives in One). Soon she hopes for the screening of several movies in which she has recently appeared, including one in which she is the protagonist.

 

BOX

San Miguel City Auditor stated that no group in San Miguel de Allende has ever proposed any petition related to LGBTTTI issues.

“This is a government of the people. We are in favor of inclusion and respect for diversity,” he said. “San Miguel de Allende is a very diverse city, and respect predominates. I am in favor of everyone deciding for himself what he needs and wants to do. The council is open to petitions. We will always be against any aggression against personal liberties. I feel I am speaking for the [city] council. We all take the same position.”

 

Comments are closed

 photo RSMAtnWebAdRed13.jpg
 photo RSMAtnWebAdRed13.jpg

Photo Gallery

 photo RSMAtnWebAdRed13.jpg
Log in | Designed by Gabfire themes All original content on these pages is fingerprinted and certified by Digiprove