La Zona Rosa: Jordan Coulombe in (and on) Mexico City
Writer, queer academic, and film buff Jordan Coulombe (aka Van Tassel) spent 6 months in the Distrito Federal and learned all of the best haunts in their version of a Village, La Zona Rosa. For the record, Coulombe does NOT recommend you see the film entitled *La Zona Rosa* by Hermanas Producciones (banner photo).
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Sunbathing in the Mexican heat, a cathedral sits across from Aztec ruins. Underneath towering palm trees in a lush urban park, men walk by holding hands. The gay population of Mexico City has found new strength since the city passed a number of liberal policies, including same-sex marriage. Forget what you’ve heard about the crime and the pollution, the Distrito Federal (or Dé Efé, as it is known) is a megalopolis of rich culture where gay visitors are warmly welcomed.
The Zona Rosa, literally the pink zone, is the epicenter of gay Mexico. Amberes street, centrally located between the city’s historic center and Chapultepec park (the largest urban park in Latin America), holds the highest concentration of gay establishments in town. While sipping your cerveza, you can watch the city’s most fashion-conscious youth walk the strip, headed to BoyBar or Lipstick, the trendy multi-story complex with a large rooftop terrace. You may be surprised to find people in the Zona Rosa equally eager to practice their French as their English but, whatever the language, you will be greeted with typical Latin hospitality.
If you find the drinks at Lipstick overpriced and the clientele a little too clean-cut then it is well worth taking a few minute walk to El Almacen, which has a more raw, working-class vibe and greater age diversity. There is no sign marking the bar so you’ll have to rely on the nuts and bolts above the door, and the mustachioed men smoking outside, to know you’ve found your way. During the day you should try taking a short walk south along Avenida Insurgentes and stop at the orange tarps that line the sidewalks. Here you’ll find señoritas hawking gay film rarities on DVD, not to mention libraries worth of porn.
Just a couple blocks from Palacio de Bellas Artes, the cultural center of Mexico City, you’ll find Republica de Cuba Street, another gay strip with a more intimate community vibe. Watch the drag queens at Oasis perform passionate renditions of Mexican anthems while the audience chimes in holding shots of tequila up in the air as if they were lighters. Just a few paces down, behind old saloon doors is Marrakech, a small but lively bar with a young hip crowd. A sign at the exit reads “Thank you for your sexual preference.”
Taking a ride down Insurgentes will bring you to the chic Colonia Condesa, the fabulously art-deco home of the city’s bohemian bourgeoisie. Here you will find the very cruisy Tom’s Leather Bar. Modeled after a gothic cathedral, this pit is known for its well-equipped go-go dancers. Be warned, the washrooms are on the other side of a dimly lit backroom so prepare to make some new friends on your way. In fact, get used to making friends everywhere you go. Mexicans, notorious for inviting complete strangers over for dinner, are some of the friendliest people in the world. In one of the most populated cities on Earth the odds are in your favour that you’ll make at least a few connections.
As you stroll from one place to the next you can’t help but notice the ever-present image of the Virgen de Guadalupe, a patron saint and “Queen of Mexico” that adorns nearly every storefront and cathedral. She is looking out for you. May she watch down on your sins from every possible direction.
BoyBar, Amberes 14
Tel. +52 (551) 139-15
Lipstick, Amberes 1 (cnr Paseo de la Reforma)
Tel. +52 (551) 449-20
El Almacen, Florencia 37-A
Tel. +52 (520) 707-27
Oasis, Republica de Cuba 2-G
Tel. +52 (552) 197-40
Marrakech, Republica de Cuba 18
Tom’s Leather Bar, Insurgentes Sur 357
Tel. +52 (556) 407-28