Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

My Posts

{photos, text, video}

The last meanderings: separación and closure

Time June 11th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Creo que eso sería mi último post, y aunque ya he regresado a los Estados Unidos, al vecino tan complicado del norte, escribiré algo más para resumir mis sentimientos y mi experiencia y otras sugerencias que tengo, con el regalo de una visión a posteriori.

I think this will be my last real post, and, even though I have officially been back in the United States, that complicated neighbor to the north, for a few weeks now, I will write one more post to sum up my experience and feelings and other suggestions I have come up with, given the gift of hindsight. I think it’s difficult for me to let go what is already past and for this reason I have prolonged this post!! Alright, enough psycho-analyzing…

Photos included in this post: enchiladas de mole y pollo, frijol y fideo (pasta and black bean soup, so satisfying), arroz relleno; new and improved gay map with landmarks in stars!; poster for the events of UADY’s Facultad de Psicología first annual week of Sexuality—I went to Friday’s events; REPA-VIH’s clever (Con)Dones poster; more safe sex pictures and tchotchke at REPA-VIH center; tamal dulce—sweet tamales with pineapple and coconut, such a beautiful culinary revelation for me; and another food dish, since I haven’t focused so much on the delicious creations my dear host mother has whipped up for me, of yuca asada, roasted yucca root soaked in oil, WOW. Yucca is the state plant of New México but never have I eaten it so deliciously as in México.

So there’s another place listed on the gay map of Mérida that I went to—Café La Habana on Calle 60, which at the beginning of Miguel’s and my ventures into researching the scene, was listed as a very gay-friendly street. Besides the connection to La Habana itself that I had recently visited with our program group, I saw no resemblance to any queer-friendliness. Good frappuccino though! I went there after visiting the Parque Centenario free-entrance zoo a little to the south of the heart of downtown. Across the street were

You might recall that Miguel and I were eagerly trying to track down the meeting spot of Buenas Intenciones, the LGBT resource center and conversational space that was listed in the IFSA guidebook under the LGBT Student Resources section. Well, we were unsuccessful in that endeavor, perhaps because the address was slightly off and we were searching in el centro at night. However, in a fortuitous, full-circle twist of chance, I discovered with Berenice, an ambassador and partner-in-crime for exploring Mérida and its queer aspects, REPA-VIH, a support and community center dedicated to the prevention of HIV (VIH—virus de inmunodeficiencia humana—in Spanish) and safe sex for gay people, men especially. Bere had told me about a movie screening there, which they do a few times a month, of Cuatro Lunas, a cinematic tale of four different gay male stories and how they touch each other tangentially. Highly recommend, four stars for sure. Explored so many taboos and shattered some entrenched stereotypes about parental reception and acceptable age for sexual activity, featuring a boy of 12 and a grandfather in his seventies or sixties, while also keeping a romantic comedy vibe for a couple of the young men’s stories.

Address of REPA-VIH, right behind Café Impala, one of the coolest most delicious cafés in Mérida, in my opinion, in existence since 1959: 414-C Calle 54 entre 47 x 49, listed on my new gay map. The photos are of the posters and paraphernalia all around the foyer for having safe gay sex—well, really safe sex no matter what your gender or sexual orientation. The funniest was the poster of Los Dones—Don is a prefix of respect/rank for men, as is Doña for women, and when you are with all your favorite Dones, you are con Dones—and condones are condoms! (ba dum tiss.) The moderator of the screening and following discussion made mention of his surprise to see more women than usual at the center, because it is a primarily gay man’s resource place. I was also asked by the moderator where I hailed from after I asked a question in an accented voice, something I cannot help try as I might, along with my distinctive looks, and even though Bere and I were holding hands, obviously together, they zealously and sweetly bestowed us with two packets of lubricant and condoms….that place takes safe sex very seriously! I was very interested to hear what those in attendance—the movie screening had a full room for an audience—had to say about praising the amplified representation of people like them in cinema. People commented especially about the young boy and old man, and how important it is to understand that sexuality is such a broad spectrum and range that it can’t be confined to a convenient or pretty age or gender section.

On my very last day in México, Friday, May 8, 2015, I attended two lectures as part of the Facultad de Psicología Primera Semana de Sexualidad (First Annual Week of Sexuality–poster featured in photos)—one by psychology Professor Rossana Achach, and another a presentation of a research project by four UADY Psicología students. Professor Achach’s lecture was entitled “Transexualidades” and explored the historical precedents of gender dysphoria, German-American endocrinologist and sexologist Harry Benjamin performed the first transgender surgery in 1931; according to a study by Barrio in 2008, 1 out of every 30,000 Mexican inhabitants was reported as transgender. La maestra explained everything with professionalism, humoring questions that were sometimes very sensationalist and intensely curious (for example, asking how a transgender person, especially female–>male/FTM, could have sex…she responded as I though in my head the same, “You can all probably use your imagination of the millions of ways humans get pleasure from each other”) from the largely student audience. She dissipated any tensions or awkward giggles, which I admired immensely. She showed slides and short film segments of many famous transgender people, including the first transgender model and subsequent national icon, Brazilian Roberta Close. In terms of psychology, Professor Achach also reviewed the criteria needed for administering any level of transgender sex change surgery, hormones, etc., and the counseling needed to accompany it. I was really glad this was part of the first annual week of sexuality.

The second presentation was of research entitles, “Las lesbianas no se crean ni se destruyen, sólo se transforman”: “Lesbians Aren’t Created Nor Destroyed, They Just Transform.” This was curious because only about 7 subjects of the university age who had been or currently were in long-term lesbian relationships were interviewed; apparently the students had problems retaining the others who had agreed to the group surveys. What was fascinating about the studies was internalized discrimination in their focus group along with external prejudice from institutional pressures like the church or family. Branches of internalized discrimination were related to conduct, affect, and intellect, and whether or not a self-identified lesbian was “authentically” lesbian enough. The discussion on how differently identified—more masculine, bisexual, of lower economic status—lesbians were looked down upon by other groups of lesbians was sadly a familiar one. Again, I was expecting a broader range of interviewees but the students did say that they were hoping someone else, another student researcher, perhaps, would take over and expand this research. Anyone out there interested??? :) All in all a very convivial and open atmosphere to talk about a wide range of sexuality issues, and a student approached me after to ask if I attended that Facultad or if I was visiting from elsewhere. A nice feeling to be asked if I attended that university as a regular student. I am proud of these students and professors I don’t even know for broaching such still-touchy topics.

Over and out,

Peace and hearts and friendship (oh dear, getting sappy at a distance here…)

Your faithful correspondent,

Emily

Share

Viajando con vivaciousness: travel chronicles and Cuba’s queer surprise

Time May 19th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hola hola mis lectores fieles (espero que hayan algunos, jaja)!

Hello hello my faithful readers (hopefully there are some by that description :) )!

I am still recounting back in time (because I tend to write about events very posthumously), but it’s totally worth your while. Before Flor de Yucatán, which was during the last weekend of Semana Santa/Pascua vacations, I embarked on a few weekend and day trips, and during the second week of break our whole (minus one :( ) gaggle of IFSA gals and Miguel followed our directors Diana and Cintia (who is originally Cuban) to CUBA, La Habana (or Havana, spelled both ways apparently) to be specific. But before I get ahead of myself….

Because Berenice is from Campeche but hasn’t explored much of that state except for Ciudad del Carmen and Isla Aguada, the small island where she’s from, we thought it would be fun to stay in San Francisco de Campeche, the state’s northern-coastal capital. Founded in 1540, the very heart of the city has no overhead wires—it’s all buried underground—and features high sidewalks in case of flooding, incredibly colorful rows of houses, almost a dozen baluartes and fuertes (bastions and forts), very much intact vestiges of the days of defending against English and Dutch pirates like the (in)famous Francis Drake in the 1600s. “Campeche” itself comes from the Mayan name Xtabay, que significa “lugar de serpientes y garrapatas,” which means “land of snakes and ticks,” curiously. Pictures of Campeche include: conchas from Pomuch, Mayan pueblo renowned for its STELLAR breads (the stone sign of the bakery we went to says, If I should die and be reborn, a baker I shall be); a huge statue of a Campechano fighter whose base reads, Everything is possible with the force of a pueblo, or, Todo lo puede el esfuerzo de un pueblo; a botanic garden housed within an old fort; Baluarte San José, whose entrance is curved in order to prevent any bullets from reaching the door (clever right??)

San Cristóbal de las Casas is another venture that I cannot fail to mention. Remember when I went to Palenque with my New Mexican friend Denise, mother of a close friend from high school, and the two of whom have visited Chiapas at least yearly to distribute blankets and to buy inventory from artisans? Well, they have been telling me about San Cristóbal for years and I was blessed to finally be able to meet up with my IFSAs for two days (even the 15-some hour bus ride each way was completely utterly worth the trek). Staying at a hostel without much research and putting total faith in booking myself one bed in a mixed dormitory was a fun and daring decision for me. Such a nice chill hippie vegan place called Hostal Papá Chango. 10/10, would highly recommend. Guadalupe Victoria #18, Colonia Centro. Abundant within the town were markets full of sweets and accompanied by bees swarming the fresh raw honey treats.

I made friends with Julio, a college student from Quintana Roo in the bed next to me, and he joined me as I joined up with some of my IFSA group (in other hostals) to walk around the main streets of San Cristóbal—Avenid Miguel Hidalgo, Calle Noviembre 24, Avenida Insurgentes. Another cool fact: a good 60% of the tiendas on even the most touristy small boulevard were EZLN-run—Frente Emiliano Zapata Liberación Nacional, the revolutionary resistance group in favor of libertarian socialism and with many rural and female supporters. The CHURCHES in San Cristóbal—my goodness, breathtaking and indescribable and numerous. Photographs of this chapter of Semana Santa include: graffiti demanding the return of the 43 missing students; a sweeping vista from the climb up to one church on a hill; overlooking one of the beautiful churches, mountains, and markets, a view farther down on Guadalupe Victoria than my hostal was.

And queerest for last, Cuba offered delightful surprises on the LGBT scene, and I was surprised with how much I learned about the realities of Cuban life in just four days. From the two currencies—25 monedas nacionales that pay salaries nationally (which are on average 25 DOLLARS per MONTH!!!! yikes), equals one CUC, the currency of tourism—to the system of máquinas which are like taxis but really cars driven by a wide range of random people, to the free public education and the system of ranking your potential university major by preference and that you will get the one you want if your examination average is good enough, to the ration system provided by the government, I was so fortunate to get a glimpse of the “real” La Havana.

As it turns out, a fellow Bowdoin friend, who has been Miguel’s best mate throughout college, Caroline, was studying in La Havana this whole semester, so her Cuban boyfriend Ronnie and classmate Janet visited Miguel, Imelda and I (we were staying together in one of the three casas particulares that our program rented from three different señoras—map attached: we stayed in the area to the left of the Cementerio, the city cemetery, and to the south of the Malecón, the sea breakwater/pier). The three brought cake for Miguel’s birthday and Havana Club rum and Coca Cola to make a Cuba Libre [coke and rum YUM—picture of the festivities included] and discussed with us these issues of the government ration and free education and external politics. Both Janet and Ronnie study Marxist/Leninist Philosophy (that’s really what it’s called), which was their third and second choice, respectively.

The Wednesday night we were there, Janet organized us all (13 IFSA-ers…quite a pack) to go to a traveling (around La Habana) gay strip show (but which has an appeal for all audiences) and we lost two of our group members, Gina and Imelda, to a rogue máquina for about half an hour, then regrouped with advice from strangers to find the show at Club las Vegas; Janet and I rode in the same máquina as one of the dancers himself!!!

From an opera singer covering Andrea Bocelli’s Con te partiro in Spanish, to a drag queen performing in the most fabulous red gown, to a series of increasingly-steamy and foggy male dance numbers, to a beautifully tender and extremely well done choreography by two incredibly muscular yet svelt male dancers, to the ambiance of total friendliness, boldness, chat-up-everyone-you-find-intriguing (many gay men clamoring to dance with me [????] and Miguel [makes more sense…]), intimate dance floor, great announcers and súper prideful performances. Photos include part of the Divino strip show and the drag performer in her gown with a complicit/selected member of the audience as a stage guest. I stayed out until 4 am with Miguel and we had such a fantastic time, thanks to his best Bowdoin friend and to our willingness to be flexible, curious, and to soak in the steamy atmosphere and the newness of La Havana’s streets at night.

The remaining photos include a cinema called Fresa y chocolate (which is a movie we watched in our IFSA Spanish class about a gay Cuban man and his relationship to a young straight revolutionary); la señora Mayra who rented us our rooms and the incredible breakfast of papaya, mango, bread and butter, oily scrambled eggs, and mango-orange juice she provided; and the main Catedral of La Havana—incredible impressive and massive.

¡Hasta luego!

Besos para todos,

Peace and happiness,

Over and out,

Emily

Share

Pageants, drag shows, mini travels, weekend and nighttime living, contemplations.

Time May 7th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

¡Buenos días/buenas tardes/buenas noches, mundo lleno de gente bonita! Hello beautiful people in this wacky world!

There is so much that is scary, important, intense, and cruel happening back in the U.S. with continuing civil rights unrest in Baltimore and countless other cities ceaselessly—whether or not the mainstream news covers it—in Nepal with human and cultural devastation, and so many other places, including right here in Mérida, that feels so out of my control. I had a little crisis yesterday about being left with so little time here in México, and wanting my accent to be better, and not being able to see how to reconcile my enjoyment for relaxedly reading narratives and novels by great Latin American thinkers, and for simply spending afternoons laughing until my sides hurt and conversing endlessly with old and new friends, with an intense need to be exacting justice somehow in this terribly senseless and bittersweetly ever-advancing place.

Something that has really helped me this semester to feel useful, at the same time as I am touristing, reading, studying psych and literature, eating, traveling, and having the privilege to indulges in all those sort of visiting activities, is to go for four or five hours every Friday to a CENDI (Centro de Desarrollo Infantil), similar to a daycare center sponsored by government family development programs, in Juan Pablo II, a fraccionamiento named after Pope John Paul II when he visited the city a few decades ago. Photo of the outside included; there have been so many adorable birthday parties for two, three, and four-year-olds celebrated on Fridays, along with Día de la Familia potluck and relay races, and giving little mini-classes about music and rhythm, which didn’t go always as smoothly as expected but still adorable. I have worked with Lactantes (basically babies), Maternal 2 (~ two-year-olds) and Maternal 3 (three- and four-year-olds, some of whom have different physical and developmental challenges).

Comentario: parece que la pansexualidad todavía NO es considerado una sexualidad válida, porque la Profesora Solís Pinto, aunque cuando una compañera de clase Alondra preguntó sobre ella (y algunos comantaron, “pan” como el alimento (bread)? ja ja ja…), dijo que sólo oficialmente se considera bisexualidad, homosexualidad, heterosexualidad las sexualidades en bajo las cuales caen la gente en general. It seems like pansexuality hasn’t reached legitimacy here yet, because my Sexualidad Humana professor, even when asked by a classmate about pansexuality (to which many made a joke about pan which means bread—like, romantically attracted to bread, they asked? ha ha ha), she said only hetero-, homo-, and bisexuality were officially recognized. However, interestingly we have discussed in class an alternative to the Kinsey scale, which was proposed by IMESEX, Instituto Mexicano de Sexualidad. It is a seven-level scale from Fundamentalmente, Básicamente, Preferentemente Heterosexual, to Bisexual, to Preferentemente, Básicamente, Fundamentalmente Homosexual. Quite interesting and more broadly accepting of variations in sexuality.

Knowing that I write this blog, Kari, my friend through Berenice, suggested we go to El Tinglado, a “family friendly restaurant” similar to Eladio’s here, where you only pay for drinks and get large appetizers in a steady flow to make for a pretty fulfilling meal—papadzules, sopa de lima, pan de cazón but with meat instead of fish. BUT the catch is, this restaurant also features drag shows! Kari did mention that this is a classic example of Mérida’s hypocritical openness and familiarity with drag performances by personages such as Cuchi Cuchi and Nani Namu y sus Estrellas, who perform at El Tinglado, and a few other famous drag queens who perform comedy shows in various theaters around the city, yet homophobia for various sexualities in actual lifestyle practice. I was singled out for looking unlike the other girls at my table by one of the drag performers, who questioned me about my musical preferences in order to gauge what to lip sync for her next song, which was really funny for me. A very amusing and friendly atmosphere, with portraits of all the performers on the walls, a very nice stage for the performances, and a convivial vibe from other families and groups of friends visiting. Cool to have a space like that, despite any latent hypocrisy in Meridana culture. Photos included and it is starred on the southeast edge of Mérida in my previous blog post’s map.

The day I went to El Tinglado with Kari, Bere, and one of her recently acquired friends Mari, who also happens to be queer, Mari told us about a play that she was acting in back in her town of Ticul, about an hour and a half east of Mérida, with a theater company that she’s been acting with for years. Called Las Flores del Recuerdo, it was a half-comedic, half-tragic interpretation of Day of the Dead traditions but also how gender relations and violence against women play into honoring the past, the dead, and women who have suffered difficult relationships. Mari played Juana, a women killed at the hands of gender violence committed by her husband and his friends in a moment of rage. Yet another amusing scene had to do with a young boy who kept dying and coming back to life to the chagrin and confusion of his mourning-celebrating-mourning-celebrating family. Laden with Yucatecan jokes and tender humor about life and death, we enjoyed the play as much as we did exploring the beautiful and sweet town of Ticul, which is known for its shoe production, randomly, but also had a lively central plaza with youth bands, lots of motorcyclists, panaderías, and a beautiful church. See photos attached.

Finally, I have been a total of three times now (once after spring break, bear with the non-chronology here) to Pride Disco on the outskirts of the city. Miguel and our friend Imelda from the IFSA program (who said she was battling with her Mexican Catholic upbringing during the whole night but also enjoyed the distinctive diversion) came with Bere, Kari and me to La Flor de Yucatán on April 11, which was a Drag Queen Beauty Contest! Not everyday you see that, and I’ll tell you that the questions were SO MUCH MORE SUBSTANTIVE and hard-hitting than any normal beauty pageant, even Miss Congeniality aside. Here is a link to a video I filmed (it is only accessible to those with the link, for sake of respectable privacy) of part of the pageant https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zC6EXX7I1xc. Questions by the two always hilarious drag commentators/comedians included: What do you think of hormonal treatments? Describe the gay community in three words. If you could, would you change anything about your past? What advice do you have for other queer people living in uncertainty? That kind of thing. Gave me hope and excitement and a sense of tranquility, and made it hard to vote for just one (I think Alexandra won, she definitely had a lot of confidence and chutzpah. Also the costumes and swimsuit portions were done so professionally that I’m pretty sure everyone was wondering, are these women or men? And that’s not what matters, after all—it’s about how one presents oneself, and they did that spectacularly. The best part was the incredible number of FANS each contestant had! Families, friends were all gathered to show their support loud and proud. Another night with Kari’s roommate Jared we went back to LesViernes, and had a grand time dancing after the show of, we all realize, female dancers who are not really lesbians…whereas we imagined that the male strippers were probably gay. Funny how things work. The good thing is that Pride seems like a good place of employment if you are interested in pursuing dancing and strip teasing for work.

Sidebars!

Phrases/REFRANES de mis padres/amigos yucatecos:

Éramos muchos y parió la abuela. (As if we didn’t have enough problems already…)

Árbol que crece torcido jamás su rama endereza. (A crooked branch never straightens)

El ojo del amo engorda al caballo (si miras no te van a robar). (Vigilance pays off and saves you from robbery… or something like that)

Un clavo saca otro clavo. (The quickest way to get over one partner is to get under another / A new worry takes your mind off the old one)

Está lloviendo a cántaros (está diluviando). (It’s raining cats and dogs)

Ojo por ojo, diente por diente. (An eye for an eye)

De tal palo, tal astilla. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree)

Tanto peca el que mata a la vaca como es que le jala la pata. (The accomplice is as guilty as he who commits the crime / Bystanders are as guilty as perpetrators)

Agua que no has de beber, déjala correr. (Live and let live)

Quien no arriesga, no gana. (No risk, no gain)

La gota que derramó el vaso. (Literally, the drop that made the glass overflow / The straw that broke the camel’s back)

Fulano de tal, no rompe un plato (versión limpia) (A pretty face can be deceiving / Looks innocent but can be capable of something sneaky ….)

A mi me haces lo que el viento a Juárez (No matter what someone tells you, you aren’t going to change your mind; no storm or wind affects you)

Chispas: “damn!”

Chueco=crooked

¡Hasta luego, amores! Gracias por leer; thanks for reading :)

Over and out,

Emily <3

Share

Encuentros aleatorios: Odds and ends, cafés and sexologists

Time April 30th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

¡Buenos días/Buenas tardes/Buenas noches, mundo!

Es el 19 de abril de 2015 y soy una escritora muy muy pésima. Aunque arrepiento por tardar, no lamento las experiencias a la vez tan cotidianas y ricas que he tenido aquí.

I am an incredibly tardy and shady writer, for which I repent and regret, but I am so glad to have had the plethora of little, satisfactory outings in El Centro and nearby Mérida—mostly involving delicious drinks and food, walking and sightseeing, snippets of golden and easy flowing conversations with all sorts of people, things to do that are at once everyday mundane and richly fulfilling.

So back in early March, I went out to breakfast with Bere, my very close Campechana friend (actually, Carmelita is a better term we discovered, since she is from just outside Ciudad del Carmen) and her friend Kari to All Natural (yummy health smoothies), where we were met by Kari’s former coworker Violeta from the private school where Kari does visual design, and friend Renán Solís, who turns out to be a gay sexologist. Link to his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ren%C3%A1n-Sol%C3%ADs-Sex%C3%B3logo/565613436885294?fref=photo and to a video in which he guest appeared for a talk show type video blog run by three women who invite guests to talk over coffee about summer loves: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x103f1r_amor-de-verano_shortfilms. He and Violeta, also a psychologist, shared their methodology for tissue placement in their offices, how to navigate patient relations, etc.—and as I am taking Sexualidad Humana and Psicología Educativa at Modelo, I was so excited to hear that Renán actually taught at Modelo, too, until a few years ago. Another cool twist of fate to bring me into the fold of Mérida’s interesting and progressive niches and networks.

Each musical, cultural, gastronomic experience of mine here tends to have an edgy flavor; when I visited the annual FILEY (Feria Internacional de Literatura en Yucatán)—a ginormous book fair/sale/cultural exhibition, with conferences by numerous amazing authors, workshops for all ages, and musical events, the opening act on the night of March 7 was Astrid Hadad (who is most famous for her song El Calcetín, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCgeFWqaXJ4), a politically fiesty singer from el D.F. (Ciudad de México) whose costumes, lyrics, animated style of performance, and biting satire were incredible to watch on stage. Her songs took us through a winding history of México desde la conquista hasta la revolución mexicana hasta la corrupción política de hoy, y las paradojas (paradoxes) siempre presentes en las vidas cotidiarias de los mexicanos tan fuertes. She mentioned after her parody version of La cucaracha that Mexicans must be las cucarachas (cockroaches) of the world for a GOOD reason—because no matter how many times the rest of the world, especially the Western world, tries to squash them and kill them, make them submit and give up, they never do. I am including a clip of “Altares de plata pura” which criticizes the exploitation of Mexican silver mines and native labor to construct the most outlandish silver altars all the way in Spain—and to serve what purpose? None, really. She opens up her elaborately ornate costume to reveal the skeletons and blood behind the seemingly benignly beautiful precious metals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B-wrzIdhGc&feature=youtu.be

So the main focus of my blog is to, little by little, map out where gay is chévere, o sea, the family-friendly places (fam in the sense of queer community!). I am including a large-scale and small-scale map of a few places I have been to that were on the gay map of Mérida that Miguel and I found at the beginning of the semester, that I have discovered from my time with Berenice, Kari, and that I have visited from other friends’ recommendations. Will elaborate in the next couple posts. Also back at the beginning of March when I was writing my first midterm for Modern Yucatecan Literature about this friar Fray Diego de Landa’s interpretation of what he interpreted to be Mérida and its natural/human/indigenous essence back in the 1500s, I went to Café Pop, a recommendation from el mapa gay de Mérida, on Calle 57 No. 501 x 60 y 62, en el Centro Histórico. You can see it as a little labeled star here! Open late, retro-cafeteria-dark adobe wall vibe, great service, recommend 9/10! Yummy capuccinos :)

Another DELICIOUS and totally gay-friendly, open-minded eating spot is el Rincón Vegano—Vegan Hideaway/Corner on Calle 19 entre 22 y 24, Colonia Miguel Alemán, which is súper close to Parque del Alemán near my house, a fantastic park with a mini-ferris wheel (rueda de la fortuna) and “roller coasters” (montañas rusas) for little kids, several marquesita stands (crunchy crepes with shaved sharp cheese), machacados and granizados (ice drinks soaked in various flavors, one of which is similar to oatmeal but in a lemony drink form, weird and good), a running track, free colorful arm and leg workout “machines,” a skate rink, basketball court, and a fountain. el Rincón Vegano has incredible vegan pizzas and burgers, truffles, fruit infusion drinks, and coconut milkshakes. Cannot go wrong.

Yet another café (this is the food and drink queer-friendly edition I suppose….!): Espresso del Arte Café, Centro Histórico again, Calle 62 #445 por 51 y 53. Kari recommended this to me—it’s like lencha-central because of the lady employees and the Frida-Kahlo, free-art vibe. Part art gallery (in which an 18-year-old’s spectacularly surrealist portraits and body details was displayed), part chalkboard-mania (lots of “before I die I want to…” chalking and “I love you ___”), part café, it is definitely heavily flavored with Frida influences and has great beverages, pretty good pasta. Can be located on my homemade starred map here too!

About a week before our spring break (Semana Santa and Semana de Pascuas, Holy Week and Easter Week) at the end of March, someone in my psychology class brought up a discriminatory incident that happened at a Valentine’s Day friendly competition in el Centro, la Plaza Grande of Mérida: http://www.informaciondelonuevo.com/2015/02/repudio-masivo-contra-la-gran-plaza.html . Even on that day of amor y amistad, love and friendship as it is officially designated here, a gay couple was prohibited from participating in the couples relay because of their sexual orientation. A great number of locals commented angrily against the blatant prejudice. Cool to hear this being talked about duing our sexual orientation unit in Sexualidad Humana, my psychology class.

Also, a few links about gay marriage status in México (Quintana Roo, the next state over to the east, is all legal, for instance!)

http://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/mexicos-quiet-marriage-equality-revolution#.hbdeK5E8yN

http://www.freedomtomarry.org/landscape/entry/c/international

Yes, one from Buzzfeed, why not…

Trying to break up my novels into bite-sized pieces, so hold on for a few more stars on the map!

Over and out xoxo,

Emily

Share

Otra perspectiva: presenting, Leah Bakely!

Time March 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Mexico | No Comments by

¡Hola a todos de Mérida ese día nublado, 12 de marzo 2015!

I cede my page to another queer voice on my program–Leah from Philadelphia/Wesleyan University. Enjoy her perspective as I continue to hone my posts on the layout of the LGBT scene in Mérida and on gender issues and observations in this city and during our experience. :)

Hmmm, where to start. I suppose with a little vignette (I just tried to spell that viñette, because my head is swarming with Spanish right now).

A few weeks ago, a friend from one of my classes asked me what my expectations of Mexico were before stepping on Mexican soil. I told her that the only expectation I had had was that I would be confronted with a very conservative, homophobic society in which discussion of sex, queerness, etc. would be entirely taboo. I joked with my friends that I would have to grow out my hair here (it’s currently short short), because no good Catholic woman would agree to cut it. Then I reasoned that maybe short hair on a female wouldn’t even connote the same thing (read: queerness) in Mexico as it does in Estados Unidos, because queerness wouldn’t even be on people’s radars in Mexico.

Boy, was I wrong. I soon realized I had let my own stereotypes of Catholicism and religious conservatism creep into my head. Short hair still connotes queerness. There is a burgeoning queer tinder scene. While there are no exclusively gay clubs, there is a bar/club that attracts a lot of queer people. Also, P.D.A. is quite the thing here, so it’s not unusual to see a queer couple holding hands or even kissing. And further, no one seems to bat an eyelash. I was even more surprised when a girl I had just met asked me if I had a boyfriend OR a girlfriend. She told me that she had actually had a girlfriend in the past and that it really wasn’t that unusual here. And in a public opinion class I’m quasi auditing, a group made a video in which they asked various people from Mérida, ranging in age from 8ish to 70ish, their opinions on various issues regarding la homosexualidad.

Still, I don’t mean to paint a rosier-than-reality picture of the situation here. Although almost everyone interviewed in the public opinion video agreed that love is love and that people should be allowed to kiss/love/make love to whomever they want (save for one older woman who, when asked if matrimonio homosexual should be legal, exclaimed with a face of disgust, “NO!”), almost all of the interviewees also agreed that queer couples should be prohibited from raising children. The students that made the video suggested that this opinion prevailed because the interviewees associated la homosexualidad exclusively with gay men and in Mexican society child-rearing is still inextricably associated with women/mothers/motherhood. The professor suggested that the opinion stemmed from a society-wide ignorance of all things homosexual. Regardless of the reason, the video gave me a bit of a reality check.

Only adding to my reality check, this week I also found out that a Mexican acquaintance can no longer host parties at his family’s house because, in October (five months ago!!!), his parents saw two girls making out at his party. The parents were disgusted and he’s been banned from having parties ever since.

But then, I am not so sure Estados Unidos is that different. Sure, I grew up in an extraordinarily liberal neighborhood with several lesbian and gay couples on my block in a city that singlehandedly makes our state go blue during election season. I go to one of the most socially liberal universities in the country where students are (unfortunately) harassed for expressing even centrist points of view. And I have purposefully surrounded myself with people who couldn’t care less about who I want to kiss. But, I think my experience with social liberalism is the exception, not the norm; there are probably thousands (millions?) of American parents who would prohibit their children from hosting parties if the parents saw two girls making out a party. There are probably even more people in the U.S. who don’t approve of queer couples raising children. It’s just that I’ve hopped from one liberal haven to another, so I probably have a skewed perception of reality.

So, I guess what I’ve concluded from my little anécdota (because I just looked up viñeta and it’s just not a word in any language. Oops.) is that there are queer people errrrrywhere/por todos lados and I shouldn’t have assumed otherwise. That being said, here in Mérida, like in the U.S., superficial markers of acceptance don’t necessarily indicate fundamental societal change. But baby steps, right?

To end on a positive note, I would also just like to reiterate:

There are queer people errrrywhere. I love it.

Hay personas queers por todos lados. Lo amo.

Share

Algunas cositas ricas/a few more tidbits

Time March 9th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Mexico | No Comments by

Videos videos videooooos !

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgAK3Z0QKk8 Nada humano nos es ajeno (from the Centro Olimpo theater piece mentioned in last post; this segment addresses child exploitation and poverty, the theme of the fundraiser)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhTsJ3d2zBo Havan Energy Band at Mambo Café (the video that failed from a few posts ago)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkZRNauYzuM “Ella y yo” at Romeo Santos concert! #Classicbachata

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaTAizWUOc4 Howler monkeys at Palenque ruins

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35rrkL9slic&feature=youtu.be Salsa en viva at Fundación Mezcalería bar downtown Mérida during my first week (way back when…!)

Over and out,

<3 Emily

Share

Slow n steady; halfway through/halfway in heaven

Time March 9th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Mexico | No Comments by

Buenos días/buenas noches/buenas tardes, ¡donde estarán ustedes!

Saludos de Mérida el 26 de febrero, 2015

Fotos incluidas:

Agua Azul

Valentine’s Day in Palenque downtown

Sopa de lentejas y chorizo—choriza, vegetable, lentil stew

Clericó (mulled wine with ice and fruits) at a Trovadictos party hosted by Roberto, my dad (a group of 65-95 year old men who are musicians and “trova addicts,” a genre of Yucatecan music.

Ayotzinapa presentation

Excursion to Río Lagartos nature refuge—preciosos flamingos!

Otra vez el tiempo me ha transcurrido; pero al mismo tiempo, siento que pequeñas vidas han cabidas en poco espacio y tiempo. Hablaré de viajes—unos más largos que otros—de cosas chistosas, de observaciones, de relatos por mis compañeros estudiantiles en la Universidad Modelo.

Again, time goes scurrying past me, but simultaneously I feel that many little lifetimes have fit into so little space and time. I will speak of trips, big and small, odd things, observations, what I’ve learned from colleagues at Modelo.

¡La huelga ha terminado! The strike has ended at UADY! February 9, to be exact, I believe; I think that students, however much they were in total solidarity and support—every UADY student I talked to was attending all types of rallies to help out the no-school but yes to social learning vibe—benefit from the return to school so that it doesn’t extend so much into the summer. Teté, the woman who cleans our house twice a week, has a son in Prepa Dos, which is a high school connected to UADY, and so at that level students really got jipped for a month without class, however vacation-y it felt :)

After many attempts with Miguel to see a free event for Mérida Fest at the Centro Cultural Olimpo in the Plaza Grande, I finally arrived on time at the end of January for Nada humano nos es ajeno, a play with Argentine-Yucatecan actress Silvia Káter: according to the magazine Por Esto!, “Es un espectáculo sobre la universalidad de los derechos humanos… y de los “torcidos humanos” en el que a través de monólogos, diálogos y canciones de diversos autores exponen las más variadas emociones y situaciones.” From parodies of husband-wife relationships to the hypocrisy of the Mexican elite, the obra de teatro was a stellar two-person show of an arquitecta and male construction worker building a new visión for humanity; also a voluntary fundraiser for homeless children. One scene highlighted how the same phrase applied to men and women usually results in shorthand for puta when describing women. Ejemplos: hombre público: an admirably sociable, political man / mujer pública, puta (whore); hombre de la calle, a man who doesn’t stay at home much / mujer de la calle, puta (prostitute). This continued for approximately 15 phrases, and the actor’s continual admission that each phrase had such loaded double standards struck a chord with the audience. The final song played was Sólo le pido a Dios—very 60s-peacetime-esque: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gvyl_zdji2k

On February 4th, my Wednesday 4-hour Literatura Yucateca Moderna class cut short to attend in Modelo’s beautiful auditoriu a presentation by UADY maestría students and professors about the politics of disappearances in Tlatelalpa and Ayotzinapa, especially regarding historical precedents such as the Guerra Sucia in Guerrero during the 1960s and 70s. I am including one of the historical slides; one student, Valeria Contreras Hernández, also discussed the international nature, positive pressure, but also social tension of hashtag activism with #AyotzinapaSomosTodos or #Somos43. I was reminded of my friend Maya Reyes’ assessment of “We Are All ___” hashtags as erasing uniqueness of humanity instead of showing true empathy and respect for distinct yet connected struggles. Not everyone—and not all Ivy League students in the U.S.—is Ayotzinapa, and these students showed that there are so many more disappearances and corruptive, destructive practices occuring under the watch of the Mexican government in every Mexican state every day, yet the world focuses on 43 young students.

Sidenote time! Algunos episodios de gayness en historia mexicana: supposed nuggets of queer Mexican history (dicho por Gilberto en clase de Literatura Yucateca / as told by classmate Gilberto in my Yucatecan Lit class)

  • Maximiliano de Habsburgo: when he arrived in Veracruz, his black male servants “festejaron”/”partied” with him as male escort types
  • Siglo XX: después de la revolución, debates entre los grupos de intelectuales: nacionalistas revolucionarias—arte mexicana, Rivera, Orozco—versus los contemporáneos, quienes tenían que ver con artes globales. La prensa mexicana usó insultos de homosexualidad para describir y defamar el uno lado al otro
    • In the early 20th century after the Mexican Revolution, the Mexican press used homophobic slurs to defame both sides of the Mexican public art debate between the national reolutionaries and the contemporaries
  • Sara García—la Abuelita del cina mexicano y de las tabletas de chocolate! (supuestamente vivía con su pareja femenina por años)
  • The Mexican actress who is the face of Abuelita chocolate tabs apparently lived with her female partner for years
  • María Felix; femme fatale, fuerte, violenta, le gustaba dominar a los hombres, y su hijo vivió doble vida, actor de telenovelas
    • Femme fatale film star María Felix’s son lived a double life sexually
  • Cantador de rancheros Lupe Reyes y estrella del cine mexicana era supuestamente una lesbiana
  • Siglo XX: un cronista en la Ciudad de México, Salvador Novo era abiertamente homosexual: también era escritor, de poesía, sonetos, y se burló de sus críticos flamboyantemente.
    • A historical chronicler in the 20th century, Salvador Novo, was openly homosexual, and was a writer, a sonnet poet, and flamboyantly scorned his own critics.
  • Stereotypical terminology according to Gilberto: joto=homosexual pobre; maricón (one that most are more familiar with)=homosexual rico, solo, de moda, educado (usually rich, lonely gay man).

The weekend of Valentine’s Day, which was also the weekend of Carnaval and a 4-day school break, I visited Palenque in the state of Chiapas (two states west of Yucatán) in order to spend time with Denise, the mother of my beloved friend Riel; Denise’s business for upwards of 20 years has been to buy inventory from cooperatives in San Cristóbal de las Casas, una de las ciudades más grandes del estado, to sell back in Santa Fe. Riel grew up accompanying Denise there, and Denise goes to Chiapas for one to a couple months at a time each year. We stayed at Mayabell campground (once a hub for hippie druggies, now more of a trailer camper friendly place, although there was still a stuck-in-the-60s pothead vibe to some visitors J) in a little tent underneath a palapa for when it rained lightly at night. The breakfast sándwich energético for only 50 pesos was one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in my life—pan integral/wheat bread, frijoles, huevo, tomates, spinach, turkey bacon…We embarked on a package day trip to Mizol-Ha waterfall and Agua Azul waterfalls—my photos are scant because there was no way to accurately capture the force of the current from the pounding falls, nor the infinite cascades that extended for seemingly miles and miles at Agua Azul. The water was higher than years past, according to Denise, and thus harder to ascend from one pool to the next. We basked on the crumbly limestone (cal) after stuffind ourselves with 7.5 empanadas each near the pinnacle of the waterfall; a great deal of vendors of Chiapas paraphernalia, jewelry, and zillions of variations on a theme of empanadas.

After first meeting up with someone I matched with on women-seeking-women Tinder, a Campechana (someone from the state of Campeche) in her mid-twenties from Ciudad del Carmen downtown at the Catedral to get champolas (milkshakes), about a month and a week ago, we’ve met up a lot and have really hit it off. Besides having a car—súper convenient to meet up with her and her closest friend—she’s been an awesome resource for learning the city, discussing the ups and downs of being gay in Mérida, where in some places being obviously out is suspicious and problematic, and what it’s like to be a Campechana (a state that many Yucatecans make fun of or judge harshly) who’s lived in Mérida the last six years for tech university. From what she’s told me about the tribulations of being one of the only women in the civil engineering program where she studied, much gender prejudice from professors exists, and the environment of machismo in civil engineering gave rise to more need to keep her sexuality under wraps—especially from her own family.

She and I have been to, among other outings, a cool film, yoga, restaurant called La 68 Casa de Cultura Elena Poniatowska, on a tour at night of the city’s Cementerio General in which socialist governor Felipe Carrillo Puerto’s grand tomb lies opposite his gringa journalist lover; and, after I went to a ROMEO SANTOS concert, we embarked with her friend to Pride Disco Show on the Periférico, the outer limits of the city. ¡Qué experiencia más iluminante y sorprendiente! Fuimos en una noche de tema “LesViernes,” entonces el tipo de show era más para lesbianas. LesFriday. You can guess. All the staff and the cool hole-in-a-wall but sophisticated vibe ROCKED. There were several tables of middle-aged butches having the happiest, wildest time watching the súper risqué but awesome show. A very very LGBT-friendly environment, to say the least. Before the lady dancers were several drag acts, and the whole show was directed by two fabulous drag queens.

I already have much fodder for the next blog, and you’ll finally be hearing from me queer peers! Thanks for reading as always, world.

Over and out, xoxo

Emily

Share

Un mes bien lleno: depth, breadth, much bread, new friends, bikes, discurso

Time February 9th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Mexico | No Comments by

Hola de Mérida en el estado Yucatán, México, 30 de enero 2015! Escribí hace muchos días; el tiempo tiene maneras extrañas de torcerse. Todavía estoy manejando mi vida poco por poco, y entiendo como dejar las cosas como sean porque todo, pero TODO, es impredecible. It’s been a while since I’ve last written; time has a funny way of twisting and changing itself. I’m still learning how to manage my life here, little by little, and how to let things go as they are because everything, I mean everything, is unpredictable! Bear with the length, it’s my style/due to procrastination :) I invite you to either skim or delve in! Read More »

Share

+/- Una semana fina/ +/- One Fine Week

Time January 19th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Mexico | No Comments by

Post #2 Lakshmi

Read More »

Share

Barely packed but rarin’ to go

Time January 6th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Mexico | No Comments by

Hi, hello, welcome one and all, to whom this may concern and to every other curious soul!

Emily Robinson here, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this first day of 2,015 (Mountain time). I’m sitting on my bedroom rug, surrounded by a haphazard array of preemptive antibiotics (azithromycin and probiotics, to be exact), light cotton shirts, bug spray, books about Mexico and in Spanish, and a nice wad of pesos (thanks to parents, a 2-days early 21st and highly relevant birthday gift), due to the fact that I am soon embarking on the first 4-month abroad time of my life, in Mérida, Yucatán, México. !!!!. If you’ve been here before and have advice, holler at me. This will be a fresh foray into many unforeseeable circumstances–being queer/bisexual in a new cultural context, taking a step back to observe/listen before advising/speaking, letting go and holding on, navigating new friends and families alongside un amigo muy bueno from school, Miguel (who will be guest-writing in the future with his own perspective on his own sexuality in a Latin American context), and learning how to play tourist respectfully and conscientiously.

Read More »

Share