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

The last meanderings: separación and closure

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,



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