Inocente Castellanos is one of just two openly gay mayors currently in office in Mexico, and the first ever in Oaxaca, but the “accidental” politician says his sexuality hasn’t been an issue since he took the top job in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán.
Castellanos was elected mayor at an extraordinary election held earlier this year after the result of last year’s close contest was annulled because the triumphant Morena party candidate was found to have violated electoral laws.
He has now been in the job almost three months, while his partner of almost 20 years, Eric Emmanuel Ortiz, is honorary president of the municipal branch of the DIF family services agency, a position traditionally occupied by the (usually female) spouses of presidents, governors and mayors.
In an interview with the El Universal newspaper, Castellanos – elected on a PAN-PRI-PRD ticket after initially running as a Fuerza por México candidate – said that he hasn’t experienced any discrimination from residents of Xoxocotlán, part of the metropolitan area of Oaxaca city, or municipal government staff since taking office in early April. On the contrary, there has been complete acceptance, remarked the 56-year-old mayor.
However, Castellanos admitted to having some concerns about how people would react to his partner’s appointment as honorary DIF president. That said, he concluded there was no reason that Ortiz couldn’t occupy the position.
“We’re human beings as normal as anyone else and [non-heterosexual] sexual orientation is now recognized around the world,” Castellanos said. “So I don’t see a problem in my partner representing [an agency that works in] such a sensitive area. … He’s a great human, a professional, he’s prepared, he has a dignified life and therefore he can occupy this position without any problem,” he said.
What people care about are results rather than a person’s sexuality, Ortiz told El Universal. “They expect a good government and that’s what they’re going to get. … They expect that you’ll work and think about families,” he said.
Castellanos, a dental surgeon, hadn’t expected to be in the position in which he currently finds himself. At the start of the pandemic he decided to help out in the delivery of aid to people struggling to survive amid a near-total economic shutdown. While doing so, some recipients asked him whether he was running for mayor and what political party he represented, sowing a seed that would eventually lead to him standing as a candidate at the 2021 mayoral election.
While Castellanos lost that race, the Federal Electoral Tribunal’s annulment of the election gave him a second chance that ultimately allowed him to get his hands on the mayoral mace.
While he hasn’t experienced any discrimination since becoming mayor, Castellanos acknowledged that his sexuality was used to attack him in the campaign period in the lead-up to the extraordinary election. He attributed the attacks to a “dirty war” against him, noting that his adversaries had no real grounds on which to criticize him because he has no record of corruption or any other wrongdoing in public life.
While some of those opposed to him becoming mayor attempted to portray his sexuality as a weakness, Castellanos said that being gay has never made him weak. “I’m a person whose preferences never limited my growth [and never stopped me from] being the person I am today,” he said.
The only other openly gay mayor currently in office is Adolfo Cerqueda Rebollo, mayor of Nezahualcóyotl, México state. Mexico has only had one other mayor who publicly identified himself as being gay: Benjamín Medrano, mayor of Fresnillo, Zacatecas, between 2013 and 2014.
With reports from El Universal