Zacualpan is a small town but at least once a year it’s big when it comes to tolerance: its annual carnival celebrations represent an opportunity to show respect for the local gay community.
For three days preceding the beginning of Lent, the mainly indigenous Amuzgo residents of the community — located in the Costa Chica region of Guerrero — take to the streets to dance, drink beer and chicha and listen to bands that play the popular local musical genre known as Chile Frito.
It is also a time when the traditional concept of what it means to be a man is challenged.
Straight men dance openly — and without prejudice — with gay men who dress for the occasion in traditional embroidered skirts and huipiles. The men participate in four dances during the three-day celebrations including one particular favorite called El Pichiquie.
A local teacher told the newspaper El Universal that he has seen an evolution in the way that the town celebrates carnival.
“Something very contradictory happens here: homosexuals taking part in carnival is [considered] good. It’s a step forward because in Zacualpan, machismo rules . . .” Cirilo Martínez López said.
He added that the town’s gay community has gained acceptance and men are able to be open about their relationships.
In contrast, women in the town are still largely expected to fulfill their traditional roles, Martínez said.
Concluding the festivities each year is a mock wedding.
This year, the role of the bride was played by 27-year-old Margarito López, who has previously suffered exclusion and discrimination because of his sexuality — including from his own family.
But this year Mago, as he is known, paraded proudly through the streets at the side of his mock groom, waving to the crowd before arriving at the town’s basketball court where hundreds gathered and the pseudo ceremony took place.
Nobody knows for sure when or who started the town’s unique carnival celebrations but everyone agreed on one thing: “It had already started when I was born,” was the universal response to the question.
Three days later, most of the town’s 5,000 residents will be back at work, the majority either in the fields or weaving on a telar de cintura, a traditional backstrap loom.
Cotton grown in the surrounding countryside will be picked and taken to the weavers to make next year’s colorful, carnival costumes.
Source: El Universal (sp)