Mexico elected their first ever openly gay Mayor to take office in Zacatecas, a northern area of the state notoriously recognized for cowboys, gangs, and machismo culture. Benjamin Medrano, 47, who is a singer and owns a gay bar, is proud of who he is and is excited to take the helm as Mayor in this rough town.
Based on Zacatecas’ masculine and tough reputation, it seemed unlikely that the district would elect a gay man to the leadership position. Regardless, it reveals progress in this city comprised of 258 villages, as reported by the Washington Post.
Medrano expressed that the city is rather sheltered from the activity of the outside world. “[The villages are] full of tough country people, who don’t necessarily have much information on what’s happening elsewhere, and have even less of an automatic sympathy with their gay mayor,” Medrano said.
Drug wars and murder are commonplace in the area, and Medrano campaigned hard for pushing forth measures to protect the public. These include background checks on those wishing to enter the police force, which is known to be corrupt.
The Zetas and the Culf Cartel are the main drug cartels fighting for control of the land of Fresnillo, which is located in the midst of a high drug trafficking area. However, Medrano doesn’t fear a threat from these groups.
“I’m not at risk, because I don’t have any relationship with any of the groups,” he said.
In a larger context, life is not easy for gay and transgender migrants and residents of the country. Openly gay man, Julio Campo, stayed in a migrant resting house in Tapachula for a few days last month, but left quickly after experiencing intolerance directed his way.
“I felt like a joke, like I was immediately disliked,” Campo, 30, said. “It was just very uncomfortable and I wanted to get out quickly,” reported The Atlantic.
Leticia Gutierrez Valderrama, executive secretary of a Catholic run humanitarian group called Pastoral de Movilidad Humana, which operates 66 shelters , explained that an increasing amount of transgender migrants are coming to the home for shelter. But organizers, unsure of their gender identity, “don’t know where to place them.”
“The women say ‘No, he is a man, I don’t want him here,’ and the men say, ‘We don’t want to be staying with a woman,'” said Gutierrez Valderrama.
A 2013 study conducted by the Mexican National Institute of Public Health indicated that 36 percent of transgender migrants who stay in Mexican shelters have faced violence. However, based on the same survey, 57 percent of transgender migrants who did not live in shelters also reported violent attacks.
Newly elected Mayor Medrano, although gay, does not plan to focus his energies on changing the LGBT situation throughout Mexico.
“I wish the church had a different view, but I cannot go against doctrine … I respect my church, and I don’t want to dig any deeper beyond what’s permitted and what is appropriate,” Medrano said. “I’m not in favor of gay marriage, I don’t share that view, because we are still a very small town … in short, we’re not prepared, in my view.”
However, he does believe in being open about who he is, and disagrees with politicians who do not choose to come out.