Connect to share and comment

Mexico's liberal capital

Mexico City: Center of progressives or capital of sin?

A gay-rights activist takes part in a gay pride parade on "Reforma Avenue" in Mexico City, June 30, 2007. (Daniel Aguilar/Reuters)

MEXICO CITY — It was no spectacular wedding with carriages and elegant dresses. The couple in their late 30s both dressed in jeans and T-shirts to make their life commitment to each other and then celebrated with an egg and chili breakfast in a diner.

But the two gay men, who signed up for a same-sex civil union in the Mexican capital, said the lack of frills took nothing away from the joy they felt.

“It was an amazing day for me. We had already been living together, but it is really special to take it that step further,” said Antonio Guerrero, a 39-year-old accountant. “It was also important to show our families that we were really committed.”

Two years after Mexico City allowed same-sex civil unions, they have become a quiet and unremarkable part of the environment.

The dozens of such ceremonies celebrated each month without hullabaloo are part of a wave of social liberalization that advocates say has transformed Mexico City into a center of progressives in a continent long dogged by backwardness.

Controversial reforms in 2007 that granted terminally ill patients the right to suspend medical treatments and allowed for abortion during the first 12 weeks of any pregnancy have also become common practices.

One hospital in northern Mexico City now has a special clinic dedicated to terminating pregnancies, and hundreds of women use its services every month.

In total, more than 23,300 women have had legal abortions in Mexico City since the law was passed two years ago.

The changing social norms are also visible on the capital’s streets, with an explosion of gay shops and clubs opening in the city center, and a gay pride march whose turnout grows every year.

The transformation makes the Mexican capital stand out in Latin America, where the choice of abortion is only allowed in Cuba and Guyana and gays complain of persecution across the continent.

The new laws, advocates argue, allows liberties that were denied by governments influenced by the Roman Catholic Church.

“It is innovative legislation in Latin America that gives security and establishes rights,” said Victor Hugo Cirigo, head of the city assembly's majority leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

However, for church officials and conservatives, the changes are anything but a step forward.

The transformation, they argue, marks a worrying decay of family values and an increase in Godless social decadence.