Uncovering the Gay World of Mexico City, c. 1930–1960, at the Intersection of Transnational History, Cold War Historiography, and the Nota Roja

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 4:10 PM
Regent Room (New York Hilton)
Víctor M. Macías-González, University of Wisconsin–La Crosse
This paper compares and contrast the domesticity of middle- and upper-class queer Mexicans, and Anglo-American and Spanish expatriates, refugees, and immigrants in Mexico City between the late 1920s and 1960 to explore the development of homosexual subcultures, geography, and new housing options during the post-revolutionary period of rapid transformation and development. This presentation forms part of a book project that expands the inquiry into the origins of modern homosexuality prior to Mexico’s LGBT Rights Movement in the 1970s, to the period known as “the Mexican Miracle” (1940-1970). Foreigners played an important role in this development, providing the state the social, cultural, and economic capital, and frequently acted as agents of informal empire in Mexico, working for transnational corporations and other interests. Their social networks and affective ties in Mexico City brought many Mexicans into contact with evolving Transatlantic ideas of homosexuality and domesticity. The paper explores Mexicans’ writings about their home purchase, design, and decoration, with those of foreigners, noting how design innovations allowed affluent queers to contain their homosexuality and compartmentalize their lives during a period of public repression of homosexuality. I analyze the emergence of a gay residential district in central Mexico City in the 1930s and its gradual displacement to the new southern suburbs in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as how condominiums and traditional single-family-occupied structures accommodated gay lives and facilitated the hosting of social events. I also include weekend homes and the rise of gay enclaves in tourist towns. Research is based on oral histories and archival sources, including the private papers of men and women who traveled or resided in Mexico City, trade journals, and American diplomats’ commercial correspondence.