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Hate crime?

19 January 2007

I’ve written elsewhere that homosexuality isn’t a particularly big deal in Mexico, though a “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude still is the norm, rather than the exception, especially outside the Capital. 

As in wealthier countries a few decades ago, the “out” gays tend to be either already prominent in other fields (like Carlos Monsivias) or somewhat insulated by their social position (like President de la Madrid’s son… sorry, I don’t remember off-hand which one).  Or… the “stereotyped” local entertainer or hairdresser.

José Ernesto Leal López was one of the latter — the owner of a popular hair salon in Matamoros.  Leal had emceeded shows at Matamoros gay clubs for years, but recently took a more open and public role — lobbying state legislators and being profiled in local newspapers (where he also spoke on anti-gay discrimination).  His murder last week is being described as a “crime of passion” unrelated to his political role.

José Manuel Nava Sánchez, who was murdered in November, was also out, but his case is troubling because he was nationally (and internationally) prominent — and because any time a newsman is murdered in Mexico there are questions.  I don’t have any reason to suspect anything other than a gay bashing/robbery, and have some hope that the Mexico City police won’t just write it off as a “crime of passion” given Nava’s importantance, and the number of prominent people taking ian interest in this crime.  And Mexico City the Federal District does actually make a good-faith effort to enforce the strict anti-discrimination laws.

 Leal was not a tourist, nor was he involved in the drug trade (in which case, there wouldn’t have been much coverage of his murder on either side of the border).  The simple fact that this murder is being reported on gives me some hope… Mexico and Mexicans are refusing to accept the old prejudices much harder to erradicate than the simple, obvious ones like “race.”

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