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Mexico City seems to be trying to win some kind of award for being the most liberal city in Latin America. In fact, Mexico as a country has won an award: gay Destination of the Year by the PlanetOut Travel Awards, which recognize gay-friendly tourist destinations. Past winners have included Barcelona and Buenos Aires.
According to Mexico City blog DFinitivo, the world's largest city is going to begin actively courting the gay travel dollar, and the Secretary of Tourism for DF has joined the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association to prove it. Gay travelers will be welcomed with specialized maps outlining areas of interest for nightlife, cultural events and more.
The lure of Mexico City is irresistible. The most populated metropolis in the world boasts colonial mansions and excavated pyramids alongside fabulous museums and galleries, all shadowed by the concrete and glass of modern development. Above all, the city is exciting, sometimes intimidating, always bewildering and boldly alive. The main attractions in Mexico City are centered in a few distinct areas, including the Zona Rosa, the Historic Center (the Zocalo area), Alameda Park, Chapultepec Park,and the "Zona Sur", or Southern Zone. Additionally, the adjoining neighborhoods of Condesa and Roma are trendy areas with good restaurants and cafes, nightlife, quality architecture, and, home to more gays than elsewhere in the city.
Polanco and Lomas, on the northern edge of Chapultepec Park, is where Mexico's more affluent citizens live and boasts world-class shopping as well. Designed to rival the grand thoroughfares of Europe, the Paseo de la Reforma is the most impressive street in Mexico. It doubled as a ceremonial parade from the palace of Chapultepec to the city's Zocalo, or central square, and now is the site of the annual Gay Pride parade in June. It remains the smart thoroughfare: ten lanes of traffic, lines of tress and imposing statues at every intersection.
It's a teeming procession that's made worse by an onslaught of pedestrian crush and traffic fumes -- and don't forget the altitude. The roundabouts at each major intersection feature distinctive statues that provide easy landmarks: Christopher Columbus at the Glorieta Colon -- Plaza de la Republica is just to the north; Aztec emperor Cuauhtemoc comes next at the crossing of Insurgentes -- a bottleneck for some of the worst city traffic; El Angel, appropriately golden, atop a 50m column is the third to look out for -- the place to get off the bus for the aptly named, Zona Rosa, or Pink Area, Mexico City's version of Greenwich Village-cum-Castro. As with any other large metropolis and the huge gap between the wealthy and the poor, crime has been a major problem and precautions should be exercised.
Taxis have been demonized, if you are weary of hailing a cab, you can call a radio taxi, go to any hotel and ask to use their car or taxi service (even if you are not staying at the hotel), or ask the staff of a bar or restaurant to get you a taxi. (Some numbers: 5516-6020; 5519-7690; 5648-6857 or in Polanco call 5282-1883. Calling a cab increases your fee but also increases your safety factor. Jot down the number of the cab.) Also, one should not wander around the streets after dark, with the exception of the heavily populated areas like the Zona Rosa, the Zocalo, or Condesa.
Be careful and exercise common sense in all parts of the city. In the metro(subway) carry wallets in your front pocket and put any bags or backpacks in front of you, as pickpocketing and bag slashing are commonplace. Nevertheless, with proper awareness, problems can be avoided and the joys of Mexico City can be realized. One of the big annual events in the local gay community is the Gay Pride Parade, held the last weekend of June each year.
A new service offered is a tour bus with regular pick-up and drop-off points throughout the city at tourist sites. Called Turibus, (www.turibus.com.mx), the red double-decker buses cover diverse areas of interest in the city, while the Tourist Trolley is limited to the Historic Center. The cost is $11 per person, (except for weekends and holidays at $13) with reduced rates for additional days purchased at one time ($19 for three days). Since you can get on and off all day from 9 a.m. -9 p.m., it's even a great way to get around the city, operating daily except Christmas and New Years. No pets allowed. Tickets may be purchased on board at any of the stops, indicated by signs in Chapultepec, the Historical Center, Paseo de la Reforma, Roma-Condesa and Polanco. The route covers important archeological sites, restaurants, shopping, monuments, galleries, museums and even recreational parks. The Web site map is quite well detailed. What more can you ask for?
Mexico still suffers from a paucity of gay-specific accommodations. However there is a wide variety of mainstream hotels among the thousands that populate this city that you can choose from. Beware however, that many hotels might not allow you to bring home guests.
Speaking of food, for anyone raised on a steady diet of Southwestern, Tex-Mex, Cal-Mex or Burritoville, the amazing taste of authentic Mexican food may come as a slap to the face. The variety of ingredients, quality of the fruits and vegetables, and creativity of the cuisine makes the dining experience one of the highlights of a trip to Mexico. As a major business capital, attire in the streets of Mexico City is generally more conservative during the day and more formal at night for dining out. Even clubbing can be a dress-up evening, especially compared to the coastal resort towns. But then, it depends on where you're headed. Sanborn'sis a chain of small department stores with affordable Mexican restaurants that can be found throughout Mexico City (and all over the country). Many Sanborn's restaurants are in historically significant spaces like that in Los Azulejos (on Madero near Eje Central, across from the Latin America Tower), which occupies an old tile-covered mansion. Almost all Sanborn's are frequented by gays, and the cruising at their magazine stands is notorious.
For additional eateries in the vicinity of where you're staying, ask at your hotel. It may save you traveling from one area to another when all you really want is something reasonable to eat nearby. The concierge will usually be able suggest a variety of options. Be cautious of eating at streetside stands. If you choose to do so, observe the cleanliness: does it have running water? Does the person handling the money also handle food? (Usually a plastic bag or glove is used if such is the case.) Are other people eating there? In any case, it's always a good idea to get recommendations from the locals.
Like other world metropolises, the nightlife in Mexico City is diverse and ranges from live music to Broadway shows and nightclubs. Much of the nightlife, including many gay bars and clubs, is located in the Zona Rosa, however, there are many worthwhile places in Condesa and Roma as well. Two well-known tourist attractions stand out for even the most jaded of queens -- the mariachi music at the Plaza Garibaldiand the Ballet Folklorico.
What do do and see in Mexico City