The White City got a rainbow infusion Saturday as an annual tradition took to Mérida’s famous boulevard for the first time.
Shouting “Mérida is not white, it is diverse,” an estimated 20,000-plus people showed their #Pride in the streets of the Yucatán capital.
Coming after two years of lockdown, the event was the biggest LGBTQ+ pride march so far, and the most action the Paseo de Montejo has seen since Carnaval was moved to the fairgrounds. Previously, marchers gathered at Parque Mejorada before winding their way to the Plaza Grande. This time, they got access to the city’s most prominent social venues, gathering under unexpectedly blue skies at midafternoon around the Monumento a la Patria. Then the loud, bawdy march passed by the mansions and restaurants of the Paseo de Montejo to the cheers of thousands.
The event was a mix of frivolity and defiance. The march was headed by a group with a somber message: a memorial to José Eduardo Ravelo Echevarría, a gay man allegedly tortured and killed in police custody last year. The transgender community was also in full force to emphasize the range of expression represented in the LGBTQ+ acronym. “Eres perfectx,” read one sign, indicating a genderless twist on the Spanish word.
The bulk of the march felt more like a festive parade — with many men in drag or colorful gender-bending outfits. Even before the march began, the stately Paseo de Montejo felt transformed. Young people en masse, heading toward the Monumento a la Patria for the kickoff, gave the feeling of an entirely different city. Gay men had already grabbed the best seats at Casa Chica and Piensa Rosa. This part of conservative Mérida had shades of Provincetown during Tea Dance.
“So many young people. Really great,” remarked Dave O. Dodge, who gathered with a dozen friends at Hennessy’s Irish Pub. A professional event planner, Dodge also noted signs of disorganization. “The traffic should of been stopped on the other lanes. … there was miss opportunity with vendors, messaging and a “unified” feel.”
Still, the Marcha de la Diversidad Sexual Mérida, as it is formally known, lacks mainstream support in conservative Yucatán. Such a spectacle would normally impress local media, but the front page of today’s leading broadsheet newspaper centerpieces the British Royal Ascot races for a second day in a row.
Politicians here still tend to shy away from LGBTQ-themed events, and unlike Carnaval, Coca-Cola and Burger King floats were nowhere to be seen. One hint of corporate support: Some people carried a banner for Walmart, however.
Organizers vowed to go on rain or shine, and they got both. The predicted rainstorm held off during the march, and only temporarily dampened events at the route’s endpoint, the Plaza Grande where a stage was erected in front of Casa Montejo, where drag queens lip synced to high-energy music.
Over the last several years, Pride participation has roughly doubled each year a Pride march is organized. The last one, in 2019, attracted approximately 5,000 people. But a local newspaper estimated 2022’s march attendance more than quadrupled the more recent gathering.
Local victories in marriage-equality laws and overall social acceptance have fueled enthusiasm for Pride marches, which take place around the world each June.