Homosexuality was never banned in México. This legal status was strengthened in 2001, when the Federal Constitution, article 1, was amended to prohibit discrimination based on 'preferences'. This was clarified further in 2003, when a Federal Anti-Discrimination Law was passed. The wording made it absolutely clear that no-one could be persecuted for their homosexuality. A whole department was set up to enforce the law throughout the country.
Finally, in 2009, federal law legalized same-sex marriage, though it was up to the individual states whether they wished to allow this under state law. So far, México City and the state of Coahuila have signed up, but Quintana Roo can't be far behind. It is also legal in México for transgender people to officially change their name and gender; and for homosexuals to adopt children. There are openly gay and transgender elected politicians. (For details about the age of consent, please see a previous blog entry, 'Is It Legal?')
The Riviera Maya isn't awash with exclusively gay resorts and clubs, though they do exist. This is mainly because it's not seen as that big a deal. Gay men and women just merge with their heterosexual counterparts, simply eyeing up a different gender in the clubs. However, Cancún traditionally hosts an International Gay Festival in May and a smaller festival in the fall. There was a Pride Parade in the city during June.
There are three main exclusively gay clubs in the Riviera Maya:
* Picante Bar, in Cancún, has been going strong since the 1980s. The clientele are mixed gay men and lesbians. There are theme nights, including drag queens, strippers, Go-Go Boys and drink promotions. Thursday is always tequila night, complete with free shots to start the party rolling. It's quite a small venue that can get very crowded after midnight, when all of the locals turn up. It is located in downtown Cancún, at El Centro, in the Plaza Gallerias, on Av. Tulum 20.
* Karamba Bar, in Cancún, is the largest club/disco catering mostly to gay men. The party only really starts after midnight, when the locals finish work and rush to the club. Entertainment includes drag queens, strippers and karaoke, but the club is mainly known for its disco and great atmosphere. There will be a Mr Gay Mexico Competition held there on October 26th, 2010, though there's plenty of eye candy for the rest of the year too. It is located in downtown Cancún, at El Centro, on Av. Tulum 11. More details on their website
* Playa 69, in Playa del Carmen, is the only exclusively gay hangout there. The clue to the tone of the place is in its title, so expect a lot of explicit cruising inside. The crowd are generally 20-30s; the decor is largely mirrored; and the music a mix of hot beats and trance. Again the party really kicks off after midnight with the arrival of the locals. It is located in 5th Ave, between Calle 4 and Calle 6, next door to the 7-11 store.
As for hotels, you will not find one turning away your custom based on your sexuality. If you do prefer that extra security though, it's worth noting that Cancún's Hyatt Hotel has listed itself in the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association; while the six room, boutique hotel, Casa Sirena, on Isla Mujeres, is not only owned by a gay couple, but was named TripAdvisor's number one B&B on the island.
There is no 'official' beach catering solely for gay men and women. Unofficially tourists and locals alike tend to congregate in a section of Playa Delfines beach (just south of the Hilton Hotel), in Cancún. This is often the starting point for festival and Pride activities too.
In addition to these venues, the gay community get to visit all the same attractions, clubs, bars, restaurants and beaches as every other tourist. Therefore, it's not hard to see why Rivera Maya is being recommended on gay travel sites and is increasingly awash in the pink currency.