Saturday, December 3, 2011

Can Quintana Roo state save itself from Los Zetas by promoting gay marriage?

Quintana Roo state on the Caribbean coast is one of Mexico's most important tourist destinations. Gold Coast resorts like Cancún, Playa del Carmen and Isla de Mujeres are popular with North American, European and even Asian visitors. Tourism is responsible for the majority of the state's gross domestic product, and generates tens of thousands of reasonably well-paying jobs for locals. But increasing drug violence in the region, coupled with the known presence of Los Zetas - perhaps Mexico's most violent and feared drug cartel - is placing this primary component of the state's economy in jeopardy.

Q.R. secretary of tourism Juan Carlos González Hernández wants to promote the industry by offering a new category of tourism specifically geared to gay and lesbian travelers. González Hernández also proposes an emphasis on gay weddings, which he says could attract millions of dollars to the region's economy -- dollars which currently are being lost to other countries and other states in Mexico.

Under Mexican law, each of the 32 states may decide whether to legalize or prohibit gay marriage, much like in the United States. Some local officials in Quintana Roo say there is no legislation in their state which explicitly bars same-sex unions, and gay marriages have been approved by municipal functionaries in a few towns. But there still has been no formal determination of the issue by the Q.R. government. One same-sex couple says that if the state refuses to register their recent marriage, they'll take their case to Mexico's Supreme Judicial Court. That court ruled in August 2010 that Mexico City's gay marriage law -- the first in Latin America -- was valid, and that gay unions contracted in the capital city must be recognized throughout the republic. Coahuila state also allows gay marriage.

"We need to get a consensus in this community," says González Hernández, "and determine whether it would upset people to see same-sex couples hugging, holding hands and kissing, and of course, we need to figure out whether such unions would be in accord with state law. But we could give ourselves the reputation of being a very gay-friendly destination," he added. The secretary noted that some in Quintana Roo are open to the concept of promoting gay tourism and same-sex weddings, while others are "conservative and radically" opposed, because they believe it would reflect negatively on the state.

González Hernández says that in his opinion, such tourism would work best in places like Cozumel, Tolum and Isla de Mujeres, since the locals there are quite "open minded and international" in their perspective, while it would prove less popular in Cancún, for reasons which he did not elaborate. The secretary maintains that gay tourism and gay wedding employees would have to be thoroughly trained, to insure that they demonstrate proper respect for the participants.

Francisco Aguilera Castillejos, of the International Gay-Lesbian Tourist Association, argues that the promotion of same-sex weddings in Quintana Roo could prove a real boon to the state's economy. He says that in the first six months after Mexico City legalized gay matrimony there were over 400 weddings, at an average cost of $1,200 USD for the most basic ceremony. Castillejos claims that a "simple beach wedding" in Q.R. state with just the couple, the witnesses and a judge could easily fetch between $1,200 and $1,500 USD, exclusive of all other costs related to the couple's vacation in the area.

There is considerable international interest in Quintana Roo as a gay tourism center, says Castillejos, which will only expand if same-sex unions are officially recognized by the state government. "The industry there could really explode," he adds.

July 1, 2012 - Cancún acapará el turismo gay

Two women executed on Isla de Mujeres, Q.R.:
15 year old arrested in women's murders:
Los Zetas run Quintana Roo, paper says:
Plenty of empty hotel rooms on Isla de Mujeres, Q.R.:

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