Tijuana’s Gay Parade

Posted on March 29, 2015


Tijuana’s annual Gay Pride celebration

Robert Joe Stout

“Can’t get through,” the cabdriver slammed on the brakes, “I’ll have to back up and go around.”
Embroidered by an outpouring of indistinguishable adjectives, most of which had to do with illegitimate children and immoral women, this information also included something about a parade, AIDS and arrogant cops. A delivery truck wedging between us and the car in front of us triggered an even more vehement outburst of Spanish vitriol. The truck driver and two teenagers hanging onto the truck’s tottering cargo responded with definitions of acts performed with various kinds of animals. In any other city I’ve been in these exchanges would have led to fisticuffs or murder but I’d lived in Baja California long enough to know that I was witnessing a commonplace Tijuana exchange.
Police whistles, honking horns, an increasing crescendo of curses and truck-mounted loudspeakers made understanding further insults impossible. I did manage to learn that a parade was passing—or another pinche
demonstration as the cabdriver described it—and decided to vacate the vehicle to see what was happening.

Squeezing between a cluster of chattery mothers and a ambulante selling cups of steaming corn I managed to find curbside space and realized that I was witnessing Tijuana’s annual Gay Pride celebration. One of the chattery women hoisted her toddler onto her shoulder and the child, indulgently, clapped. A group of mimes skittered past, evoking jibes from some mechanics who’d just emerged from a hardware store. The mimes jounced away, then one of them returned, struck a pose and flicked a drawstring that sent a huge plastic penis quivering out from his belt.
A group of young marchers following the mimes had been splattered with raw eggs. Some of them appeared to be angry and others timorous but they weaved determinedly along the sidewalk passing out condoms and fliers that urged gays and heterosexuals to practice safe sex. An androgynous demonstrator balanced on the pizza carrier of a motor scooter hurled eggs back at the crowd—eggs that as they broke scattered confetti. A one-legged popsickle vendor hobbling along with a makeshift cane squeaked “bolis! bolis” as eight or nine black-jacketed men swinging leather belts and bicycle chains charged the marchers.
The marchers scattered, knocking the popsickle salesman against the curb. “Don’t step on me! Don’t step on me!” he squealed. Policemen scrambling to get through tripped over him and plunged into several squealing and shrieking women and collapsed on top of them as two bare-chested parade marshals who looked like NFL defensive tackles dived into the fray. The burliest of them of them grabbed one of the black-jacketers, thrust him over his head and began to twirl him around as many in the crowd applauded. The parade marshal grinned, slowly lowered his victim and gave him a kiss before dropping him onto the pavement. The other NFL-sized marshal returned waving two bicycle chains that he’d taken from other black-jacketers.
As the crowd reformed and the parade resumed some onlookers cheered approvingly. Others jeered or waved towards a lesbian contingent followed by a professional mariachi band and group carrying banners that proclaimed GAY CHRISTIANS FOR CHRIST in both Spanish and English. Vendors and beggars weaved through the gawkers offering Chiclets, candies, lottery tickets and stolen watches. Squeezing along the sidewalk became so difficult that singly and in groups pedestrians edged into the parade and walked with the demonstrators for a block or two, obstructing the motorcycle police who were trying to keep cars and motorbikes from forcing their way through brief breaks in the procession

Skyrockets exploded overhead, streetcorner chorusers chanted “Putos! Putos! Chinga sus madres,” a banner in Spanish proclaimed “Thank God my son isn’t one of you!” and an eager-eyed teenager jockeyed against the flow offered popsickles molded to look like penises with huge red tips.
“How long does this go on?” I asked a young woman sashaying alongside me.
“Tell Hell she freeze sover,” she answered in chipper Spanglish, then, “But mañana som-ting different. More fight. More fun.”
Tijuana. No place like it in the world.
Robert Joe Stout freelances for a variety of magazines, including The American Scholar, Notre Dame Magazine, The Old Farmer’s Almanac and America. He has published a novel, Miss Sally, and has half-a-dozen poetry chapbooks to his credit, including They Still Play Baseball the Old Way. His non-fiction Why Immigrants Come to America was issued in 2008 by Praeger.

First published in Bowlarts Magazine