LGBTQ+ culture inside a conservative city 01/31

This week was a rollercoaster dealing with and adjusting to my host family’s conservative catholic values. My constant attempts to not argue with them would often lead to me becoming frustrated and or overwhelmed by the dynamics of our conversations. What tends to lead to such conversations usually has to do with whatever my host family is watching on television (usually Mexican soap operas or talk shows). While watching a talk show during breakfast this week I became irritated because the host were analyzing and critiquing an artist for coming out as lesbian. I explained how ridiculous it was for this show to take a huge portion of its time on the air to analyze a women’s sexuality. My host parent proceeded to explain to me how the catholic church accepts people like her (the artist) but does not accept, and is happy it does not accept, their right to marriage and adoption. I was in complete shock at how they truly believed that they held the right to accept someone or not for their sexuality. I attempted to push back on these statements but realized it was becoming an argument and decided it was not a productive conversation.

This is one of many problematic conversations I have held with elderly folks here in Merida. The city holds a rich history in its catholic roots that continue to prevail till this day. The eldest cathedral built in the Americas during the 16th century is located in downtown Merida. As I mentioned in my last post, many Mayan worshiping locations were destroyed and replaced by churches. Additionally, Merida’s local government is conservative which reflects the type of community/citizens it is representing. Coordinators from my study abroad program are very much aware of the different levels of conservative thought that the host parents in the program hold. They provide them with workshops and trainings regarding new social and cultural change, but this can only do so much.

While these difficult conversations were happening on my free time I attended a few ball shows, and other LGBTQ+ events for the first time and I loved everything about it. I was hit with a huge culture shock and was amazed by local next generation leaders (around my age) and their leadership in hosting and/or participating in such events. During the week I heard of spaces that my friends and I wanted to return to that were shut down without any clear reasons. I could make assumptions and tie these situations to the cities attempt to control the culture. Nonetheless, these folks persist and always find new spaces within the city to oppose hate crimes and conservative social structures. I am continuously seeing and attending events hosted by the community.

This week I became worried about the time I still have left here in Merida under a conservative household. Nonetheless, after many conversations with coordinators and advisors I have come to terms with the fact that I will always have to deal with folks whose values I completely disagree with and I cannot let them shape my experience here.

This experience has led me to acknowledge my privilege of being raised in non-conservative spaces and continuously living and surrounding myself by folks who live and think as I do. I believe that the folks who have been brought up with or within the culture of conservative catholic church values here in Merida have a lot of work to do to survive and I applaud and stand by their side in their fight.

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