Editors' Note: Guest blogger Rex Wockner has reported news for gay media for 26 years in hundreds of publications. He focuses on on California politics and local life.
Tijuana's 15th gay/lesbian pride march hits the streets Saturday, June 19, at 5 p.m.
Participants will gather in front of the community-based Alliance Against AIDS (ACOSIDA) Clinic at 7648 Calle 1ra, five blocks west of Avenida Revolución between Avenida E (Mutualismo) and Avenida F (5 de Mayo). (Some street signs refer to Calle 1ra as Calle Artículo 123.)
Last year's Tijuana pride parade was nearly three times bigger -- and twice as long -- as in any other year.
The turnout was all the more amazing because the city had been hit with a serious crime wave as drug cartels and dealers battled for dominance. The situation has improved notably since last summer.
Other pride events this year include a first-ever, two-day, outdoor pride festival smack in the center of downtown, stretching east, west and south from the arch. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. both Saturday, June 19, and Sunday, June 20. Entrance is free.
According to the organizers: "Come and celebrate together with 10,000 other people the First Annual Tijuana Gay Festival in a three-block area of the center of the city. Discover the latest in gay art, culture and music, experience a variety of diverse food and drink options, and then take over the streets with thousands of friends for a massive hip street party Tijuana-style. Residents and community leaders, with support of the local police, invite you to discover the gay side of Tijuana."
In contrast with previous years, almost no gays and lesbians from Southern California crossed the border to join last year's festivities -- it was a purely local and home-grown affair. Many people from San Diego, which is just 15 miles away, have stopped going to Tijuana because of the violence.
Yet the gay parade was bigger, better, longer, more colorful and more spirited than ever. At least 1,000 people marched or rode in the parade itself -- which stretched along seven blocks of Avenida Revolución, the main drag of the city of 2 million people. More than 10,000 people watched the spectacle pass.
Then, when the parade got to its endpoint, it took an unscheduled right turn, then another right turn, and headed all the way back to the north end of downtown, traversing Avenida Constitución. Police, who up to that point had made an effort to keep vehicles moving through the heavily congested downtown, gave up at that juncture and resigned themselves to a traffic jam.
"It's been the best march that's taken place in the city of Tijuana ... the biggest and the most participants," said organizer Lorenzo Herrera. "People have decided to come out, people no longer want to hide their sexual preference. We all have equality."
One large official banner carried in the parade read: "Tijuana-Ensenada GLBT Pride. 500,000 pink votes also count. We all have the same rights."
Another large official banner said: "Homophobia must end. Live your pride with dignity. Homosexuality is not a problem, homophobia is."
A third one read: "Homophobia is intolerance of homosexuality. Equality begins when we recognize that we all have the right to be different."
Spectators cheered the parade and smiled broadly. A single protester with a hand-held PA system, stationed at the parade lineup location, asserted repeatedly, "The price of sin is death, according to the Bible."
Everyone ignored him.
To get there: Walk across the international border at San Ysidro. Exit the southern pedestrian turnstiles (not the western ones). Turn right and follow the tourists across Avenida Amistad, through the Viva Tijuana open-air mall, and across the big Tijuana River pedestrian bridge. Continue walking straight west about three blocks and cross under the huge St. Louis-style arch on Avenida Revolución.
Enter Calle 1ra/Artículo 123 -- do not veer slightly left into the slanted Plaza Santa Cecilia pedestrian mall -- and proceed to number 7648. (For extra fun, some buildings are marked in both old and new street-numbering systems. Pay attention only to numbers above 7000.)
To get to the border: take the San Diego Trolley or drive and park in a secure, paid lot on the U.S. side. You can ignore bus and taxi drivers on both sides of the fence who insist it's a long walk to downtown Tijuana, because it isn't.