Puerto Vallarta’s LGBT friendliness has been one of the worst kept secrets for more than 50 years. In the 1960s, the Pacific coast city (then a village) first caught the eye of gay Hollywood, and LGBT travellers and expats have been spending their time in and around Banderas Bay ever since. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until 2013 that the Vallarta Pride committee gathered around the common goal of promoting the local LGBT business community, and an official Puerto Vallarta Pride event was born.
In just two years, the enterprise has proven itself to residents and stakeholders alike. The strong presence of an LGBT community, working in partnership with the tourism bureaus and local organizations, has stimulated year-round tourism, including visits from Mexican nationals. With its newbie jitters out of the way, the committee is now turning its attention to making this coming 2015 celebration the most inclusive one yet.
Last year, organizers took a decisive step toward gender inclusivity by offering — for the first time — a women’s party. Local businesswoman Carmen Porras hosted Pink and Proud in the open-air courtyard of El Arrayán, the restaurant she owns and operates with her partner Claudia Victoria. With go-go dancers, a drag show and tag-team “DJanes” spinning sweaty house all night long, the party was packed.
“It was great!” Porras says. Actor Lea DeLaria (Big Boo on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black) is confirmed as the parade’s grand marshal, and organizers are working on the specifics for her big Pride birthday bash.
The resident population of Puerto Vallarta comprises Mexican nationals and international expats, primarily from the United States and Canada. Finding a sense of balance and unity is a key priority for Vallarta Pride. As vice-president Bill Hevener points out, the current committee is about 50 percent expat and 50 percent national. “It just sort of evolved that way,” he says.
The two current co-presidents — Porras and local real estate agent Alfonso (Poncho) Dávalos — are Mexican. “In these roles, we have input about planning, marketing, networking, sponsorship and events,” Porras explains.
Another adjustment for the 2015 festivities is the official inclusion of the May 17 International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia march. Due to Mexican laws that forbid foreigners from participating in politics, the march was previously kept separate from the main Pride events. Organizers now hope to bring this — the most political of Pride events — into the schedule, with the understanding that foreigners must show their support from the sidelines.
“By adding the march, we create a week-long celebration, and we’re encouraging everyone to fill in the week with activities and events that support our mission,” Hevener says.
Many of the week’s events are free and open to the public, and there are additional ticketed events. Highlights include performances by the Puerto Vallarta Men’s Chorus, screenings of international LGBT films, a Drag Derby opening party fundraiser and a sunset commitment ceremony. As always, there will also be a full roster of T-dances, cruises and parties.