United States gun culture and the country’s rampant homophobia undoubtedly created the tragedy in which 50 were gunned down at gay Orlando nightclub Pulse on Sunday morning. But unfortunately, that’s not the only fatal attack that has been perpetrated against Latinos in the queer nightlife community this year. On May 22, an attack on a gay bar in Xalapa, the capital of the Mexican state of Veracruz, left five dead and 14 wounded.
Security cameras captured multiple suspects, who arrived at Xalapa’s Bar Madame on motorcycle around 1 a.m. and began shooting as soon as they were in the club’s doorway. Those inside the club sent out pleas for help on social media, reminiscent of the terrified text messages sent by some who were inside Pulse for Latin Night on Saturday.
The Xalapa story didn’t even make it into the mainstream English language press, calling into question the empathy that is afforded to hate crime victims when they are neither from the United States or white. As news of the Florida tragedy spread across social media, many Mexicans wondered why the Xalapa shooting failed to make international headlines. Likewise, in the US, violence against these communities rarely garners national attention, as cable news has largely ignored the spike in murders of transgender women of color.
Mexico has seen more than its fair share of aggression towards LGBT culture over the past years. In 2013, the Señorita Durango Gay pageant was interrupted when tear gas was thrown at competitors who were onstage in front of some 600 spectators.
An ugly anti-gay undercurrent in Mexican society was also present in the recent uproar over soccer fans lobbing ugly homophobic comments at two lesbian WNT players after they made their relationship public online. And then there’s the response of Guillermo Cantú, who is the director of Mexico’s national teams, to the outcry over Mexico fans’ “puto” chants: “We can sit down and talk about it (with FIFA), raise awareness and try to make them see that it is not homophobic.”
One Jalisco government worker has already been fired after posting homophobic comments on social media about the Orlando attack.
The tragedy at Pulse happened the way it did because the gunman realized that nightclubs are important cultural centers for the LGBT community. Even as we’re all grieving, it’s worthwhile to reflect on the significance of such spaces where people go to feel safe, have fun, and build community. As President Obama reflected in his statement on Sunday about the shooting:
“The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub — it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.”