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Ten Reasons I Love Mexico

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Mexico is one of the most colorful and compelling countries in the world. It is, without a doubt, one of my favorite destinations. If you are interested in finding out more, check out https://www.visitmexico.com  In the meantime here are just ten of the many reasons that I love this amazing country.

1} DAY OF THE DEAD

Day of the Dead is a unique festival which celebrates the lives of departed ancestors. It is both an excuse to party and a time for reflection. Families gather at cemeteries to light candles and make offerings. Candy skulls and Day of the Dead bread are sold in markets and placed on altars that spring up in streets and buildings.  Flamboyant parades take place with participants dressed in elaborate costumes, faces painted with skulls. The festivities are macabre, yet touching.  Being in Mexico during Dia de los Muertos is a fascinating and unforgettable experience.

Day of the Dead festivities in Tlaquepaque

 

2) STREET FOOD

Mexican street food is cheap and delicious. Tacos, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas, and empanadas crammed with tasty fillings can be found on every street corner. Admittedly, it isn’t always healthy but it usually tastes good. For those with an adventurous palate, grasshopper tacos are a tempting and delicious option in certain regions of Mexico.  

3) MEXICAN FOLK ART

From Oaxacan fantasy animals to skeletons in shadow boxes, no other country produces such a wealth of vibrant, colorful folk art. Shopping opportunities provide temptations galore. Many of the colonial towns, such as San Miguel de Allende and Oaxaca are full of galleries and stores specialising in folk art. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself paying for excess baggage at the airport when you leave!

Folk art in Casa de Venados, Valladolid

4) FRIDA KAHLO

Frida Kahlo is easily the most iconic Mexican who ever lived, man or woman. Her image is everywhere you look, from t-shirts to place mats. Restaurants are named after her. Tourists flock to her home in Coyacoan and her studio in San Angel. Whether you appreciate her art or not, she was a fascinating and complex character and her contribution to Mexican culture is massive. It isn’t until you visit Mexico that you realize the extent of her popularity in her native country.

A shrine dedicated to Frida Kahlo for Day of the Dead celebrations

5) COLORFUL COLONIAL CITIES

Mexico has an abundance of so-called magic towns – San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Campeche and Valladolid are among them. Brightly painted colonial buildings, picturesque plaza, and cobbled streets are something that most of them have in common, although each has a special character of its own. The dazzling Mexican light on the boldly colorful buildings create a striking image and are a gift for photographers. Exploring the hidden backstreets of these lovely towns is one of the great pleasures of a visit to Mexico.

A church in Campeche, one of Mexico’s colorful colonial towns

6) ANCIENT MAYAN TEMPLES

A visit to the ancient Mayan temples of Mexico is an exciting experience. From the sublime Tulum ruins, which overlooks the azure Caribbean Sea to the majesty of Teotihuacan, many of the sites have been restored and are open to the public. Although some of them are swamped by crowds, such as popular Chichen Itza, there are many hidden away in jungles or located in remote corners of the country, offering an opportunity for the adventurous to play at being Indiana Jones.

The ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in Yucatan

7) AMAZING MUSEUMS

Mexico City is a treasure trove of culture and has more museums than any other city in the world. From the home of Leon Trotsky to the superb Museum of Anthropology, you are bound to find something to interest you. One of the most unusual museums in the country is The Mummy Museum in Guanajuato. To make a tour of Mexico’s museums even more tempting, most of them are either free or only cost a few pesos entrance fee.

8) MARIACHI MUSIC

The haunting sound of Mariachi can be heard everywhere you travel in Mexico, whether it be from a radio in a cantina or a live band playing in the plaza. It is such evocative music that you know you can’t be anywhere else in the world. Mariachi was born on the streets of Guadalajara and you can still visit Mariachi Plaza, where bands wander from table to table serenading in street side cafes. In Mexico City, the slightly seedy Garibaldi Square is the place to go to catch some Mariachi action.

The haunting sounds of Mariachi music

9) DIVERSE LANDSCAPES

From the jungles of Yucatan to the deserts of Baja, few countries encapsulate such diverse landscapes as Mexico. Almost two-thirds of the terrain consists of mountains. Whether you prefer glitzy resorts or unspoilt beaches, the coastline is extensive and has something for everyone. With canyons, volcanoes, cenotes, and rivers to explore, there is much to see in this beautiful and immense country.

10) LUCHA LIBRE

Even those who wouldn’t usually dream of attending a wrestling match, surprise themselves by enjoying the experience of Lucha Libre. The sport is so much a part of Mexican culture that no visit to a major city would be complete without seeing Super Mistico or La Mascara in action. Whole families attend, wearing the appropriate masks and shouting support for their favorite wrestlers. Food and drink vendors circulate selling popcorn, nachos, and beer. The atmosphere is electric and it’s a rollicking good night out.

 

Originally posted 2017-07-15 14:58:19.

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How Moving to a New City is Different When You’re Queer

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We all know what it’s like to move. You get a new job, or are accepted into college, and you start to plan. If you’re like most people, you worry about housing first. Where are you going to live? Will you need roommates to afford rent and food at the same time? Is it close to work and/or school? If you have a family, you have to consider your children and/or your spouse. After all of that, there’s the actual moving part. Renting the van, motivating yourself to pack boxes and somehow convincing yourself to throw away half of the junk you’ve collected over the years because you won’t miss a single piece of it. There are so many hundreds of factors that go into a move, all of which have to be carefully considered and carried out. It’s chaotic and exciting at the same time, and scares you more than anything.

Now imagine the same process, but as a queer person. I’m a queer woman, which puts me into two minority groups immediately. And as a queer woman, in order to even begin choosing a new place to live, I have to ask a few questions first:

  1. Where should I move? 

If you’re moving for a job, this is usually decided for you, and you’ve probably already done your research into what your new place of residence is like, as well as how the job is going to be. But say you’re going to college, and you’re picking places to apply. Some of what you have to consider includes things such as “do these schools have LGBT clubs,” “is the city around the school relatively gay-friendly?” When you’re queer, it’s almost never as simple as “Look, this school has the Philosophy program I’ve been wanting. I’ll pick that one.”

  1. Is this city gay-friendly?

Let’s face it, we all have a few straight friends. But contrary to what sitcoms and romcoms portray, no LGBT person ever wants to hang out exclusively with straight people all day, every day. That’s just not how it works, especially if you want to, I don’t know, date someone at some point. Finding a community is important, as it’s not only about social interaction with similar people, but also a sense of security and comfort.

  1. Is it woman-friendly?

As I mentioned above, security and comfort are a huge deal. Being a woman isn’t always safe, so choosing your housing is vital to your well-being. Is the house/apartment you’re looking at in a safe neighborhood? What are the crime rates (murder, sexual assault, theft, etc.)? Is the demographic similar to what you’re used to?

When I moved into my first apartment at university, I didn’t consider any of these things. I found the cheapest place close to campus and moved in my stuff, no questions asked. It was a nightmare. Our neighbors were loud, creepy, and had parties every other weekend that left me hiding in my bedroom with the doors locked, hoping they wouldn’t get drunk enough to bust open the door to “talk” to me and my female roommates. The neighborhood was relatively quiet, but not somewhere you might walk a dog alone at night, and certainly not somewhere I felt safe enough to hold my girlfriend’s hand in public.

My second place was a vast improvement and if that first little hole-in-the-wall taught me anything, it was that there’s a lot to consider when moving somewhere new. But be aware, for the hundreds of factors you have to consider while moving, if you’re queer expect to ask a couple dozen more in the process.

Despite the stress, moving is still an exciting time. If you keep your wits about you when coming to a new city, you’ll be just fine and can then look forward to the new friends you’ll make along the way. Cue the packing montage in which you sob amid a pile of high school yearbooks and memorabilia.

Originally posted 2017-06-30 19:02:56.


Also published on Medium.

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The Overlooked Impact of Homophobia on LGBTQ Youths

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Despite the great accomplishments within the LGBTQ+ community, from the Stonewall Riots in 1969 that fought against discriminatory police raids to Obergefell v. Hodges that challenged the constitutionality of the ban on same-sex marriage, there are still significant hurdles that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth must overcome. One vastly overlooked problem is the number of homeless LGBTQ youths fending for themselves on the streets.  According to True Colors Fund, 1.6 million young Americans experience homelessness. While this number is truly shocking, the disparity between LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ youths is staggering; approximately 40% of homeless youth in America identify as being in the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

We hear about the homeless all the time; they are thugs, drug dealers, and the like. We do not, however, hear much about the LGBTQ homeless youths. Every year, many LGBTQ individuals choose to leave or are removed or from their homes by their parents because being in LGBTQ spectrum does not align with their family’s set of virtues and values, be it spiritual or out of sheer ignorance. Simply put, the number of LGBTQ homeless youths correlates to discriminatory beliefs and practices. Of course, being homeless comes with its own unique set of challenges, but homeless LGBTQ  youths face much more difficult problems. In conjunction with struggling to find food and decent shelter, homeless youths must also deal with such problems as increased risk of physical and sexual violence, alcohol and drug abuse, homophobic or transphobic attacks, and an increased risk of contracting STIs such as HIV/AIDS. This harsh statistic is an unfortunate reality for thousands of LGBTQ youths and will continue to be a problem if actions are not taken to prevent or at least decrease the numbers of LGBTQ homeless youths.

So, what can one do to help the LGBTQ homeless population? The simplest and easiest way to help LGBTQ homeless youths is to accept their sexuality and/or gender identity. Fight against homophobia, transphobia, and hateful speech and stand up to people who believe that one’s sexual identity is a choice. It is also helpful to educate people about LGBTQ individuals by showing that they are just like everyone else. Tell them that LGBT individuals such as Leonardo da Vinci, a famous Italian painter and inventor, Alan Turing, the father of the modern computer, Barbara Gittings, a lesbian and LGBTQ rights activist, and Christine Jorgensen, the first actor to have gone through sex-reassignment surgery, helped shape the world as we know it. Educating people on LGBTQ issues is the first step in helping get rid of prejudice and discriminatory thoughts and actions, which will make the world a more egalitarian planet to live on,which will help decrease the number of cases of LGBTQ individuals being removed from their homes.

Another way to help is to donate to organizations such as the Ali Forney Center. The Ali Forney center was founded in 2002 by Carl Siciliano in memory of Ali Forney, a gender non-conforming teen who fled his home at the age thirteen in 1995 and was subsequently thrown around many different foster homes in which he was abused, both physically and mentally. Ultimately Ali Forney was murdered Harlem. The Ali Forney Center’s mission is, understandably, to help out and protect LGBTQ homeless youths and supply them with the necessary tools for them to become successful in life. Donating opportunities for the Ali Forney Center include clothing donations or a monetary donations. Volunteering opportunities are also available, such as preparing meals, working as a youth counsellor, working as a Learning, Employment, Advancement and Placement (LEAP) mentor, and many more.

LGBTQ homelessness is a very serious problem that has no easy solution. However, by simply speaking against homophobia, transphobia, and hateful speech, one can begin to rid the world of prejudice and discriminatory behavior. Educating others about the accomplishments of people in the LGBTQ spectrum that have helped change the world for the better is also an extremely effective way to steer people’s thoughts towards thoughts of acceptance and equality. Volunteering and donating to organizations that are designed to help LGBTQ youths, whether it be a few socks or hundreds of dollars to helping prepare meals, can vastly improve the lives of the LGBTQ homeless youths. By taking action and spreading  of equality, we can all make this world a more habitable place to live and help the homeless LGBTQ youths from living on the streets.

Originally posted 2017-06-30 17:06:57.


Also published on Medium.

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Hidden Secrets of the Middle East: Israel’s Progressive Stance on LGBTQ Culture

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Israel is known for many things: It’s the origin of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, housing biblical soils filled with historical artifacts, and it’s friendly, bilateral relationship with the United States.

Despite making daily political headlines, what is seldom known about the tiny country in the MIddle East is its support of the LGBTQ community.

The country’s capital city and financial hub, Tel Aviv, hosts the largest Pride Parade of Asia every year, with over 200,000 attendees in 2017.

The country also offers a unique LGBTQ experience for the gay community. The “Rainbow” Trip is considered the “ Greatest Pride Parade of the Middle East .” The trip lasts 10 days long, and starts off in the holy city of Jerusalem. By day 6, members will have explored the ancient city of Nazareth and engaged in the pride parade overtakes the streets of Tel Aviv. You can book your tickets now for next year’s June, 2018, Tel Aviv Pride Group Trip.

Within its abundance of attractions in the main city, you have the option purchasing a Pride Week Bracelet , which gives you access to the exclusive parties that are happening.

“Tomorrow is the main event – the annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade! As usual, it starts in Gan Meir at around noon, runs through Bograshov street, Ben Yehuda street, and Ben Gurion Avenue, and ends up at the Gordon Beach, where you can expect a big, wild party,” writes Ashley for Pride one year, “If you find lots of skin on display, cross dressing and the waving in the air of various sex toys offensive, steer clear of these areas.”

The Aguda, or the National Association of LGBT in Israel, founded 42 years ago, has remained persistent in its standing. Since then, the organization has been involved in numerous accounts of social work, community building, and political advocacy.

Through the support of the country’s population and LGBTQ campaigns, there has been growth in Tel Aviv’s gay nightlife scene. From night clubs, community centers, and even gay beaches, the ever-growing population of LGBTQ entertainment sectors doesn’t on these who are looking to travel to Israel for a good time.

In 2015, the Israel was considered the seventh happiest place for gay men to live. This year, the country’s citizens shared on their thoughts on homosexual engagements. As of 2017, 79% of Jewish residents supported the belief of equal rights for gay marriage.

Dance clubs like Shpagat gives you the best of both worlds: A taste of Middle Eastern culture and relaxed vibes that allow you to mingle with and meet people. The Breakfast Club offers gay Thursdays and eclectic, underground nightlife.

There are plenty of gay cruises, dance parties, and even hotels to choose from. Before planning your trip, be sure to do some deep research on the hidden gems found in and around the capital.
If you are planning on heading to Israel for a vacation this summer, be sure to check out the Gay Tel Aviv Guide offered online. This provides you with a diverse list of attractions and activities found within the country’s parameters.

Originally posted 2017-06-29 21:04:35.

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