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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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LGBT at NYCC

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Comic book stores and the fantastical stories that they sell have long been a place for the oppressed and marginalized to go when they were feeling down. Comics gave folks a safe space to retreat to when no one else would listen or understand, spinning stories of the misunderstood and how they rose above their circumstances.

Of course, at first comics focused primarily on straight cis white men and women, and their personal trials outside of fighting supervillains were only really relatable to some. Now, comic artists have branched outside of the binary, and comic books with characters (and authors and artists!) of any race, gender or sexuality can be found in many large chain comic book stores and conventions.

I explored New York Comic Con on its opening day, October 5th, and managed to find a plethora of LGBT+ comics and comic artists. Some of which I knew of already and others that were brand new to me, but all were swamped with patrons.

Boom! Studios is a comic publisher that has been my number one supplier of LGBT+ comics for a while. They offer a huge range of comics in terms of subject matter, age range, and representation.

Lumberjanes is the first Boom! Studios comic I found and loved. It’s about a group of girls at a camp for “hardcore lady types,” and the mysterious and supernatural creatures that they find deep in the woods. Two of the girls are dating each other (though their sexualities are never specified), one of the girls is trans and has two dads, and they make a friend at the all boys camp nearby who uses gender neutral pronouns. None of these facts are hidden in any way; they are all addressed directly in ways that readers of any age can comprehend. While the girls have very distinct personalities, they also effectively show just how nurturing, kind, strong and brave lady types of any age or body type can be. The all-female team of authors and artists (one of whom is dating a fellow female comic artist) created a world that will inspire any lady type (or dude type, or neither type) to accept themselves, learn their strengths, and experience friendship to the max.

The Backstagers appealed to me as a comic fan and longtime “theatre kid.” Taking place in a high school theater at an all boys school, it follows a ragtag group of technical theatre students (known to some as “techies” or, in this case, “backstagers”) and the strange and wondrous things they find hidden in the theater’s impossibly large backstage area. The artists, both queer, have said that there is only one straight character in the whole series. In the main group, one of the boys is gay, another bi, and another trans, and, like Lumberjanes, these issues are addressed directly and with all the awkwardness one would expect from high school theater kids. The trans boy is even shown wearing a binder, and frequently mentions how he used to go to the all girls school and help out in their theater department before transferring to his current school. While perhaps a bit of a niche comic, as it is all about high school theater and the drama that happens onstage and off, it’s still an accessible piece of literature and especially important for high school readers as they figure out who they are and their connections to others.

Representation in comics isn’t limited to those in print. Webcomics were among the first to have queer characters, mostly because of the inherent freedom in self-publishing on a more open space like the internet.

Check, Please! Is one of the more popular queer webcomics today. I tried to say hello to the comic artist at NYCC, but the line for her table stretched around her table and down an aisle in Artist Alley. This independent comic about a gay Southern hockey player going to a fictional college near Boston exploded into popularity because it’s free to read, easy to access, and overall just a really great story, dealing with homophobia, toxic masculinity in sports, and unrequited crushes. It’s very cute and often heartwarming, with an eclectic cast of characters, but also deals with very real subjects. It shows the good and the bad of growing up gay and exploring new relationships, which is frustrating and sad, but often comforting to those reading who could be struggling with the exact same thing.

What these three comics have in common is that they have accurate, well-written and entertaining representation, not for the sake of representation, but simply to share amazing stories that happen to have queer characters. In some of these stories, being queer is a huge part of the story or a character’s identity, but in others, it’s simply a fact that is easily acknowledged and accepted. Queer readers need to see that it’s okay to have these feelings or identify a certain way, and know that they can either live a normal life playing hockey at their dream college, or fight magical beasts in the woods at their camp for hardcore lady types, or both.

Be sure to share this article with the comic fan in your life, and leave a comment with your favorite queer comic below!

Originally posted 2017-10-27 19:25:56.

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Ireland Travel Guide

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Ireland isn’t nicknamed the emerald isle without reason. Sprawling across the entirety of the country are woodland forests, wildflowers, and seacoast grasses. In the summer, heather blankets the mountainsides and a light dusting of snow covers the green grass in the winter. The entirety of the island, comprised of Ireland and Northern Ireland (UK) is only about the size of Indiana but it is certainly no day trip. With its rich history, natural beauty, and lively culture, there is something for everyone.

Skellig Michael

Whether it’s the first or last thing you do, take a slow drive around the Ring of Kerry. The route itself is one of Ireland’s most visited attractions and will take you through the staple scenery of the island. Tumbling waterfalls, crumbling castles, and picturesque seaside villages are all accessible from the road. Star Wars fans, history buffs, and lovers of the ocean won’t want to miss the rare chance to visit Skellig Michael. With only a few boats going out to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, you have to secure your spot well in advance but exploring the centuries-old honeycomb monastery huts, climbing the steep cliffs, and watching the nesting puffins will be worth the wait. Besides, the pilgrimage to the tiny island isn’t only about the destination but the journey too. The only way to get to Skellig Michael is by fishing boat early in the morning, when the sea is tumultuous. But the trip rewards those that take it with the chance to see whales and dolphins right alongside of them. The ships leave from Portmagee, a tiny town on the coast with tight streets, quaint shops, and cozy restaurants.

Make sure to pack your wellies for a trip to Killarney National Park. The first and one of the most diverse national parks in the country, Killarney offers spectacular experiences in nature. Dotted with lakes, the woodland environment is home to a variety of flora and fauna including Ireland’s only remaining herd of wild deer. Just outside of the park lies the lively village of Killarney. Almost as popular a destination as the park itself, Killarney offers music, culture, and history. Later, kiss the Blarney stone for the gift of eloquence like Winston Churchill and so many others have and tour the castle grounds.

Irish Sheep

Further north is the city of Cork and past that is Dublin . Whether you’re looking to have a wild night at the infamous Temple Bar, or just a quiet pub to sit down, you’ll find it in Ireland’s biggest city. Also the nation’s capital, Dublin is teaming with diverse experiences including castles, goals, and cathedrals. In the summer, the city hosts the Dublin LGBTQ Pride Festival, the biggest of its kind on the island.

Within driving distance of the city are the Hill of Tara and New Grange, archeological complexes that have brought awe and wonder to people for generations. There, you can see the ruins and inscriptions left behind by Neolithic people thousands of years ago. Due to conservation efforts, New Grange is difficult to visit because tickets need to be bought in advance for a guided tour, but if history is what you came to Ireland for, it will be worth the trouble. On the other hand, the Hill of Tara is an easy drive and walkable park.

Poulnabrone Dolmen

The northern third or so of the island is Northern Ireland, a part of the UK. Though religious tensions caused the two sides to incite violence, that is now well in the past. The border is open and you can cross without any bother, not even needing to stop to show your passport. Just don’t forget to reset your speedometer to miles per hour and convert your cash into pounds. Northern Ireland is also covered in locations to stop and experience. From the bustling city of Belfast, to the sleepy village of Cobh where the Titanic last docked, this country is teeming with reasons to get off the highway. Cross the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, skip along hexagonal basalt columns at Giant’s Causeway, or drive along the scenic coast. Game of Thrones fans will also enjoy seeking out filming locations like The King’s Road (The Dark Hedges) and Dragonstone (The Mussenden Temple).

Musseden Temple

Of course, no trip to Ireland is complete without a stop at the Cliffs of Moher. The multiple hundred feet drop of sheer cliff is one of the most iconic locations in the country. Despite its size, Ireland has so much to discover. If you didn’t get a chance to see it all, it’s only a reason to come back again.

 

Originally posted 2017-10-27 19:25:29.

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LGBT History Month: Celebrating Sappho

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As some of you may know, I’m a huge fan of poetry. So are a lot of people, actually, and for good reason. Poetry is beautiful and allows us to say what the heart and soul can’t. Some of the greatest declarations of love and longing have been poetic, and there’s one poet who deserves a little attention for LGBT History Month. This month I’m documenting five of the most iconic and world-changing woman-loving women (WLW), and it would be careless of me not to mention the poet considered by many to be the ultimate WLW:

“Whoever he is who opposite you
sits and listens close
to your sweet speaking
and lovely laughing – oh it
puts the heart in my chest on wings
for when I look at you, even a moment, no speaking
is left in me
no: tongue breaks and thin
fire is racing under skin
and in eyes no sight and drumming
fills ears
and cold sweat holds me and shaking
grips me all, greener than grass”
Sappho

The above lines are exactly what they sound like: Sappho confessing joy and admiration for a woman. Doesn’t that make you feel so gay (pun absolutely intended)?? Known for writing about her yearning and love for women, Sappho is a well-known figure in the “L” part of the LGBT community. Born on the Greek island of Lesbos, Sappho was a prolific writer, composing line after line of beautiful poetry, much of it on subjects of love and women.

Unfortunately, most of Sappho’s writing has been lost, and only one complete poem, “Ode to Aphrodite,” has ever been found. As a poet, this makes me want to sit down and cry for all the lost lesbian poems we’ll probably never see. But just because we only have fragments of some of her work, Sappho remains an iconic figure in LGBT history, for a couple of reasons.

First, you’re probably familiar with the term “lesbian.” This word didn’t come from just anywhere, and you’ve probably already figured out that it’s no coincidence that Sappho was born on the island of Lesbos. See the connection?

And second, there’s the more obvious allusion in phrases like “sapphic vibes” or “sapphic tendencies.” The term “sapphic” stems from the name “Sappho” and the belief that she expressed open homo-eroticism not just in her poetry but in life as well. Unfortunately, we will probably never know for sure, as little is known about Sappho’s life. To add to her mystery, the meaning and subjects of her poems are hotly debated, and over the centuries many have been intentionally heterosexualized by scholars.

Whatever her original intentions were, it’s clear that Sappho certainly idolized women, even if it wasn’t explicitly romantically or sexually motivated. And in the lesbian community, Sappho is widely accepted as one of the first openly homosexual women in literature. As for this lesbian, I’d like to believe that Sappho was loving ladies her whole life, and openly expressing that love to the world. After all, that’s the dream, isn’t it? To be open about our sexuality and not be ashamed to show it? It’s what the LGBTQ community is still working towards today, and why we celebrate LGBT History Month.

Thanks to Sappho’s inspiring poetry we have a name for WLW and a historical figure to study and admire. Which women do you admire? What’s your favorite sapphic poem? Tell us in the comments, and go here if you want to learn about last week’s featured lesbian, Barbara Gittings, and her influence in LGBTQ visibility. Next week I’ll be talking about Gladys Bentley, continuing my coverage of iconic lesbians who changed the world.  

Originally posted 2017-10-27 15:09:19.

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