Generating Discussion: Liberation or Exploitation?

De Ambiente Queer Tourism and the Shifting Boundaries of Mexican Male Sexualities

by Lionel Cantú

In Cantú’s essay, he argues that sexual colonization and liberation are active in gay and lesbian tourism and in Mexican sexualities.He examines development of gay and lesbian tourism in Mexico and those effects on Mexican sexualities. He begins by presenting a a portrait of an exotic Mexico which he draws from a tourist website focusing on Mexico–“a sexy Mexico.” Then he defines terms such as ambiente meaning homosexual subculture. Loosely defined, ambiente is sort of like the environment, the vibe or feeling of a certain place. He defines “gay and lesbian tourism” as “identity-based tourism” and “queer tourism” as “a larger market” that includes heterosexuals, bisexuals, and transgender folks transnationally. He explains that he working toward a transnational framework by recognizing that identities are driven by change across borders.

He frames this essay by acknowledging his subject position (which is very feminist) in comparison the folks he is researching. He identifies as Chicano, and his ancestry is Mexican. He also addresses limitations in his research and explains that he does not want to perpetuate lesbian invisibility by doing his research on primarily Mexican mens who have sex with men. Some of his methods included ethnography, along with being at tourist, which was the basis of his investigation and these interviews demonstrated that he needed to focus on tourism as a form of migration.

He explains a “Mexican phrase”–De los otros–referring to the others or to a different type of folk. He explain that one cannot study sexuality without focusing on culture simultaneously. Later, he goes on to explain sexual borderlands or “tolerance zones” of Mexican male sexualities and relevant to this transformation. He writes about the relevance of cultural-economic relationship between the united States and Mexico and that they co-dependent. Co-dependent in terms of Mexico being the “labor source” for United States’ business in relation to migration. He noticed the common trend among the men he interviewed which was rural to urban migration.

Gay bars in “zonas de tolerancia” in Mexico reflect urbanization and “development.” He explains that these zonas regulated the other or deviant such as homosexuals, someone with sexually transmitted diseases, and prostitution. He presents more information in the way that zonas’ reactions where different depending on location such as border town zones. Lots of “north of the border” people were attracted to the sexual space of “south of the border.” There was this fetishization of “el caballero” or Mexican cowboy.

Late he goes on to explain the attraction of gay and lesbian tourism is either brings feeling of the exotic or of the home-y. He talks about Puerto Vallarta as in Guadalajara as a “San Francisco of Mexico.” Tourism companies who’s audience is the queers focuses on this exotified Mexican San Francisco in contrast to the Mexico (or “foreign land”) that is often presented as homophobic. He has a series of interviews in which Mexican men are explaining their experiences in certain areas of Mexico and the United States in terms of class and sex and tourism. He explains how these zonas can be sexually liberating in terms of coming together and celebrating queer community, but can also be exploitative in terms of the “American” man coming for his sex dream with a Mexican caballero. As he writes, it is a sexual borderland between liberation and exploitation.


How does this concept of sexual borderlands and Queer Mexico work within each other and gay and lesbian tourism?

How does global processes work in creating a “space” that is economically political?

What are some differences between gay and lesbian tourism and queer tourism in relation to this essay?



Exotic Dancing Across and Within Borders

Migration continues to be sexualized through bride orders, anchor babies, colonization, work, love and much more. Work, particularly sex work, has been a major part of migration.  Wherever there is work is the destination.  The United States, specifically Los Angeles, is known to have lots of tourism for its “diverse” population and attractive cities filled with museums, clubs, bars and city lights.  Many migrating people from Latin America come to the United States for a better life, for work–to get paid.

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Exotic Dancing and Modeling Latinas Across Borders

The image to the right was found in a google search of ‘Latina’ accompanied with images such as pregnant bellies, breastfeeding Latinas, and Latina models similar to this image.  I chose this image because I am interested in the “exotic dancing and modeling” culture across the Americas, specifically to the United States and Latin America. I want to research the fetishization of Latina bodies as santas/ putas and how that frames sex work and (im)migration. I think this needs a transnational feminist approach because the ideas around sex work, exotic dancing, modeling, and beauty all intersect in different ways with immigration, race, and gender across the americas and these are constructed in different ways across the americas, so I would address how they work with each other at an intersectional level and how  society reacts to those different intersections, and which are prized versus demonized.


This is a poster advertising a nightclub featuring “Puras Latinas” for their model search. Notice the logo of “Puras Latinas” why is it in this font? what do they mean by “pura latinas” or “pure latinas”? Notice the location, Las Vegas is known for its tourist attractions, what or who are the attractions?

Exotic Dancer (Im)Migration Research Report

This is a July 2002 research report that I found when searching deep into google for something other than ads. So it seems like their a lot in here that pertains to a topic I’m interested in researching. The report focuses on immigration of Latin American women to Canada and sex work. It looks at the lives of Latina exotic dancers in connection to their employment and immigration status. This was created by the Latin American Coalition to end violence against women and children.

Ad Website for Latina Strippers

This is a website featuring Latina/o exotic dancers. The first image that presents itself is two Latinas touching each other all over. So questions I think of are who is this for? Whose decision was it to choose this photograph and why? Also further down this page, they do have white exotic dancers and seem to be featuring the Latina/o exotic dancers, why? This website is specific to Southern California. It presents the exotic dancers to be chosen from a catalog.

Victoria’s Secret, Latin American Edition

This is Fox News Latino showing a slideshow that features Latinas in Victoria’s Secret. Most of these Latina models  are white passing. The Latina models are identified by their country, not their name. Again, Latinas are presented as nameless and just addressed as a “Latin American Edition.”

Nuestra Belleza Latina 2013

My mom watches Nuestra Belleza Latina, and I thought this article might fit well with what I’m interested in researching. This article is introducing a voting poll for people to vote who they think is the most beautiful Latina in the U.S. Beautiful to whose standards and what standards? I think this poll is really interesting because it says that there is a specific type of beautiful for Latinas. And I wonder why in society it’s alright for these candidates to wear these outfits and for exotic dancers it’s stigmatized.