This Year’s Other Gay Bar Massacre —in Mexico

Following the week’s horrific massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Latin American media are noting a similar deadly attack earlier this year that failed to make world headlines—in Xalapa, capital of Mexico’s Gulf Coast state of Veracruz. That happened on May 21, when a group of heavily armed men opened fire on patrons at the city’s La Madame gay bar, killing seven and wounding 12.

As in the far bloodier Orlando attack, an AR-15 rifle was used. Some of the gunmen were also armed with AK-47s. The Veracruz Public Security Secretariat said this was just another massacre in the wars between rival drug cartels that have been plaguing Mexico for a decade now. But, as the Yucatan Times points out, the fact that the shooters seemed to fire randomly into the crowded bar may point to another motive.

One of the victims, named Samantha, told news agency 90 Grados: “All I remember is hearing gun shots, people started to fall down. I threw myself on the floor and crawled inside the bathroom, after a few minutes I went out and saw all these people in a pool of blood. it was a nightmare.”

Over the past years of bloody narco wars in Mexico, bars have been shot up before. In one notorious incident in 2006, gunmen burst into a nightclub in Michoacán state and threw a bag full of severed heads onto the dance floor. But Mexico’s gay advocacy group Fundación Arcoiris (Rainbow Foundation) says that between 1995 and 2014, a total of 1,218 hate crimes against the LGBTQ community were registered in the country. In several countries across Latin America (most famously Colombia), narco-fueled paramilitary groups also launch “social cleansing” operations that target gays, “delinquents” and (ironically!) drug users. Sometimes these gangs operate with connivance or outright collaboration of the official security forces.

Progress often provokes a backlash, and Mexico has seen some impressive progress on this front in recent years. As Yucatan Times notes, 2013 saw the country’s first openly gay mayor elected—Benjamin Medrano of Fresnillo, Zacatecas. And almost exactly a year ago, in June 2015, a ruling of Mexico’s Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

photo: Getty Images

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