The Miami Herald
September 26, 1999
Mexican gays march against intolerance

 Herald World Staff

 MEXICO CITY -- Lilith Reyna was expecting ardent believers to drizzle holy water
 on her head as she entered the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

 Reyna led some 150 Mexican gays and lesbians through the doors of the shrine
 Saturday -- the first time a group of openly gay Christians has passed through the
 doors of Mexico's most important Catholic shrine -- which sits near the site where
 an image of the Virgin Mary was seen in 1521.

 ``I thought there would be a priest at the door sprinkling us, hoping we would
 change,'' said the 22-year-old communications student and march organizer who
 was relieved that the landmark religious procession came off without incident
 despite earlier telephone threats.

 The pilgrimage was sponsored by a fledgling Mexico City chapter of the
 Metropolitan Community Church, an international ecumenical organization. The
 1.5-mile walk along the broad Guadalupe Boulevard was billed as a pilgrimage
 against intolerance and hate crimes. In Mexico, machismo -- overt manliness --
 and Catholic sermons preach against homosexuality.

 Some take it further: In Mexico City alone this year, gay support groups have
 reported 150 hate crimes -- most of them unsolved murders and violent assaults
 against gays.

 ``This is an act of faith for us,'' said the Rev. Jorge Sosa, leader of the
 Metropolitan Community Church in Mexico City. ``The Virgin protects everyone
 and accepts everyone, and we're here to show her our devotion and to ask her
 protection as we fight for our rights in Mexico.''

 Religious analysts say Mexican attitudes toward homosexuality are changing.
 Increasingly, gay rights are debated among politicians and community leaders --
 including Patria Jimenez, the country's only openly gay member of congress.

 Jimenez, a practicing Catholic who was due to lead the march, declined at the
 last minute.

 ``She didn't want to politicize the event,'' said Reyna. Jimenez is from the Party of
 the Democratic Revolution, Mexico's leading leftist opposition party.

                     Copyright 1999 Miami Herald