Mexico’s first openly gay mayor was this month sworn in at a ceremony in a city in the rough, gang violence-ridden Zacatecas state. Benjamin Medrano, 48, a singer who owns a gay bar, now heads the municipal office in Fresnillo, a city of 111,000 in a rural region noted for its cowboy hats, machismo and conservative Catholicism. The city has been caught up in a turf war between rival drug cartels.
Metro spoke to Medrano about his electoral victory and his views on same-sex marriage.
Metro: You have been acknowledged as Mexico’s first gay mayor…
Medrano: I’m not the first – rather, I’m the only one who had the guts to make my sexual orientation public. People who know me know that I have neither hidden my preferences nor ever denied them. There are many politicians who dare not come out of the closet.
Was it difficult to convince people that sexual preferences have nothing to do with politics?
The city of Fresnillo has more important problems so they did not care – they want to know who can solve a food crisis, insecurity or improve their living conditions.
What has been the secret to your electoral success?
My approach to people, how I conduct myself and work to give results.
Across the world, the gay marriage movement is gathering pace. You are a Roman Catholic, living in a conservative part of Mexico – what is your stance on the issue?
I do not support gay marriage. I am a lawyer by profession and this kind of legal union is not in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution; it has a different meaning to all laws that speak of what marriage should be. However, I respect those (homosexuals) who are getting married in Mexico City (where conducting same-sex marriage is legal) or elsewhere in the country because everyone has the right to demonstrate love the way they want.
So, are you a conservative?
First of all, I am a responsible person, but I can consider myself to be very conservative. I think the gay and lesbian community has fallen into some excesses. But here in Fresnillo, for example, people with this orientation are very constructive – they have their own businesses and who come into their own.
You are known locally for your singing career. What made you leave the music industry and go into politics?
I never left it, so to speak. More, the music took me into the political scene. I still own two bars and work as a music artist and trade show promoter.
Who is Benjamin Medrano?
- Born to a poor family with 11 siblings in Nochistlán, Zacatecas state.
- Went to the United States aged 6, as part of a musician group. Toured the U.S. and Mexico.
- Graduated with a law degree aged 21; Led a trade union for professional musicians; recorded several albums of ballads.
- Set up a gay nightclub in 1994; entered politics four years later.