By Robert Franco, a third-year PhD student in the History Department

Last month, as I washed off the residue of rainbow face paint from San Francisco Pride, I sifted through the abundant social media that the parade had produced and stumbled upon an interesting post circulating from the Communist Party of Mexico (PCM). While the final droplets of red paint fell into the sink and blended with the pink swirl that had amassed, I read in crimson lettering, “Freedom for the detained prisoners!” and seven names published on the flyer: Fernando Quezada, Luis Ramírez, Paco Jiménez, Emiliano Jijon, Rodrigo Salazar, Araceli Lorenzo, Christian Rangel. The flyer, posted to Facebook on June 24th, was demanding the release of members of the Federation of Young Communists of Mexico (JVC) and the Antifascist Red Brigade who had been arrested.

Expecting to hear yet another story of police aggression, I was surprised to read that the seven youth were arrested hours earlier while marching in the Mexico City Pride Parade held the same day as San Francisco’s. Even more shocking – they were arrested for fighting with “fascists” and “other reactionaries that were seeking to harm marchers.” Having just attended a pride parade that felt less like a political march and more of a corporate funded celebration, it was disconcerting to be reminded that Mexico City’s Marcha del Orgullo remains a battleground.

Often, we take it for granted that rights around sexual identity have become a badge of progressive politics, particularly for the partisan Left. This hasn’t always been the case. My dissertation research seeks to explain how such an alliance between sexual politics and Leftist politics came about – how did groups like the Mexican Communist Party come to embrace the rights of sexual minorities as crucial issues?

So far, in my research this summer, I’ve established that this alliance came about at the turn of the 1980s. As leftist parties across Mexico were preparing to combine in order to form an electoral coalition known as the Unified Socialist Party of Mexico (PSUM) in 1981, the Communist Party of Mexico (which had a long history of confronting, often aggressively, sexual politics), adopted a resolution at its XIX Congress declaring solidarity with the burgeoning lesbian and gay movement. This was largely due to internal pressure from youth cadres and external campaigning by the lesbian and gay movement in Mexico. One statement, issued before Mexico City’s third Marcha de Orgullo in 1981, reads:

The Mexican Communist Party considers the practice of sexuality of each individual person to be an issue of their private lives, and it opposes any interference by the State. Additionally, it declares solidarity with the struggles directed against any form of repression, discrimination or oppression, social, ideological or political, based on any behavior or sexual norm. On this Third March, we especially denounce the assaults and persecutions directed at a number of citizens by police due to their sexuality and we demand the authorities of the city and police corps put an end to the anti-constitutional raids and their extortionist aims.[1]

Its important to remember that the partisan Left has been splintered and diverse since arriving on the scene in Mexico during the early twentieth century. The PCM of today and its youth wing, the JVC, is actually the most recent incarnation of the Communist Party in Mexico (of which there have been several over the course of the twentieth century). It emerged after 1989 when the Marxist-Leninist cadre of the leftist coalition that began in 1981 split from main party to form their own. The current Communist Party, thus, is a revival of the original Marxist-Leninist line that was lost once the PCM of yesteryear decided to join with various socialist and trade-union parties to form PSUM in 1981 and then PRD in 1989.

So in ways somewhat similar to their predecessors, the PCM and JVC were joining this year’s Marcha de Orgullo out of solidarity. But what surprised me about the clash at the march was that these seven youth were doing more than just declaring solidarity with the lesbian and gay movement through a manifesto and some marching, strategies that have become routine for leftist parties to bolster their progressive credentials. They were fighting homophobia with their fists.

At a time when we are debating the passive roles and actions of allies and critiquing the “safety pin” approach to activism, these youth were putting their lives on the line to ensure the rights and dignity of the LGBTQ+ community. As I continue to conduct this research, I hope to better contextualize how and why political actors choose to abandon intolerance, declare solidarity, and then begin confronting hatred with punches.

[1] Partido Comunista Mexicano, “Saludos pronunciados con motivo de la 3er. Marcha del Orgullo Homosexual.” 28 June 1981, Archivo Documental of the Centro de Información y Documentación de las Homosexualidades en México, Mexico City (CIDHOM).