It is well known that the Mexico City Metro is the place where numerous people, mainly cis gay men, practice cruising. If you don’t know or are not familiar with this, just go on Twitter to see this curious phenomenon. It’s a way to commute everywhere used by over 4.6 million passengers daily, where each train can carry more than 1,500 people, and where gay individuals manage to have clandestine encounters at the slightest opportunity.
There are several theories about the origin of the word cruising. Some say it refers to two people crossing paths or exchanging glances. However, my favorite theory is proposed by Mark W. Turner in his book Backward Glances: Cruising Queer Streets in London and New York, and I think every LGBTQ+ member living in the Netherlands should know about this theory. It suggests that the word cruising comes from the Dutch word ‘kruiser’, which means ‘to cross’ or ‘to sail’, a term coming from Dutch sailors who sought sexual encounters with other men in the ports they were visiting.
Cruising in Mexico started in the late 1960s with the arrival of the sexual revolution and the cosmopolitan influences brought in from the United States and Europe by groups of intellectuals who aimed to create safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community. Despite that apparent sexual freedom, homosexuality was not fully accepted like in most parts of the world, so the streets, public restrooms, and parties, underground and by night, became the top favorite meeting places. In a way, the gays found in the last wagon of the metro – from 10 pm until midnight – a refuge and an act of defiance to use public spaces as a statement, a place to live their sexuality freely when they didn’t have a place to go. Or perhaps, just perhaps, it became a place filled with adrenaline-fueled by curiosity and the emergence of a new fetish, giving it the nickname La Cajita Feliz (the happy meal) due to the joy it brings. Cruising has managed to survive until today as a strong and ongoing tradition recommended through mouth to mouth… quite literally.
By nature, human beings have the ability to eroticize everything, to create a fantasy for each individual, and to translate that eroticism into spaces, both public and private. And us, gay people, have taken good advantage of this. I vividly remember the first time I experienced it without knowing what was happening. It may not seem like it, but I studied law and worked as a lawyer for several years. One day, after visiting one of the law courts I oversaw, on my way back to the office all dressed up in a brown suit, I made eye contact with a very cute guy as I exited the metro corridors, while he was entering. He was also wearing a suit – his was navy blue. He was about my height, with dark brown hair and green eyes. I remember how much I liked him; it was one of those sights that make you feel butterflies and let you know that he plays for the same team as you. After a few steps, I turned around as a natural reaction, unaware that he would do the same. Now I know that what I did was a signal for him to follow me out of the metro. Obviously, I didn’t know what to do. I boarded a bus that would drop me off in front of my workplace, and before it departed, he made some signal with his head for me to get off the bus so we could disappear back into the metro from everyone’s sight. To disappoint you, readers, I didn’t dare to get off the bus.
It’s true that I would have loved to know more about this in my early twenties. If I knew what was behind that sight and head signal, I would have gotten off the bus, gone back to the metro, headed to the last car, and unleashed all the lust that we communicated with that quick glance. Now I know that the recurring users perfectly know how to see the codes, the signals, the simple movements full of anxiety of those guys in the last car of La Cajita Feliz to realize they are cruising too. Sometimes it’s about their outfit – tight pants to show what you have to offer or comfortable sweatpants for easy access – and other times it’s the gaze, discreet hints, grabbing your own crotch, or even carrying large backpacks to cover oneself while receiving oral sex. The complicity is such that at times, other passengers/cruisers/voyeurs act as fences, blocking the gaze of those curious onlookers who are more inclined to judge than to be part of it.
Let’s note that this takes place while the metro is moving from one station to another. You should see the quick, natural, and casual reactions of cruisers when the train arrives at the next station. Sometimes, they don’t even zip up their fly; they simply cover themselves with whatever they have at hand, and then continue without having to start from scratch. Once back on the tracks, everyone goes back to their own business, to the adrenaline, to the fast-paced yet heated encounters. Of course, not everything is smooth sailing. This phenomenon raised concerns among conservatives, and in response to their complaints, in February 2011, the government closed the last wagon of the main metro lines during the night. They denied that it was a homophobic or discriminatory act stating that the intention simply was to fight insecurity.
But what happens when you close off the last car of the metro? Exactly. The second-to-last car becomes the last one. So still, there you are satisfying your body when you’re horny by engaging with someone in, what looks like, your old favorite place. In the words of the new Carrie Bradshaw, just like that, the gays realized there was no law that would make them stop. The government, of course, decided to send a police officer to monitor cruisers and prevent it from happening, however, we all know that when it comes to homosexual desire, creativity knows no bounds. That’s why there is more than one story, tale, and even a few videos that show some officers joining the game instead of limiting it. Luckily, after all these hazards, limiting it is off the political agenda nowadays.
David Graham, in his book The Last Car: Cruising in Mexico City, stated that he found the gay scene in the metropolis to be more open than in other cities such as London, New York, or Paris. Reading this gives me a lot of joy since it reminds me that I come from a place that, despite being a chaotic but fantastic concrete jungle, has also allowed the LGBTQ+ community to find their own spaces to live out their fantasies and have different experiences, regardless of their social status, granting them rights that are not a reality in many places, including Europe. In this specific case, it allows us to live the adrenaline of doing something with anonymity but at the same time in full view of everyone.
Despite everything, La Cajita Feliz continues to be a fantasy for many, a fetish icon for others, and even a political conquest for the LGBTQ+ community within the place that watched me become the gay I am today: my beloved Mexico City.