Mexico City, Mexico – In the center of Mexico City sits the world-renowned Alameda Central Park. Founded in 1592, it is the oldest public park in the Americas. Although not so popular with the locals, it draws many international tourists. And where there are tourists, there are hustlers. I [author Jesus Chairez] often go to the only gay cantina at the park, La Rayuela. My first time sitting outside La Rayuela, I was most surprised at the number of young men walking by my table and saying hello, wanting to make conversation. I thought I was very special and pretty; then I figured it out. Those young men wanted me to “hire” them or least invite them for drinks. I did invite some for cocktails; I always enjoy a good conversation over cold beers. And I wanted to know their stories, too.

            Alameda Park attracts plenty of young male hustlers, and getting a client can be competitive. Walking around strutting like boastful roosters are twinks, muscular men in tight tank tops and some effeminate ones. There are plenty of “chacales” in in the park — young men with darker skin who are “tops” only and who can get a little rough at times. The usual cost for a hustler is $250 peso ($10.50 USD). There are no high-end call boys in this part of the city and no Grinder hookups either. Hustlers will do anything you want – active, passive, fellatio. Some even offer the besos negro (the “black kiss”), which is what they call anal stimulation. I was amazed by such a low price. But when you consider that the average daily income in Mexico is only $200 pesos ($8.50 USD), you realize that this is good, quick cash. If a hustler can get a couple of clients — or even just one client — a day, they are ahead of the average daily pay game.

            Then the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic hit, and slowly things in Mexico City started to close. First to close were the cafes, restaurants, cantinas and gyms. Employers sent home non-essential workers. Then all hotels closed, and so did the parks. Alameda Park was sealed up with steel barricades, because people would not stop gathering there in crowds to dance to DJ music or be entertained by street performers. In Mexico more than half of the population works at informal jobs; think street vendors and taco stands. And if they don’t work, they don’t eat. That includes the male hustlers. Their clients, usually older gentlemen, were also gone. Alfredo, a hustler who lives on the streets, said that he occasionally has a client but most days, though, he makes nothing and only eats when someone gives him food. But the clients, for the most part, are quarantining at home. Fernando, another hustler who before the pandemic also had a day job, charges his clients $250 pesos ($10.50 USD) and can usually get two clients a day. But on Fridays and Saturdays, he often gets several clients, making up to $2,000 pesos ($81 USD) a day. But now, he said, “all that money is now gone. People are afraid.” Fernando said without his day job and with few clients, he has no income and doesn’t know what he will do. [Jesus Chairez, formerly of Dallas, now lives in Mexico City. He was the producer and host of North Texas first bilingual LGBTQ Latino radio show, Sin Fronteras on KNON 89.3 FM, and is a published author in the book, Queer Brown Voices. He can be reached at facebook.com/JesusChairez] (Dallas Voice – Jesus Chairez at https://dallasvoice.com/life-on-the-fringe-during-a-pandemic/)

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