If you’re planning a trip to Mexico, look no further than Jalisco — the ultimate LGBTQ+ destination with the best beaches, urban experiences, activities, and attractions in the country. It’s easy to see why “Jalisco is Mexico” is the state’s tagline, as it encapsulates the very best of Mexican culture, history and tradition while serving as fertile ground for the emergence of Mexico’s coolest restaurants, bars, and hot spots.
Jalisco prides itself on being the birthplace of mariachi music, tequila, and charrería, a Mexican equestrian sport. Mariachi is such a significant part of Mexican culture that in 2021 UNESCO added it to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Though the music of the genre has remained relatively traditional, over time the mariachi community has evolved to accept all sexual orientations and gender identities, evidenced by all-female and LGBTQ+ mariachi bands. Every August, some of these groups can be found performing at the International Mariachi Festival, the world’s largest celebration of mariachi music.
In Tequila, designated by the federal government as one of Jalisco’s nine “Magical Towns,” blue agave fields stretch as far as the eye can see and produce the wildly popular spirit for which the town is named. Jalisco has hundreds of tequila distilleries, with brands both owned by locals and backed by celebrities such as Dwayne Johnson, LeBron James, and George Clooney.
Charrería, which dates back to the 1500s, also plays an important role in Jalisco. Today, charrería is seen as much more than a “Mexican rodeo.” Involving horse and lasso skills and trained riders, it is considered a family sport with skills and equipment passed from one generation to the next. Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta are the best places to see local competitions.
Intertwined with this authentic Mexican culture are numerous ways travelers can celebrate their individuality in Jalisco in the coming months.
Guadalajara, the capital city of Jalisco and the second-largest city in Mexico, will host the Gay Games in November 2023, bringing athletes of all ages and sexual orientations to the city to compete in more than 20 sports, with everything from wrestling and diving to golf. The Games follow the Day of the Dead, the traditional Mexican holiday that celebrates loved ones who’ve passed on and features parades, costumes, music, and food.
Jalisco’s status as a center of LGBTQ+ culture was further cemented when InterPride, the organization that brings together Pride networks around the globe, chose Guadalajara for its 2022 annual conference. The city’s own Pride festival, hosted every June, is also not to be missed; it coincides with Prohibido — a progressive cultural festival celebrating sexual diversity and gender expression with art installations and interactive experiences — as well as Festival Androgina, a celebration of queer artists. Premio Maguey, Guadalajara’s renowned LGBTQ+ film festival, also takes place in event-packed June.
The popular coastal destination of Puerto Vallarta is host to one of Latin America’s largest Pride celebrations during the month of May. Visitors will find a wide range of gay-owned hotels, restaurants, stores, bars, cabarets, theaters and nightclubs in this buzzing destination. The entertainment options, from drag performances to sunset cruises, are limitless. Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara both have a thriving LGBTQ+ nightlife scene, with a multitude of bars and nightclubs, including Puerto Vallarta’s La Chachalaca and Cc Slaughters, and Guadalajara’s Xico and Envy.
Jalisco’s commitment to welcoming LGBTQ+ travelers goes beyond just providing one-of-a-kind cultural experiences and can’t-miss parties. Jalisco is the only state in Mexico with a Sexual Diversity Director employed to provide visibility for the LBGTQ+ community and legally advance important issues. Jalisco also has strict hate crime laws, recently amended its civil code to define marriage as “the union of two people,” allows transgender people to easily update their legal documents, and is the only state to recognize trans youths’ rights to dictate their gender as part of their legal identity. Adding to these advances was last year’s news that two Guadalajara women became the first same-sex couple in Jalisco to be granted a legal adoption. Visitors to Jalisco can take pride in the fact that they’re supporting a state that makes equality a priority.
For visitors to Jalisco who want to venture out of Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta, the lakeside town of Ajijic, located south of Guadalajara, is worth a visit, especially for its world-famous chili cook-off in February. Travelers should also make time to explore Magical Town San Sebastián del Oeste just outside of Puerto Vallarta, known for its pristine natural landscapes, traditional Spanish colonial architecture, and ample offerings of raicilla, a distilled spirit made from agave. Those seeking under-the-radar fun in the sun should head toward Costalegre, a 130-mile stretch of largely unpopulated beaches surrounded by jungles that is a mecca for sustainable development and home to some of the most captivating resorts on Mexico’s west coast.
Visit the following websites for more information about Jalisco: visitguadalajara.com and visitpuertovallarta.com. Visit visitguadalajara.com/lgtbq for more information on Jalisco’s LGBTQ+ scene. And to learn more about the Gay Games, hosted in Guadalajara, watch the video below.