The new Netflix film Dance of the 41, tells the tragic true story behind one of the biggest gay scandals in Mexican history.
Dance of the 41 showcases a night over a hundred years ago when 41 men belonging to Mexico's upper-class elite were arrested following a police raid on a Mexico City house. Police say they found them men dancing with each other, many in drag, and arrested them for “offense to morals and good manners.”
The film follows Ignacio de la Torre y Mier, who is rumored to have been the 42nd person arrested at the party, but was not charged because he was son-in-law to the President of Mexico. The scandal was the first time homosexuality was openly discussed in the Mexican media.
Alfonso Herrera (Sense8) plays de la Torre in the film directed by David Pablos and written by Monika Revilla. While de la Torre tries to balance his marriage to his wife Amada (Mabel Cadena), the daughter of President Porfirio Diaz (Fernando Becerril), he meets and falls in love with a man named Evaristo Rivas (Emiliano Zurita) who invites him to the infamous party.
Herrera told NBC News that he was excited to learn more about Mexico’s LGBTQ+ history. “You need to go to the past in order to understand who you are as a person or who you are as a society," Herrera said. "What would have happened if Ignacio was not discovered as a gay man? He would have been one of the important Mexican figures from our history, but he was taken away from that because he was gay."
After the arrests, some of the men charged were forced to go to labor camps, and some were made to perform labor while dressed as women so that others could mock them.
Still in the country today, the number 41 is often avoided. Many buildings skip their 41st floor, the army doesn't have a 41st battalion, and people even skip their 41st birthdays. But now, the number is considered a badge of honor for some LGBTQ+ Mexicans.
“We wanted to honor these men,” Herrera said of making the film. “We wanted to portray these men as men who wanted to be free, who wanted to be happy, and I think that David (Pablos, the director) did this in a very accurate way — in a very safe way — where they could be themselves.”
Dance of the 41 is playing on Netflix right now.