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May 29, 2021

Gay Men Pose for a Photo While Being Detained at a Police Station in Mexico City, 1935

A set of pictures of Mexicans, purportedly arrested for homosexuality in 1935. It belongs to the collection of the National Photo Library of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in Mexico.

Very little is known about the detainees themselves, except these pictures come from Lecumberri prison in Mexico City.

Up until 1976, gay men were imprisoned in the prison ward J, or Jota. Joto(s) is still a common homophobic slur in Mexico.

Luis Arturo Salmerón, in his article ‘Pride Behind Bars’, covered the photos: “The detainees smile, posed to scandalize the same people who took them prisoner; they look proud before the cameras of the society that represses them.

“Why do they do it? I want to believe – and the images seem to confirm it – that it is their way of resisting, of challenging the society that oppresses them and encloses them, but, as their faces shout at us from the distance of the years, they can not change them.

“They are shouting that there they are, that they can lock them up or kill them, but they will not leave, that they will fight so that society can finally be inclusive and that sexual diversity is not persecuted as a crime.

“We do not know their names, but we can remember their challenging faces as a brief tribute to the thousands of victims of a struggle that in Mexico has made some progress, although it still has a long way to go.”

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