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The fight for marriage equality in Baja, part 2: Alejandro

 November 8, 2023 at 1:30 PM PST

S1: You're listening to Kpbs. Port of entry.

S2: This is the second episode of a two part series of stories on the fight for marriage equality in Baja.

S1: If you recall the first episode , we sat down with Marisol Calderon and Nancy Bonilla , a same sex couple who , over the course of 15 years , fought for the right for same sex couples to marry in Baja California.

S2: We left their story in 2020 with the realization that their years of efforts had not resulted in any real change in the status quo , but they laid the groundwork for younger activists to become the next torchbearers in the fight for the legalization of same sex marriage in Baja.

S1: Which leads us to the second part of this story.

S2: But first , let us tell you how this whole story came into focus.

S1: In May of this year , we were looking to highlight the Lgbtq+ community along the border. We felt we needed to tell more stories about queer people from our region.

S2: And then our producer got an unexpected email from a listener.

S3: Dear Natalia Anana , I hope this message finds you well. My name is Alejandro Sanchez and I'm a big port of entry enthusiast. First and foremost , I'd like to graduate you on your story.

S1: It was from a young man who lived along the border about 120 miles east of Tijuana.

S2: Like many of you who take the time to write to us , Alejandro's email was an effort to clue us in about some of the vast and rich stories in Baja.

S1: This time stories about the border regions Lgbtq+ community.

S3: If this is a topic that might be discussed in your show , I'd be happy to have a call with you and bounce ideas. And who might be the best fit to bring on your show. Feel free to reach out via email or at my cell. Muchas gracias in advance , Dest , Alex.

S2: To which our producer replied.

S4: Hey Alejandro , thank you for reaching out to us. Funny thing is , we were actually looking to feature more queer stories of the region. And yes , we should definitely jump into a call sometime soon. So let me know what day works for you. Julio.

S5: Julio. Hello. Hello. Nice to meet you. What a pleasure , guys.

S2: When we spoke to him over the phone , he told us something we had completely overlooked in his email. Hey , pleasure is ours.

S1: Hey , I saw your Instagram page. It looks pretty cool. Nice project. Thank you so. Much.

S5: Much. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it. I was part of a project that got to legalize same sex marriage in California a couple of years back. Wait wait wait wait. Hold on. You did what ? I was part of a group of youth activists , leaders who rallied across the state and mobilized support to legalize same sex marriage in California.

S1: He said that he and a few of his activist friends were responsible for the state's legalization of same sex marriage in Baja.

S2: To which our producer , Julio , responded wholly.

S5: Alex , for some reason , I.

S6: Completely overlooked that on the email.

S2: Realizing Alejandro wasn't just a provider of leads for stories , but was a story in and of himself.

S6: Now that I think of it , it's good. And thank you for all those leads. But think we have to focus on your story. This is amazing.

S5: Holy you down ? Absolutely. Let's do it. Let's do. It.

S1: It. Let's do it. And here we are.

S2: So let's take it from where we left off last episode.

S7: Punch it ! Adrian. Alex.

S1: It's 2020. Covid 19 cases are ramping up at an alarming rate everywhere and everything is shutting down.

S2: The Mexican government has effectively imposed stay at home orders to curb infection spread.

S1: As we heard in episode one , after waiting for over a decade to get a marriage license , Nancy and Medical had to postpone their wedding for a safer time.

S2: However , around the same time , over in Mexicali , a young man was streaming Baja Assembly's legislative session.

S1: Alejandro Sanchez was on the edge of his seat , watching Congresswoman Miriam Cano standing in front of her colleagues in the state legislature. She was proposing a marriage equality bill that would repeal Baja California same sex marriage ban. Only.

S8: Only.

S3: And she was met by the loudest crowded ever heard shouting out fuera , fuera ! Out , out , out. They wanted her out and they kept on getting louder and louder. You could not even hear the congresswoman speaking while she read her bill on the podium.

S2: That is Alejandro Sanchez , a Mexicali advocate for Lgbtq+ rights and public policy analyst.

S3: As she faced this massive crowd of people chanting her to stop proposing this and the face of her colleagues who were simply , you know , blank at the thought of even supporting this matter.

S1: Watching the session , Alejandro got angry.

S3: By the grace of her , God is gaga. Oh hell no. This is not going to happen on my watch.

S2: So he began to look for ways to help push the bill into law.

S1: Today's episode is part two of a two part series about the fight for marriage equality in Baja. If you haven't listened to part one , go back and check out the long , long fight that this has been.

S2: And then join us as we look back at how this momentous victory was finally achieved through the eyes of two of Bajas activists. One in Tijuana.

S1: And another in Mexicali.

S3: I created a first of its kind tool in state history that surprisingly didn't exist , where you could easily input your your voter ID number and you could get information on who your representative is , who your local , state , federal representatives are , and what their stances were on marriage equality.

S2: So this is part two.

S1: Alejandro's story.

S2: From Kpbs. This is Port of Entry , where.

S1: We tell cross-border stories that connect us.

S2: I'm Alan Lilienthal.

S1: And I'm Natalie Gonzalez.

S2: We first met Alejandro during the San Diego Pride parade , where he shared a bit of wait , wait.

S1: Wait wait , hold on. We. Uh.

S9: Uh.

S1: I went all by myself that day under the sun. And then the stupid memory car broke down. And Julio made me go to target to buy a new one. And I got lost in a sea of people and very fabulous people , I must say. And I almost fainted because the sun was , like , burning me. That was okay.

S10: I mean , it was very fun. I had a lot of fun when I was suffering a lot too , because it was a person free. No one asked you , Julio. I'm just. Kidding.

S1: Kidding. It was great , actually. Yeah.

S2: Yeah. You know , I wanted to be there. I had some work to do that day. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. It's okay. I forgive you , hermano , I love you.

S2: Can we continue , though ? I was just about to kill you back in.

S1: Oh , yeah ? Yeah , let's keep going.

UU: So I. I am currently.

S1: Looking for Alejandro , because I was supposed to meet him at the DMV at 9:30 a.m. and it's almost 11 a.m.. I got some , I got I got some problems with the SD card to record , so now I'm just looking for him. And there's a lot of colors everywhere and from people dancing. This is great. This is great.

S11: Hopefully I'll find him somewhere.

S1: Where are you , Alex ? I eventually found our guy in the middle of waving rainbow flags , surrounded by very majestic , half naked people , all dressed in different colorful costumes and lots and lots of glitter. Okay , Alex , just talk to me about how.

S3: So many hate pieces of legislation being passed , not even being proposed , being passed across the United States that we really can't take for granted any of the advances that we've had locally at the state level in California , because those can easily go away any moment now.

S1: And I asked him about the pride here in San Diego versus the pride in Tijuana.

S3: So for the first time in probably in all of TJ's history , they closed down all of Avenida Revolucion , which is the main commercial bar nightlife avenue in TJ , and they set up a huge stage to do a concert for the LGBTQ community. And that had never happened before , because simply LGBTQ people were not part of the mainstream conversation. And this year we saw for the first time and teaches history.

S1: I'll just as we were talking , the queer Mexican contingent made an appearance with drums and waving the Mexican flag. So this is what's happening right now. There's a bunch of people just jumping on board in Mexico in a moment , and it looks so cool. I mean , right now he's sleeping , man. It's so cool. A few weeks later , we met up with Alejandro in his San Diego apartment , where he talked to us about a lot of.

S2: Upbringing coming out of the closet , his activism.

S1: Oh , were you there in.

S2: Spirit , baby ? Always. I heard the recordings.

S3: Hey , Vogue , you got me at a great time.

S2: Alejandro grew up in the border town of Mexicali , probably the hottest city in Mexico. The average yearly temperature there is 90 degrees , with temperatures reaching up to 130 during the summer.

S3: I would describe Mexicali as a little sunken boiling pot that has the sun hitting it from all sides at least nine months of the year. Super hot with a big old maquiladora factory in the middle of it , spewing out smog into the air with dried up farmland surrounding it , and a metal wall dividing it into two. That's how I picture it , because that's what makes you , Kelly and Calexico really are. It's the same community that just happens to be bisected by a metal wall.

S2: And that's where Alejandro was brought up in the more affluent part of Mexicali.

S1: He was lucky enough to enjoy the life of a border commuter , and went to private schools on the US side in Calexico.

S2: He realizes privilege early on , when he saw people climbing over the border wall to reach the States.

S1: Something he never had to do.

S3: You would see poor , desperate people to your right , climbing up the wall in desperate pursuit of trying to get to the United States. And , you know , this was such a commonality. As a child , I think it's hard to understand what's what's the real situation.


S3: As you grow up , you start realizing how much we are part of this unequal system , right between both nations , between both cities , that , at least for me , what that inspired me to do is take action on it and figure out a way in which I could help alleviate that inequality.

S1: Inequality , especially as it relates to queer people in Mexico , in the US. He remembers how he and other queer kids were singled out during his high school years.

S3: I have a very vivid memory of our college counselor in high school once saying to us , plain and simple , homosexuality is a sin. And he dedicated a good portion of the semester teaching us about the sinfulness that is homosexuality and how basically , if we decided because those were his words , you decide to become a homosexual. If you decide to follow this path , you will be pretty much going down a path where you will be lonely , people will shun you , society will make you an outcast , and you will turn to drugs. You will turn to immorality , whatever you want to define that as. And that is going to lead you down a path of addictions and a path of sinfulness. You will get HIV , you will get Aids , and then you will die. And that was it. That was all the exposure I got in school to what being queer meant.

S2: Yes , that was a heavy thing to hear for a young Catholic teen trying to figure himself out. Luckily enough though.

S3: That thought lasted maybe like a day until I realized like , no , that's actually not the way to do it. There's so many great stories of successful LGBTQ people around the world , and how they've overcome all these taboos that society has placed upon them , and how they've thrived in their respective fields.

S2: For this free spirited young man , his college counselor's diatribe made zero sense , and fortunately for him , he made allies of his parents.

S3: At first it was hard for my family , but , you know , with a lot of support , through therapy , we've come to fully embrace my sexuality and , you know , have them know that it's a part of who I am and that it doesn't make me anything less than the great son , brother , cousin , nephew I've always been. And now I'm actually glad that my family is is actually advocating for LGBTQ causes in their circles , letting people know that it's a normal thing , that if anyone in their family or their close circle comes out as LGBTQ , that. There's nothing better that you can do than just show your support and let them know that you're there for them.

S1: And when things got really funky , he found his own refuge in the church of Gaga. Lady Gaga is.

S3: I particularly always went to Lady Gaga for for this , when she released her song Born This Way , that quite literally speaks to the LGBTQ experience of all her of so many of her fans who sometimes feel like they don't belong , who are told by their churches , by their families , by their friend groups that that , you know , they're better off being somebody else and they're not that , honey , you were born this way. There's nothing wrong with you. And God loves you exactly as you are.

UU: And I was like.

S3: Yes , he was actually right. She is right. Not my college counselor. And I chose to believe Lady Gaga. And , you know , a couple of years later , here I am.

S2: With Gaga and his family on his side. He had the confidence to take on Los Derechos , a moniker for those fighting against human rights.

S1: And he knew what his battle would be.

S2: Queer rights and marriage equality.

S1: And if you recall from the beginning of this episode , he remembers exactly where he was when he felt the calling.

S2: In November of 2019 , Baja Congresswoman Miriam Cano stood in front of her colleagues in the state legislature to read a bill proposing to repeal the state's same sex marriage ban and update the state civil code with the Mexican Supreme Court's ruling of 2015.

S1: But before we start mentioning more dates , did you catch the first part of this episode , just in case you didn't , here's a brief timeline to help you understand how the same sex marriage issue unfolded in Mexico. 2009 Mexico City legalized same sex marriage , becoming the first jurisdiction in Latin America to do so.

S2: 2010 conservative states in Mexico like Baja California , don't want to go there. They modify their state civil code to only allow heterosexual couples to marry. In the same year. 2010 conservative factions challenge the constitutionality of the Mexico City law allowing same sex marriage. That challenge ends up in the nation's Supreme Court. In 2015 , the.

S1: Mexican Supreme Court rules against the challenges , effectively declaring that banning same sex marriage is unconstitutional.

S2: Still , from 2010 to 2021 , conservative.

S1: States like Baja would double down on the ninth. Same sex couples the right to marry.

S2: They would only allow them to do so if they got an amparo.

S1: A special permit that took time and cost a lot of money.

S2: I'll cut up now. Good.

S1: So back to 2019. Congresswoman Cano introduces this new bill for marriage.

S8: Well , I swear , I don't think so. That's.

S2: Why ? When Miriam Cano read the bill , she got booed and heckled by the opposition , and she was constantly interrupted.

S1: The bill was eventually sent to the committee for review , where , sadly , it died.

S2: Alejandro felt the call to action.

S3: That's when I thought , you know , there's something to be done from from a youth perspective , from an activist perspective that I can contribute to with my political acumen , with my , you know , nuanced ability to use social media. And as a kid of the internet , like , oh , I think I think there's something I can do here to elevate the conversation. And I did.

S1: In 2020 , with the pandemic effectively shutting everything down , things moved online.

S2: Alejandro had a eureka moment.

S3: I created a first of its kind tool in state history that surprisingly didn't exist , where you could easily input your your voter ID number and you could get information on who your representative is , who your local , state , federal representatives are , and what their stances were on marriage equality.

S1: So Alejandro and his colleagues created LGBT in June of 2020.

S2: LGBT is a curious letter play that changes the order of the traditional LGBT acronym. It adds a C between the B and the T to highlight where the fight is taking place. Baja California.

S1: LGBT had a website along with a very active social media arm , and they got to work.

S3: Properly , so we were very directly targeting our representatives on their social media platforms. We started , you know , creating , putting a lot of pressure on them.

S2: And the pressure worked very gradually.

S3: We started getting , you know , calls from representatives saying , like , you know what , we will vote in favor of this initiative. We will support same sex marriage.

S1: Medium kind of initiative , eventually made it out of committee and was sent to a boat on the assembly floor in June of 2020.

S2: But even though local polls showed that the initiative had popular support , the bill failed to pass. The legislators still felt the pressure from the powerful conservative factions.

S1: Posting politicians , pictures and social media along with their stance on equal marriage was a very powerful tool.

S2: But it was not enough.

S1: Another attempt to pass the bill in July of 2020 failed.

S2: By just one vote.

S3: Same sex marriage and and it was amazing. But it was unfortunately not enough for the first two attempts. The first two attempts.

S2: Deflated but not defeated. Alejandro and his team turned up the heat. They recruited more activists and set up meetings with local politicians to personally lobby , you know.

S3: Scattering ourselves across the state , knocking on our legislative representatives doors in Tijuana , in Mexicali , and then senator asking them , we need your support on this issue.

S1: Providing arguments to politicians on why this bill made sense for economic growth in the region.

S3: I very strategically try to frame our arguments in benefit of every district that we reached out to. So , for example , when we were talking to the representative from Encinitas via a loop , we would tell her , imagine how much the same sex wedding industry could mean to your district. Via the loop is a booming up and coming tourist destination for weddings. And I gave her numbers of a destination. Wedding can bring as much as 500 and $600,000 per wedding to the locality , and that means so many local jobs. And that means so much for local industry. And same sex couples will spend way more than , you know , heterosexual couples on their wedding. So this is this only means good business for you.

S1: But no , they still wouldn't budge.

S3: And she still said no.

S2: So on to plan B , bring on the influencers.

S12: Aparte de todo el talento , Baja California , Baja California Norte and consider Como la artistas de la para la historia.

S3: It wasn't until we got heavily involved with influencers and artists from Baja California that our movement really took off. We were contacted by an artist , a singer from Reik , a pop group originally from Mexicali , my hometown , that is immensely popular across Latin America. And they reached out asking how they could help out. So we had a meeting with the front runner of the show.

S12: Bosses in Jesus Navarro , vocalist the group Jesus.

S1: Chuy Navarro , lead singer of the Grammy Award winning band Rick , took on the banner and was willing to become the poster boy for LGBT.

S13: Not estoy tratando de ayuda boss esta comunidad todavia en el estado on the bus no.

S3: And he very generously agreed to do a series of video collaborations with other local artists from Baja California.

S14: Baja California , Baja California Julio Ramirez Aguilar , Mexicali.

S15: Carla Morrison. California.

S1: Next thing you know , boom ! Julietta Venegas , Chema , Carla. Morrison , Kimberly. Luisa Lily from Tulare.

S2: You know , I was not aware of this back then , but , you know , I would have been on the front lines. I'm all for that equal love.

S1: They all threw their voices in to support equal marriage in Baja.

S3: Singers , actresses , actors , TikTokers who were willing to lend their voices to this cause and elevator issue to all. All levels of government. And that's when people started noticing us more and realizing like , oh , this isn't a cause , that it's just going to die down that easily.

S2: For a full year. Alejandro's team worked very hard to ramp up the pressure on the politicians.

S1: Then the date came June 16th , 2021. President's.

S15: President's. Initiative.

S1: The bill would be introduced for a third time.

S2: Everyone was ready. Alejandro and his peers had posts and digital materials ready in case it went one way or the other.

S15: I don't.

S16: So informal rotation is approval of awards. The second.

S1: And third time's a charm.

S2: The law passed.

S17: The big day across the border for the Lgbtq+ community in Baja California. Same sex marriage has now been legalized. Well , this third attempt at providing equal access to marriage proved successful.

S1: Finally , in June of 2021.

S2: The state legislature repealed Baja California's ban on same sex marriage that had been in place since 2010. Hundreds and hundreds gathered ten days later to commemorate pride and this momentous victory , making it the most significant pride parade in Baca's history. Really. As the parade converged in Mexicali Civic Center Plaza , people were chanting out at the top of their lungs , yes ! Lei ya ! Yes , lei. Spanish for it is now a law referring to medium Kano's bill. Alejandro took a megaphone and addressed the crowd on top of a flight of stairs that leads to the state's legislature chamber.

UU: Luciano 14 years. Name. Si les personas aqui. Similarly. Me si. Alta. Gracia. Victor. I know , Jose Luis thought. You know , ask. Guys late.

S1: Our producer Julio met up with Alex in his home town of Mexicali.

S18: Why don't you and Alex Como stars ? Yeah. Yeah. Sticky. Yeah I though. Yeah. Okay. Perfect. All right. Killer. Now. Welcome to your house. Now.

S3: Welcome to hell. Hell.

S18: Hell. The devil's the devil's ass ghost. Oh , man. No no no no.

S1: Alex , give Julio a quick tour of Mexicali and then took him over to the Civic Center.

S2: Where it all went down on that blistering hot summer day in June of 2021.

S19: No , it's still Palacio Municipal Congreso. Holy shit.

S2: They had to make it quick as it was like 125 degrees outside , 125 degrees. Julio.

S1: Julio.

S4: That's right. 125 degrees.

S20: Thank God that's hot.

S19: Many marches. Con la con intention the. Authorities.

S1: Alejandro explains that in this plaza , la Plaza de Los tres poderes was where all those hundreds of people gathered to peacefully pressure for marriage equality.

S2: Rainbow flags covered the Esplanade.

S1: The Civic Center plaza.

S2: People from all walks of life showed up in support. It was a sea of people , all covered in rainbow colors.

S19: Personas , Banderas queries. Elia , California in. El matrimonio también acelerar. Como activist de la pena tantos. Verso.

S1: This was his most significant moment as an activist , where he felt that all the hard work and sacrifice was worth it.

S19: Was simply not discriminate. Personas LGBT Como. Ni menos ni simplemente equals la sociedad.

S1: He he shared this as he pointed to the stairs where he addressed the crowd on that day. Ecstatic and overjoyed.

S2: This achievement , he remembers saying to the crowd , meant not having to be cast into the underground or jump through additional legal loopholes.

S1: We finally are where we belong. We are not more or less , but equal like everyone else here.

S19: Logrado personas durante muchas. Gracias.

S1: Alejandro was proud that the queer community had reached this milestone , thanks to those activists who took a stand and fought hard for them in.

S19: The felicidad de motion. Ya después. De sentimiento. Nostalgic.

S2: At that moment , Alejandro felt a deep sense of happiness and fulfillment and now a kind of nostalgia. He says he's almost moved to tears to see that in the wake of this decision , there is more and more acceptance and recognition for the Lgbtq+ community everywhere in society in 2023.

S19: Durante a ver a pareja de dos hombres de la mano. Normalizer. Esto.

S1: There's definitely more pride , he says. Not just during June , which is pride month , or when you see a couple like.

S2: Two men or two women walking.

S1: Down the street holding hands.

S2: It's definitely beginning to be more normalized in Mexico.

S19: Mexicali , LA yellow capital Seoul. This is El Sol Estates. Lucky.

S2: Alejandro read a plaque that sits in the plaza just above a sundial.

S1: Mexicali the city whose sky captured the sun.

S19: The various colors.

S2: That day in July. Feeling proud of his state's accomplishment , he said Mexicali didn't just capture the sun , but also a rainbow full of beautiful and diverse people.

S4: Producers know we couldn't use Lady Gaga's Born This Way to end the episode. Fair use keeps us from using copyrighted material for more than 10s. But to make up for that , Natalie and Alan made their own cover.


S2: Paws up.

S1: Because you were born this way. Baby.

S2: Baby.

S1: This episode of Port of Entry was written and produced by Julio Cesar Ortiz.

S2: Adrian Lobos is technical producer and sound designer. Elisa Barba is our editor.

S1: Lisa morissette is director of audio programming and operations , and Jen Decker is senior director of content development.

S2: This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting , a private corporation funded by the American people.

S1: This project was also made possible with the support from California Humanities , a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit

S2: Soy , Alan Lilienthal.

S1: Soy Natalie Gonzalez nos vamos pronto.

S2: Don't be a drag. Just be a queen.

Hola Friends!

We continue our season kick-off with the second part of our two-part series: The fight for marriage equality in Baja. In this second part, we join Alejandro, a policy analyst and queer rights activist from Mexicali. Through the power of social media, Alejandro was able to mobilize the masses in favor of an initiative that successfully repealed the same-sex marriage ban in the state of Baja. You don't want to miss the conclusion of this historic achievement!

Join us as he shares his story.

Tune in to listen!



Port of Entry has whole new set of stories for you, this time centered around LGBTQ+ issues.

This season we dive with our guests on what it means to be queer in the borderlands, finding yourself and fighting for your rights.

Follow hosts Natali Gonzalez and Alan Lilienthal as they sit down with these fascinating people who share their stories. Listen in and join us!

If you like this episode, show us some love @portofentrypod.


From KPBS and PRX, “Port of Entry” tells cross-border stories that connect us. More stories at

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Feedback is a gift. Text or call the "Port of Entry" team at 619-500-3197 anytime with questions or comments about the show. Email us at

“Port of Entry'' is written, produced and directed by Julio C. Ortiz Franco.

Adrian Villalobos is our technical producer and sound designer.

Alisa Barba is our editor.

Episodes are translated by Julio C. Ortiz Franco and Natali Gonzales.

Elma Gonzalez is our Spanish editor.

Lisa Morrisette-Zapp is director of audio programming and operations and John Decker is the director of content development.

This program is made possible, in part, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.