John Rogers,left, and Zac Campbell on balcony of their Mexico City apartment
John Rogers, Zac Campbell left Dallas to make a new home for themselves in México City
JESUS CHAIREZ | Contributing Writer
MÉXICO CITY — As a writer and artist from Dallas and now living in México City, I often get questions via social media from Dallasites about traveling to México City. They ask about things like where to eat, which hotel to stay at and which places to visit. I am always helpful and reply to these kinds of questions.
But questions about moving here? I never did get those. Well, not until now.
This year on March 23, I got a Facebook message from John Rogers: “I’m a friend of Ron Allen. My boyfriend Zac [Campbell] and I are moving from Dallas to CDMX (México City) in the next few months. He suggested that I get in contact with you.”
I was like, Wow! Two Dallas gay men that want to leave Dallas and move to México City!
But why not? México City is very LGBTQ-friendly, has two gay entertainment districts, has excellent spring weather all year round and more than 150 museums. And it is a city rich in architecture, history and an indigenous cultural past still vibrant today.
When one has been living in Dallas for such a long time — 42 years for Rogers and 12 for Campbell — you accumulate lots of stuff. These guys sold most of their household items, but Campbell said they kept some personal items, such as antiques and art, to decorate their new apartment in Mexico City.
They sold their cars because in México City the public transportation system is excellent; the subway, called the Metro, runs across most of the city. Plus, the couple say they use Uber or walk most places.
Though they landed in México City on June 7, which also happened to be Rogers’ birthday, they didn’t move into their apartment until the first week in July. They found it wasn’t easy finding an unfurnished apartment because, as Rogers said, “one-third of the apartments are AirBnb, and one third are short-term rentals.”
Rogers and Campbell eventually found an apartment of the 23rd floor of a building on Avenida Paseo de la Reforma, the well-known street that cuts through the middle of the city that was designed at the request of Emperor Maximilian and opened in February 1867. Walking into their living room, one cannot help but be attracted to the floor-to-ceiling windows offering spectacular views of the city.
Their apartment building is in the Col. Tabacalera neighborhood, where Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (Fidel Castro) and Ernesto “Che” Guevara lived in the 1950s while planning the Cuban revolution. This is not one of the trendy neighborhoods that new residents moving into the country tend to flock to, like Col. Condesa and Col. Roma, a neighborhood that was featured in the 2018 movie Roma. Campbell said that was an intentional decision. He said he and Rogers “made a very conscious effort not to fully associate in the expat world.” They prefer living like nationals.
The men spoke with excitement and enthusiasm, as they described not only getting to see México City’s Pride parade on June 25, but getting to be in it, as well. Campbell said that he and Rogers, “by a stroke of luck,” ended up on the top floor of the double-decker bus that was leading the parade.
Campbell said the parade took their breath away. “And it wasn’t a strictly gay crowd. It was a celebration for humanity,” he said. “In Dallas, standing at JR.’s is fun and exciting, but it is very insulated. Here [the parade] takes up the whole city, and people fly in from around the world.”
Rogers said that while at Dallas’ Pride parade, there are “floats and people are standing on the side,” with candy and beads thrown from the floats, México City’s parade is different: “It was a marcha (march), with everyone walking down the streets, and it was a mob of people.”
At least 1.2 million people attended the México City Pride parade this year.
Both men has tested positive for COVID since the Pride parade, but neither had any significant symptoms, probably both were vaccinated even before moving to México City. They said they both have health insurance and would fly to see their primary health physician in the Dallas if necessary. But, they noted, if they did have to go to an ER in México City, the visit would be substantially cheaper here than in the United States. And Campbell, who lived in Puerta Vallarta before moving to Dallas, said he knows that the quality of health care in Mexico often far surpasses what he found in the States.
As for the monkeypox outbreak currently plaguing the U.S., including Dallas, the two men say they aren’t worried about it for a number of different reasons. They will probably get monkeypox vaccine when they visit Dallas, but it’s not an issue in México.
It was Campbell’s idea to move to México City, and he said there were a number of reasons why. While Dallas is a great place — a great city for business with lots of opportunities and many friends — he just never felt at home there because he had grown up outside the U.S.
“I was a born expat, [and] I feel more at home in México City or Bangkok than I do in the United States,” Campbell explained.
He and Rogers said they both feel that México City is much more relaxed, too. Rogers said when Campbell suggested it was time they moved to México City, he was “totally on board from the get-go.”
Another reason for the move, Rogers said, is that México City is “more tolerant and open-minded with no homophobia.” They both said they felt like the U.S. is “about to implode.” Noting the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Rogers said, “America is becoming a fascist Christian dictatorship, and I do not want to be there for that.”
Campbell and Rogers said they both love being comfortably out and open. LGBTQ people in México City can hold hands and kiss in public, and no one cares; no one blinks an eye.
Everyone goes about their own business.
And it’s that way all around the city, not just in gayborhoods.
That is an interesting turn of events, since it wasn’t that long ago that gay Mexican men would cross the border into the U.S. to seek — and get — political asylum because they feared for their life in homophobic, macho Mexico.
But that is no more.
Rogers is retired and doesn’t plan on working in México City. But Campbell will be working at Journey Mexico, planning luxury weddings and events throughout Mexico and Costa Rica. He has been working fulltime to get their website ready for the company’s launch, which should happen any day.
Campbell and Rogers said they do miss Dallas, especially their friends there. Rogers went back to Dallas the end of July to pick up their two cats, Zazu and Harvey, who had been boarded with a cat sitter in their old condo building. The trip was, “weird,” he said, because “it felt sort of like being home, and at the same time it kinda felt like a foreign county.”
But the hot weather in North Texas was almost unbearable, he added.
Both men said that many people have misconceptions about their new home that are totally off base. “Whatever you think about Mexico City is, it’s wrong,” Rogers said. “You need to come here and see it. I guarantee it’s different from what you imagined what it is.”
Jesus Chairez is a México City based freelance writer formerly from Dallas. He was the producer and host of North Texas’ first bilingual LGBT Latino radio show, Sin Fronteras, on KNON 89.3 FM from July 1993 to July 2005. He can be reached at Facebook.com/JesusChairez.