It’s Valentine’s Day in New York City, but instead of going out to a romantic dinner with someone special, I’m sitting with 20 other porn-obsessed men at New York’s Bureau of General Services Queer Division, the city’s only queer bookshop, listening to a presentation by Ricardo Velmor, the handsome creator and editor of Anal Magazine, the most well-known “underground queer zine” in Mexico. Velmor, 27, is warm and well-spoken as he describes the circumstances which led to the creation of the magazine.
“Mexico’s a huge country with tons of people just like the US,” Velmor explains, “But we don’t have a huge magazine or zine culture. There have been several cultural movements like La Revista Moderna, a magazine which went hand-in-hand with the cultural movement of modernists, but gay people in magazines they don’t do much. It was a huge hole that we said we should uh…” “FILL IT” shouts someone from the audience, as everyone bursts into laughter. “Yes, fill it,” Velmor smiles, mischievously.Velmor and his co-founder Christian Gaudi set about constructing a calculated mix of sex stories, homoerotic art, interviews, and portraits of local men with their cocks and asses out. They took inspiration from popular zines like BUTT, Kaiserin, and others, but whereas those magazines had a global focus, Anal’s aim was to broaden people’s perspectives of what was going on all over Mexico.
“When we make a new issue,” Velmor explains, “50% has to be Mexican artists, then most of the models are people from Mexico.” He goes on, “Sometimes outside of Mexico people think that we are all the same. We want people to know that there are thousands of different types of Mexicans. It’s not just a country filled with cactuses and stuff like that. We try to feature Mexican guys in contexts that are not Tijuana and cliché stuff. We want to portray what it’s like to be in the city not just in Mexico City but in other cities around the country.”
Discrimination is a serious problem in Mexico, especially amongst gays, Velmor tells me over lunch the next day. “Even though everybody is brown, if you are more brown you get more discriminated against, and indigenous people as well. The whiter you are, the better and richer you appear. A brown indigenous gay guy is considered the worst, and if he’s poor he’s even worse. He’s the lowest on the food chain. It’s really bad.”
Anal’s porn spreads attempt to prove how sexy Mexican men of all shades can be. Issue 3 has a photo series, shot by Velmor, called “Canis Aureus,” which is the scientific term for “chacal” (“jackal” in English) a slang word for “hot brown Mexicans” which he says can be alternately rude or flattering. Velmor dressed a model in a cop uniform, because “People make fun of cops, saying they are all brown and ugly. We wanted to make a hot ‘chacal’ cop.” On the flip side, Guadalajaran artist Hector Belloc shot lighter-skinned men as high-art sculptures, covered with plaster, cloth, fur cuffs, and pantyhose face masks, their raging cocks standing at attention, for Anal’s second issue.
Despite their best efforts, though, Anal’s porn section hasn’t always been easy to produce, especially when the magazine first began in 2010. “Nobody believed we were going to do the magazine,” Velmor recalls, “We would find people and ask if they wanted to get naked for the magazine and they would say, ‘Let’s do it.’ Then they wouldn’t show up.” But today more people are willing to pose, largely because many more artists are making work like this, thanks to the liberal Mexico City government’s lack of censorship for printed matter that doesn’t directly criticize the government. Velmor cites artists Omar Gamez, Alberto Lanz, and porn auteur El Diablo as a few examples of the new wave of artists working with explicit homo themes and subject matter.
The lack of government censorship isn’t the only thing which increased the perception of the magazine in the eyes of the general and gay public. Velmor and his team started throwing regular parties to both promote the magazine and raise the money to keep making it. The parties have grown in size and scope, and their Halloween party last year saw record attendance: 1700 people, a big crowd for Mexico City. “If you say ‘Anal Magazine’ to people they may say, ‘I don’t know the magazine, but I have been to your parties,” Velmor says.Then last summer, Mexico’s Museo del Chopo invited Anal to organize an exhibition during LGBT pride month highlighting the inspirations for the magazine. “They told us ‘We would like to see more Mexican stuff,’ Velmor recalls. “But we started the magazine because there was no Mexican stuff. So they said ‘What do you propose?’ We said maybe the publications are unknown to us because they’re so underground, or there are people who would make the publications but they are not sure that anybody’s going to see them. So we made an open call to people bring us your magazines and we are going to exhibit them. It was a big success. We came up with more than 80 magazines and found several from the 80s and 90s.”
Like most zine makers, Velmor’s not making a mint off his creation. Many of the magazines are given away free to friends or even vaguely interested parties. Sponsors are non-existent, and chain bookstores won’t sell it, even though it looks like a classy, respectable arts publication from the outside. The biggest sales come from a chain of porn shops. But Velmor feels the magazine’s been successful. At L.A.’s Art Book Fair two weeks ago, people came up to the table saying they’d come just to buy Anal, while other zine makers from around the world also expressed admiration for what he and his team are doing.
When he returns to Mexico in a few days, Velmor will be focused on the future of the magazine. He feels it needs to become more like an art book than a zine, with collectible inserts and more varied, design-based content. “In order for publications to keep existing, they need to become more luxurious, with something extra and unique to be worth it.” But the magazine will always focus on Mexican masculinity and feature nudes and sexual content. And even if for some people the magazine is just a jerk-off magazine, at least, as a man near me said before the presentation began, “You can jerk off and practice your Spanish at the same time.” Velmor laughs when I relay this to him. “We’ve come a long way.”
Adam Baran is a filmmaker, blogger, former online editor of Butt Magazine and co-curator of Queer/Art/Film. His short film JACKPOT, about a porn-hunting gay teen, won Best Short Film at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and was recently featured on The Huffington Post, Queerty, and Towleroad, among others. He is a features programmer at Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival and NewFest in New York. In his spare time, he complains about things to his friends. “Fisting for Compliments”, his weekly musings about the intersection of sex, art, porn, and history, will appear every Monday on TheSword. You can contact him at Adam@TheSword.com and follow him on Twitter at @ABaran999.