Gay Life in Quito: The View from the Tub

Rick sends this report.
March 2005

Standing at high noon on the day of spring solar equinox 2005, Quito Ecuador.  Sun right over head.  Notice shadow around his feet is equal on all sides.

his shadow under him at equator on equinox

As some of you may already know, I relocated to Quito, Ecuador last December, where I work as a journalist.  I promised Robert that I would write to him about gay life in Quito, and I have been both blessed and hindered by a fortunate coincidence.  Just around the corner from where I live (which is one of the cleaner and more upscale sections of the city) is the Apolo Sauna, an upscale gay bathhouse.  In the States I generally avoid bathhouses but the low entry price (7 bucks, and on Tuesdays 6) and the web site piqued my interest, so off I went...and I haven't stopped since. No, I have not suddenly become addicted to compulsive anonymous sex.  In fact, the reason I like it so much is that the place is NOT geared to only just that as a recreational activity, and a great many guys go there literally just to relax.  Such as me, since what I usually do is just head straight to the hot tub. Unlike the nervous atmosphere at such gay hangouts like the Seattle YMCA hot tub, where guys suspect conversation as a prelude to a pass, the feel of the experience is one of relaxed conviviality.

Homosexuality was decriminalized back in 1998, and shortly thereafter gay marriage came one vote short of being legalized.  Since then, an active gay subculture has emerged, with more and more guys choosing to be live openly gay lives, lobbying for gay rights, and promoting gay culture.  Here in the tub I encounter an exceptionally well educated crowd: lawyers, architects, engineers, television producers, graphic illustrators, and professional dancers, and this has made for some lively conversations about a variety of topics.  And there is little uptightness about being willing to share affection, to offer hugs and massages, and about letting our legs and arms tangle without this necessarily having to lead to sex or the expectation of a great romance.

On the downside, and this is about the culture here overall, the attitude towards smoking here is still in the 1950´s, and it is disconcerting for me on occasion to be sitting in a hot tub with someone who is lighting up a cigarette.  Thankfully, that does not happen all the time, but it makes for a wee bit of culture shock.

That is the main reason I have yet to make it out to the taverns and dance clubs, though I have been told there are some lively drag shows.  The combination of ear-blasting tecno-salsa combined with lung-blackening smoke is not my idea of a good time.

I should mention that I do meet a number of guys who are only half-way out of the closet, that is openly gay in some circles, but because due to the latin american tendency of people to live with their parents until they get married, there is that awkward burden placed on people to be have to work their gay life, covertly, around their parents schedule.

Also, a recent former President of Ecuador, Jamil Mahuad, a Harvard graduate, was barely in the closet, despite the whole wife-and-kids PR BS.
He was driven from office, though, not for that, but for his mismanagement of the economy.  That was in 1999, and since then Ecuador has had six more Presidents, an indication of the political chaos here.

That´s it so far. For my next post I will put on my oxygen mask, insert my earplugs and venture out to a dance club to report on what it is like.



Article posted on Robert's website