Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Vincent Lyon-Callo

Second Advisor

Dr. Angela Moe

Third Advisor

Dr. Kristina Wirtz

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Rubén Martínez


gay Tijuana, gay movement, queer space, gay identity, social equality, homophobia


Social movements are shaped by the historical context in which they emerge and provide a window to understand how collective action develops. The literature on social movements suggests that macro factors such as political climate and dominant social scripts affect the direction of a social movement. However, examining solely the macro perspectives on a movement reveals only part of how and why groups mobilize. This dissertation uses historical and archival resources to document the social history of Gay men living in Tijuana, México. This research is guided by a main research question: What explains the successful and ongoing mobilization of the Gay community of Tijuana, México? I focused on this area because I wanted to identify the factors that shape how and why this community organized and resisted repression through collective action. This dissertation argues that their mobilization was in part motivated by the ascendancy to power of the conservative political party PAN (National Action Party) in Baja California in 1989. It is important to study Tijuana’s Gay Movement in order to preserve the historical memory of Gay struggles for human rights.

To illustrate how the movement was successful, the analysis of this research is framed by Herbert Blumer’s (1955) five elements of mechanisms and means: (1) agitation, (2) esprit de corps, (3) the development of morale, (4) the development of group ideology, and (5) the role of tactics.

To put these mechanisms and means into context, I delve into analyzing a chain of events within four phases of movement development. First, I considered early forms of collective organization, which can be defined as a period of agitation, in which members were recruited and group consciousness in relation to inequality was developed. Second, by the mid 1980s, the Gay community began to solidify as a group by means of fellowship formation. Fellowship was characterized by an esprit de corps, which enabled the movement to find solidarity beyond its borders. In addition, group identity expressions, such as the publication of ¡Y Quéǃ, became a noteworthy tool of resistance that helped preserve their culture. Third, by the mid 1980s and into the early 1990s, AIDS took a toll on the health and well-being of Tijuana’s Gay community. The development of morale galvanized the Gay community to find solutions to help those affected by AIDS. Four, in 1991, the Gay community mobilized collectively when two gay bars were raided by local authorities. This protest gained national and international attention. Activists resisted the raids and their aftermath by adopting a group ideology based upon a human rights philosophy. The process of resistance was supported by the interstices of tactics.

While not all movements are about resistance, the Gay movement of Tijuana legitimated their collective mobilization through acts of resistance that became progressive. This Gay male oriented movement at the United States-Mexico border should be understood as an ongoing process that confronts power structures of exclusion through continual efforts of resistance.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access