We’ve All Done A Bit Of PDA But Couples In Mexico City Take PDA To A Whole Other Level

Mexico City is dotted with beautiful parks, squares, and plazas, and more often than not, these green respites from the concrete jungle, are filled with couples getting it on.

Whether they’re sharing an innocent peck on the cheek, full-on making out, or often times, even more, Mexico City has long been called the PDA Capital of the World.

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South of the border, the combined forces of crowded housing, conservative fathers, and high school politics have produced extreme PDA.

So basically, if public displays of affection make you uncomfortable, don’t come to Mexico City. Unlike the United States, there’s no room for pearl clutching here. From Mexico City’s Condesa and Roma neighborhoods to colonial Coyoacan and bougie Polanco, making out in public is a virtual rite of passage for high schoolers and young adults.

But why is it that so many intimate moments play out in the open across the avenues and parks of this megalopolis?

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In a teeming metropolis of 21 million people, where rents are high and family is central, it’s common for children to live well into adulthood with their parents and other relatives. So for a romantic moment away from nosy and sometimes culturally conservative relatives, many couples leave the house – and find a little privacy in public.

“There isn’t any space in my house. There’s much more room in the park.”

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In Mexico City’s Parque Mexico, I speak with a number of young Mexicans about why making out on park benches is so popular. I might as well ask them why they are wearing clothes. “Everyone does it. It’s not a bad thing,” one 14-year-old boy says, though he insists he doesn’t participate. “Being seen in public isn’t a concern.”

Alexis Mendoza, 22, puts on a mischievous grin when I ask him about his experience with public fajar – a term commonly used in Mexico for making out, but is literally translated as “to swaddle.” His explanation is one I hear over and over again: “There isn’t any space in my house. There’s much more room in the park.”

Housing statistics back up Mendoza’s point. According to national census data, there are two people for every one-bedroom in an average Mexican household. It’s even more cramped in Mexico City, where there are an average of 2.8 people for every bedroom. In other words, not much privacy. With little personal space for young lovers in a typical Mexican home, parks have become an escape from cramped and inhospitable living quarters.

But is it just the size of Mexican households that’s forcing young couples into the open?

For Jorge, 35, and Eduardo, 26, who recently started dating, downtown Mexico City offers an escape from prying, more traditionalist family members.

On a recent warm afternoon, they sat, lips locked, near a fountain in the Alameda Central, one of the city’s oldest and most beautiful parks. On practically every bench around them, other couples did the same.

The lovefest here is remarkably equal opportunity. Gay, straight, old, young. On weekends, graying couples gather in plazas to sway together to live music. At skate parks, teenagers with face piercings hold one another close.

In the Alameda Central on the recent sunny afternoon, two young men dressed in skinny jeans embraced, before one picked the other up off the ground and into his arms.

Some pointed out that they couldn’t bring anybody back to their home because of one person…

I ask two sisters, Alma and Herminia Martinez, both in their mid-20s, if it would be acceptable for them to bring a boyfriend home. The horror that ripples through their faces suggests this is unquestionably prohibited. “Why not?” I ask. Alma is blunt: “Los papás. They set the rules of the house, and they’re old-fashioned, especially with daughters,” she says. “No bringing boys home.”

It’s still a machismo society, after all. And even if an individual family might not object, the power of gossip when a neighbor sees a young man accompanying a young woman home is not to be underestimated.

Another factor interviewees point to is the simple fact that it doesn’t cost anything to hook up in public. Going to the movies costs money. Cafés cost money. Dinner costs money. Few young people have cars. A park bench, on the other hand, is free.

PDA is so common across Mexico that some cities have started passing laws to regulate it.

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In 2009, the city of Guanajuato passed a law that outlawed some forms of PDA. The law was rejected by so many people that just a few days later the government suspended the new regulations.

The city of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, took a different approach. The city decriminalized all forms of PDA, even public sex, in a bid to protect couples from extortion from local police. Now, police can only cite people if someone makes a complaint.

All this PDA is part of a concept that many people cite as a common Mexican characteristic: doblevida.

a double life. There’s one life you have with your family, and another you have with your friends. Sparkling clean sons at home are rarely as upstanding in the park.

Still, each person I speak with tells me that society is changing. “Everything is more open now. It’s changed muchisimo in the last generation,” Ríos Contreras says. “It’s definitely more acceptable nowadays to bring someone home than before,” though many parents will still employ anti-make-out tactics, like a rule of chiflando y aplaudiendo – mandatory continuous whistling and clapping – when a young couple is in a bedroom.

I ask why things are changing. “The world is opening up,” she says. “The Internet gives kids access to answers to questions they had but didn’t want to ask their parents.”

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