In 1982, responding to the worldwide economic crisis and an elevated national debt, Mexico enacted neoliberal reforms and sought to increase social control through stricter penal codes. While penal codes in Mexico City had criminalized violations of “public morality” for many years and there was a history of policing “sexual deviants” on the basis of such accusations, the discourse of “moral renovation” inadvertently opened the door for gay and lesbian activists to create counterdiscourses and participate in transnational countermovements. In both their pronouncements to the national public and requests for international solidarity, Mexican activists clearly connected the politics of austerity to the politics of morality and encouraged international actors to condemn repression and support broad-based human rights in Mexico. This essay examines the politics of “moral renovation” as it related to neoliberal economics and analyzes the varying strategies that lesbian and gay activists used in order to negotiate these social, political, and economic realities.

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