Last weekend, January 28-30, the sixth ELAN took place at Zipolite Beach in Oaxaca, Mexico. ELAN is an acronym in both Spanish and Portuguese for Gathering of Latin American Naturists. This is important because naturism always needs organizational support in the face of ignorance and repression, anywhere in the world, but especially in areas where organized naturism is relatively new, and Latin America is one such area. Certainly naturism as a social practice is not new anywhere there are humans, to some extent, but Latin American organized naturism is younger than in other areas of the world. The oldest national organization in the region, the Federação Brasileira de Naturismo (FBrN), has just turned 28. The ELAN meetings started in 2007 through an initiative between Brazil and Argentina and had been exclusively South American until this year’s event in North America (Mexico).
For the sixth regional Gathering, or Encounter (Encuentro / Encontro), the selection of Mexico as host also holds special significance. The Federación Nudista de México (FNM)* is not quite five years old, yet Mexico is – by far – the most populous Latin American nation after Brazil. At the previous ELAN, the Brazilians, who are the most organized, pushed to support Mexico as host to help build strength in the region. And whereas Brazil has a dozen or so official naturist beaches with legal status, in Mexico there were not, until this very event, any such official naturist beaches, only arrangements with hotels (for example, along the Riviera Maya) or else the impetus of tradition, such as at Zipolite where social nudity has long been tolerated.
|Participants at the 6th ELAN (Latin American Naturist Gathering), Zipolite, Mexico, January 2016
Photo source: jornalolhonu.com
At the event, which was the first such international naturist event in Mexico, only Mexico and Brazil participated as official delegations, although there were also participants from Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, France, Peru, the United States, and Uruguay who made the journey. I’ve been reading coverage of the event this week in both Mexican and Brazilian sources (URLs below) to compile this write-up and provide a sense of different perspectives on the event.
Juan Castañeda, president of the Mexican organization, recognizes many precursors for organized naturism in Mexico, including social media sites or listservs such as Nudmex, but is proud to note that the FNM is the first official group that is linking naturists all over the country. He sees acceptance of social nudity as the long game – a matter of patience and education. But in the short-term, to pull off this event, he worked closely with the municipal and state governments, the tourism office, and the local hotel association, since, according to one report, there were more than 3000 people participating in some way yet there are only a little more than a 1000 hotel rooms in the immediate beach area. (The official ELAN meetings had about fifty people.)
Probably the most important immediate concrete result of the event was that, for the opening ceremony, the city council declared Zipolite beach to be officially nudist, giving it legal status and making it the first such legal nude beach in Mexico. In part this was merely money talking, since the naturists who came for the weekend and who come year-round are a big boon for the local economy. Local merchants and business owners are on record as stating that the event was a huge success financially. Area authorities also helped construct a stage on the beach for some of the events that were open to the public, which helped draw more general interest to naturism. Also, a smaller, local Mexican naturist organization, not yet affiliated with FNM, held their monthly meeting simultaneously at the beach’s only naturist hostel, an event that helped boost the numbers of participants overall.
|Bodypainted participants with the ELAN VI logo|
Mexican hospitality is always outstanding, and the visitors were impressed by the traditional presentation of folkloric dances (with appropriate outfits – not nude dancers), the fantastic Mexican cuisine, the tropical landscape, and the fact that social nudity seemed to already be quite accepted at Zipolite, with a notable absence of voyeurs. The theatrical production Empelotados (Buck Naked), by Antonio Díaz Altamirano, was presented twice – once on the beachfront stage for a general public, and once inside the Rancho Los Mangos property where many of the official events were held and where many of the participants were housed. Empelotados is a pair of short plays, one about a husband’s difficulty in getting his wife to accept naturism, and the other about people’s reactions to finding out that their friends or co-workers are naturists. Other nude events included yoga classes, a beach hike, bodypainting, meditation, wine and mezcal tasting, and workshops on a variety of topics.
In general the news reports in both Mexico and Brazil were positive, and tended to include at least one quote from an organizer or participant clarifying the healthy, non-sexual character of naturism. Conclusion: this has been a huge success for organized naturism in Mexico, with spillover success for Latin America and for naturism in general. The Zipolite authorities are already scrambling to organize more such naturist events, and the Latin American naturists have taken a strong step toward a proposed goal of an official Latin American naturist confederation to promote and defend naturism.
*Note – In Mexico and many Spanish-speaking countries, “naturista” means health food and related products. It’s common to see a “Tienda Naturista” (Naturist Store) that has nothing to do with social nudity. This is why naturist organizations tend to use the term “nudista” in Spanish.