When New York City-based photographer David Graham arrived in Mexico City on a two-day layover, he went for a drink near the city’s historic center and saw two men kissing in a bar’s main room, their entwined bodies backlit by a neon sign reading puto, the Spanish word for “faggot.” When he spoke to a friend about the image, he was told the city’s subway cars become very cruisy among gay men around 11 p.m., particularly the last car of each train.
Thus begun Graham’s exploration into Mexico City’s gay scene as it unfolded in subways, basement parties, rooftop celebrations and men’s apartments until the sunlight hours.
He has since put all of his photographs into a book called The Last Car: Cruising in Mexico City, which was released April 13, 2018.
“Cruising? In the last car? It seemed strange like a holdover ritual from a bygone era yet wholly intriguing — a rabbit-hole leading down into some other land, into another period, another culture,” Graham wrote.
“Here, in Mexico City,” he adds, “in the one of the world’s largest subway systems, in this age promising endless social connectivity of mobile apps or the immediate sexual gratification of online porn, why would one seek out, need or want to have a provisional place for men to connect? It all sounded suspect but also puzzling.”
Graham had made his career as a location scout for filmmakers like Gus Van Sant and as a street photographer known for his intimate and energetic shots of city life. So the darkly lit subways and vibrant, neon-drenched night spots of Mexico City provided a unique challenge, both interesting and dangerous as a white foreigner with a large, voyeuristic camera dangling around his neck.
At first, he chose the Pink Line running east-west through the city’s predominantly gay Zona Rosa neighborhood. To his surprise, the last car proved as cruisy as he’d heard, and far more active and out in the open than he’d imagined.
After witnessing the action there and on subway platforms, he realized that one can see gay intimacy throughout the Mexican capital.
“Realizing men and women could hold hands, embrace and kiss — not only in the depths of the last car at night, but openly and comfortably in most streets of this giant metropolis — became an unexpected angle for this project,” Graham said.
He noted that while some men spent all night riding the subway back and forth — having sex all the while — others treated the last car as a starting point.
“It was a more enticing route to the bars and clubs they were heading to for a night out,” Graham wrote, “or coming home from a long workday, with the added excitement of a smile, a phone number or perhaps an end-of-day tryst.”
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Images via David Marvin Graham Photography