March 30, 2018 at 8:40 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Tourism officials: Puerto Vallarta safe after gay couple attacked

Puerto Vallarta, gay news, Washington Blade

Tourism officials in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, insist the city is safe after a gay couple of Palm Springs, Calif., was attacked on March 24, 2018, in what they maintain was a hate crime. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Tourism officials in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, insist the resort city is safe after a gay couple was attacked in what they describe as a hate crime.

The Desert Sun and other media outlets have reported that Carl Blea — a real estate agent who lives in Palm Springs, Calif., with his husband, Marc Lange — were holding hands while walking to their condo at around 2:30 a.m. on March 24 after they spent the night dancing.

Blea and Lange said a man with a gun yelled at them as they walked through a park in Zona Romántica; an area of Puerto Vallarta in which several gay bars, clubs, guesthouses and hotels are located.

Lange on March 25 told the Desert Sun during a telephone interview from a Puerto Vallarta hospital that the man shot Blea in the right buttock.

Lange told the newspaper the bullet passed through Blea’s right thigh. Lange also said the man would have shot him as well if Blea hadn’t pulled him to safety.

Blea is recovering from his injuries in Palm Springs.

The Washington Blade’s attempts to reach Blea and Lange for comment this week were unsuccessful. The couple continues to maintain the attack was a hate crime, even though authorities in Puerto Vallarta insist it was an attempted robbery.

The man who shot Blea remains at large.

“Probably within 15 minutes all the police were there and they just kept asking me if it was a robbery,” Blea told Out & About Puerto Vallarta, a gay website, on Monday during a Facebook Live interview he recorded before returning to the U.S. “I kept saying no, it was not a robbery. This guy just had evil eyes. He had a tattoo on his left face and he just wanted to kill us, wanted us dead.”

The Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board and the LGBT Business and Tourism Association of Puerto Vallarta in a joint statement they issued on Wednesday expressed “sympathies” to Blea and Lange.

“We stand in solidarity with the members of our local LGBT community and condemn any acts of crime,” reads the statement.

“As a community, we take all incidents involving visitors very seriously and we have all been taken by surprise by this incident as it is not normal in Puerto Vallarta,” added Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board Director Javier Aranda Pedrero. “We, along with the police, and authorities across local, state and federal government have been monitoring this situation along with the LGBT associations and leaders of the destination.”

Mexican city is popular destination for LGBT tourists

Puerto Vallarta, which is located in Mexico’s Jalisco state, is a popular vacation destination for LGBT people from the U.S.

The Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board and the LGBT Business and Tourism Association of Puerto Vallarta in their press release note more than 17,000 “LGBT visitors came to Puerto Vallarta” for the city’s 2017 Pride celebration. It also said roughly 20 percent of Puerto Vallarta’s visitors — especially in the city’s Zona Romántica —”are part of the LGBTQ community and safely enjoy the destination, again without any incident.”

same-sex marriage, Mexico, gay news, Washington Blade

Julie Guerrero, right, takes part in a march in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on Sept. 10, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Julie Guerrero)

The drug cartels and related violence that has ravaged Acapulco and other Mexican cities in recent years has left Puerto Vallarta largely untouched.

“We deeply regret what Carl Blea and Marc Lange experienced this weekend and we hope for a speedy recovery,” said Armando Sánchez, president of the LGBT Business and Tourism Association of Puerto Vallarta, in the statement his organization and the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board issued on Wednesday. “We believe this is a random and isolated incident, and definitely not part of the daily life in Puerto Vallarta.”

Leonardo Espinosa of Cohesión de Diversidades para la Sustentabilidad, an LGBT advocacy group that is based in the city of Guadalajara, which is Jalisco’s capital, told the Blade on Wednesday that he did not have any information about the attack.

Peter DelVecchio, who lives in Van Nuys, Calif., with his husband, bought a house in Puerto Vallarta’s Amapas neighborhood in 2017.

DelVecchio told the Blade on Thursday during a telephone interview from California that he “personally believes what (Brea and Lange) are saying happened happened.” DelVecchio also said he does not think the attack “was a drug deal gone bad.”

“I’ve never heard of anything like that happening before,” he told the Blade, referring to the attack against Brea and Lange.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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