Mexican soccer fans and pride marchers mingle in celebration

Mexico fans  watch a live telecast of the Mexico vs. Korea World Cup soccer match in Mexico City's Zocalo, Sunday, June 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Christian Palma)

MEXICO CITY (AP) Soccer fans converged at Mexico’s Angel of Independence monument to celebrate the national team’s second win in the World Cup, mingling with an annual gay pride parade in a country that has been reprimanded for anti-gay slurs during soccer matches.

Revelers cheered the Mexican team’s second straight win after a 2-1 victory against South Korea while marveling at the harmony between the two celebrations. Some waved rainbow flags. Some waved Mexican flags. Some waved both.

”We are very glad to see that these two groups can share the space,” said Karla Vera, 27, who came to the pride march with her girlfriend in matching green soccer jerseys. ”This is a very important day for Mexico.”

FIFA fined the Mexican Football Federation $10,000 for offensive fan behavior in Mexico’s opening match against Germany.

The Mexican team thanked its fans in a tweet Saturday for not shouting the slur during the South Korea match, saying that Mexico ”won on and off the pitch.”

Fans deploy the slur, which literally translates as male prostitute, to distract players attempting goals. Defenders of the chant say the word is more akin to coward or wimp.

Eduardo Reyes, 24, said he was initially afraid to attend Saturday’s gay pride festivities knowing that soccer fans could flood the parade route.

”Soccer is sometimes a little macho,” he said, adding that he dies a little inside every time he hears the anti-gay slur during matches. ”If you think about it, they’re attacking their brothers.”

Reyes attended the march dressed as a Mexican cowboy, pairing a large embroidered sombrero and bolero jacket with tight underwear briefs. The historian beamed as soccer fans approached to snap pictures with him.

Mexico has made great strides in gay rights. The Mexican Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 2010, five years before the U.S.

But a 2016 study by the National Autonomous University of Mexico showed that Mexico ranked second after Brazil in Latin America for anti-LGBTQ crimes. And the country’s National Human Rights Commission has labelled the culture as macho and patriarchal.

Saturday’s festivities painted a picture of a more tolerant and inclusive Mexico.

Crowds of soccer fans jumped for joy next to men dressed as samba dancers and sweet-15 princesses. Drums beat. Spray foam spewed into the air. Signs saying ”Stop Homophobia” glided past groups singing the Mexican folk song Cielito Lindo.

”You can feel the harmony among everyone,” said 18-year-old Renata Inurreta, who poured into the streets with her friends immediately after the match. ”This is the essence of Mexico – that we love the party.”