Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Passing of a Friend

I don’t remember exactly when I met Marco. It must have been one of the first times I visited Puerto Vallarta. Each time I returned I could count on finding him at one of the usual spots and I could count on receiving a warm welcome. Marco was the unofficial social director for gay visitors to his town. He was always organizing something: a day trip to a nearby scenic locale, an afternoon at the casino, or a pool party at some wealthy acquaintance’s home.

He never had a stable home of his own. He often stayed with an older French Canadian who spent winters in Vallarta. The rest of the year he spent a few days here, a week or two there, sometimes house sitting, sometimes staying with friends, sometimes perhaps doing whatever was necessary for a bed to sleep in. He did odd jobs to make pocket money. He often made the rounds of the beach and bars and popular restaurants handing out leaflets promoting various businesses that cater to gay tourists.

New Year's Eve 2009
Marco was fond of dressing in flashy clothes, costumes really. He had a card printed up that introduced himself as a Public Relations Specialist. A friend of mine scoffed at the pretentiousness of it but I admired him for it. Vallarta was full of drifters who sold their bodies in exchange for a meal and enough money to buy the next day’s drugs. Marco was attempting to earn a legitimate living even if it required major subsidies from generous friends.

When I received word that he had passed away a few weeks ago I felt that something precious was lost from my life. Not only had I lost a friend but one of my last links to Vallarta. I have written before about my changing relationship with Vallarta, a place that I once believed would be my future home. Vallarta is the place, and Marco was the person, who brought Luis into my life.

Over the course of two years Luis and I had one of the most romantic, volatile, passionate, disappointing and doomed relationships of my life. After it flamed out in a particularly painful episode, I cut off all communication with him. I did not respond to his emails and I rarely spoke of him, although I often thought of him. But the passing of Marco required that I break the silence. Luis is now in Mexico City and I could not be sure he would have heard the news. (He had not.) It’s as if Marco is still playing matchmaker.

Marco died from AIDS. When I last saw him, this past April, he was thin and lacked energy, but seemed reasonably well. I was shocked that he was gone just 5 months later. I was also angered. In 1995 the number of AIDS deaths in the U.S. peaked at over 50,000. Over the next two years the death rate fell dramatically and now hovers around 18,000. Seen another way, in 1995 AIDS was the leading cause of death for U.S. males between the ages of 25 and 44. Today it has fallen to fifth place, behind injury, heart disease, cancer, and suicide. Far too many, of course, but getting better. This trend is due to aggressive efforts at testing and treatment. The situation in Mexico is far different.

Although the rate of AIDS infection is far lower in Mexico than in the United States, diagnosis and treatment lag behind. I could not find reliable data to prove it, but I am certain that the life expectancy for HIV infected people in Mexico is far lower than in the U.S. There are many reasons for this, including the inadequate health care available for the poor in that country. I’m not suggesting that AIDS is not still a devastating problem in the U.S. nor do I mean to imply that there is good health care for the poor in the U.S. But I suspect that Marco would still be with us if he had lived here rather than Mexico.

Whatever the implications of Marco’s passing, whatever the statistics are, the fact remains that a dear friend, a person with a good soul, has been taken from us. He will be missed.


  1. Sorry for your loss... Remember, and he will always be in your heart.

  2. Gee, that explains why I have not seen him lately, is very sad to read this.
    He will be on my prayers

  3. This was posted on a Vallarta discussion board...

    "It is my understanding that Marco simply refused to take his medications that quite possibly could have kept him alive. I have friends who tried to reason with him...but in the end he chose not to take them. I support him in the decision he made...I have no right to criticize him for his decision...but it does seem sad."

    If true, then I was wrong to criticize the Mexican health care system.

  4. Thanks for your posting about Marcos. I met him about 3 years ago. Considered him a friend. He always greeted me when he saw me with a handshake or touching cheeks and a hug. He will be sadly missed by his many friends and acquaintances in Vallarta. I wish I would have known of his situation. I would have been happy to have tried to help him.

  5. What a beautiful elegy. He sounds like a lovely man.

  6. I knew Marco for 5 years and he was a fantastic, carling, loving humand bieng. He not only was "the major of Vallarta" and an unofficial ambassador to ANYONE arriving in Vallarta, Gay or Straight, but was a friend to those in need. Despite being poor and having many personal problems, he spent countless days helping raise money for poor children, the homeless, etc. I was in Vallarta the week beofre Marco died, and was shocked and saddened to see how alone he was. All the people he had been there for seemed to have forgotten about him in his final, sad, days. Perhaps it was summer and many were away, perhaps others didn't know, but as I paid for doctors and medicene I couldn't help but wonder at the lack of caring for someone who cared so much for others. Marco had a tough life, and a lot of his problems stemmed from that, not an excuse but perhaps that gives some understanding of the poor choices he made. As for me, he was a dear, loving friend who gave far more than he asked for. As I write this, I see on my desk little gifts he made for me, a box for paperclips,etc. made of postcards, a mask made just for me to use when we were out at Halloween, small and simple yet colorful and filled with love. Marco knew everyone and never failed to introduce people to each other, he tried to make everyone feel loved, welcomed, and included. Would it be that others did the same, our world would be a far nicer place. As I am here in Vallarta now, I feel his loss especially. Truly, this place is not the same without him.

  7. I will always miss him

  8. Hello
    I recently found your site and have been reading the stories when i can. You are a writer and interesting perspective on the world around you. Keep writing - THANKS
    Dane in Philippines