Mexico’s Blue Lagoon

Mexico’s Blue Lagoon


By Zuke Oshiro

The Mexican Rivera, which lies to the far west and dips into the majestic blue seas of the Caribbean is a famous tourist destination for Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and many smaller islands that dot the landscape. We can soon add the quieter destination of Holbox (pronounced Hol-bosh) to that list as the dusty little seaside town starts to get noticed.
A mere three-hour bus drive from the hustle of touristy Cancun, this is a ride through the countryside of Mexico replete with small food stands, school children and people commuting from town to town. If you are not on the express bus, it can seem like a long journey, but once deposited in Chiquila, the short boat ride to Holbox is worth the wait.
This is the northern tip of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, far removed from the large tourist ships and a journey back to a time when tourism hadn’t consumed the population with Starbucks and McDonald’s. They are not here, yet. And hopefully, it will take a long while  for the tourist trade to discover this gem. What you will find is an island with few cars, the main transportation is a golf cart, rusted by years of sea salt exposure, and a driver, with some English experience—it is of no consequence, the island is so small there is little hope of getting lost.
The main attraction to Hotbox is its lagoon—which seems to go miles into the sunset and is walkable and is rich with flamingoes, pelicans, and other birdlife.
Once in town, which is a series of dirt roads that all meet in the center. This is a 26 square mile island (same size as New York City!) so the ocean is never far off. For the adventurous traveler, there are so many walkable treks that lead to sudden lagoons, singular piers that stretch to the sunset and of course, there is always the seashore. But let’s get back to the bars. There is the Bar Arena Isla Hotbox which is a rooftop bar complete with a hot tub. The new kid on the block Básico is an open shell bar with a mixologist who conjures up spices and liquors, and if so inclined the occasional grasshopper delicacy is to be found here.
Side streets offer some great eating experiences, in particular, Milpa. Which a family run vanguard restaurant with Mexico-City-born-and-trained chef, Adrian Barajas. Reservations are converted into name tags as you come to the restaurant and the entire affair is treated as an experience, which it is. The menu offers such interesting dishes as Drunk Octopus Roaming Valladolid, which translates to roasted Octopus with bacon bits, bell p[pepper caviar, cacahuazintle corn and courgette filled with beer salsa with Valladolid chorizo.
By day, the beach, tourist cruises to see fish, whales, and lounge in the many hotels with their beachside bars and restaurants. Casa Las Tortugas, situated on the shoreline is stunning at night. Amber lights and reveal walkways and bridges. The hotel offers twenty-four romantic rooms and suites with a variety of views.

As we all know, the world is becoming fabulous—every distant corner is suddenly recognized as social media, the camera-phone and other recording devices take note of the splendor and beauty of places we have rarely visited. Holbox is such a destination: not quite touched by commercial hotels, restaurants or tourist attractions and yet accesible, compelling and a perfect place to experience Mexico in a new and different way.

Trans-mission: Slay Models

Trans-mission: Slay Models

“We’re here to Slay and We’re here to Stay!”

Transgender really “came out of the closet” in 2015, as Caitlyn Jenner, The Danish Girl and Transparent, all brought transgender awareness to the forefront. What great timing for SLAY Model Management, the first exclusively transgender modeling agency, to open their doors in DTLA.
SLAY’s founder and chief talent scout, Cecilio Asuncion, started his involvement with the transgender community a few years ago while directing his documentary “What the T?”  CC, as he calls himself, immersed himself in the transgender world, wanting to make a documentary from the inside out, not from the outside looking in. During his time scouting, mingling and filming, CC formed a deep bond with the transgender community. After his documentary won him the Outstanding Filipino American Award for LGBT Advocacy in 2012, CC wanted to continue advocating for the transgender community and opened SLAY. Out of 485 applicants, CC whittled it down to 15 girls, as he is very particular about the models he wishes to represent: “Models must have the right height, measurements and a drive like no other! We’re competing against the world’s top girls. We’re not asking clients to give our models cc(1)special treatment. We’re simply saying, if transgender models can do the job, let them do the damn job”.
Although transgender models have been around for ages, up until now, they’ve felt fearful to reveal their gender identity. The backlash and negativity towards them has not been easy. Today, as society’s attitudes change, more transgender models, like those represented by Slay, feel safe enough to reveal their gender. CC hopes to find acceptance and success for his business, and wishes for his models to infiltrate the commercial market. The SLAY models strive to represent the trans community in a very positive light – each step on a fashion runway, and every modeling job landed, is a move in the right direction – and a win for transgender rights and awareness.

What drew you to opening a modeling agency solely for transgender models?

In 2011, I started my documentary on transgender. I don’t know why, but I was drawn to making the doc. I saw a young trans being interviewed on the Anderson Cooper Show, and knew I wanted to do a film that showed trans women in a positive light. A film that would inspire young trans people to know they can be who they are. I sought out the trans community – I visited the bars and restaurants they hung out in. And as I scouted for talent, I became part of their group.

What kind of modeling jobs are they called on for?

At SLAY we teach the girls to walk, how to do test shots, and we work on developing their books. This builds their self-esteem and gives them a print opportunity. They need employment, and they need to be treated fairly. I’m very protective over the models. My girls have walked in LA Fashion Week, and at the Oxford Fashion Showcase, plus Arisce, formerly with Ford Models, and perhaps the most recognizable face on the roster, has been featured in Vogue, Germany.

How old is your youngest model?

Our youngest is 12-years-old, Alex. Her mother says she signed her daughter with us because she’s more comfortable with her daughter’s participation in the fashion industry being represented by an exclusively trans agency. Usually, trans know at a young age that they are not in the “right” body. It’s very important to have supportive parents, as the suicide rate in LGBT is high for teens. Our next youngest is Amber, who is 15. Her parents are also very supportive, and she is home schooled to circumvent any problems at school.

Has the recent Caitlyn Jenner story helped your cause?

Absolutely. 2015 has been a year of progress for the trans community, with many exciting breakthroughs.  There was the reality show devoted to Caitlyn Jenner’s life and transition.  Laverne Cox of “Orange Is the New Black” was on the cover of Time Magazine. And there’s Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, the first transgender appointee in the White House. The more high profile transgender people we have, the less fearful and more accepting society becomes. First there is conversation and awareness – acceptance comes last.


CC discovered Sabel when she won runner up at the world’s leading transgender pageant “Queen of the Universe Pageant”. Sabel has been with SLAY for several months and is grateful for the opportunity. Next year, Sabel hopes to represent her country in the most prestigious transgender pageant: the “Queen of International”. What is it like to be a trans model? Well, we asked Sabel.

How old were you when you realized you weren’t comfortable as your birth sex?
I was very young, about 6 years old. I was more comfortable with girls and girl toys. Most trans know at a young age.

Did you tell your parents? Were they supportive?
My mom was against it, but I mainly grew up with my grandmother, and she was supportive.  I was a very pretty boy and my mother wanted me to have children.
Now that I’m a model in America, I’m the breadwinner for my family back in the Philippines. I support my grandma and my uncle who is disabled, plus my 3 young cousins – I pay for their schooling. So my family thinks differently about me now.
Sabel by Genesis Ilada
What was the experience of childhood/teenager/young adult like for you?
I loved being in the theater and became a performer for a transgender theater in the Philippines. It helped me learn to be more open, and soon the community got to know me as a trans. I started my transition at 20. I started growing hair and felt happier; more free, and felt I had added opportunities. While at college, I entered a trans pageant – The Queen of Flowers that aired on TV. I won that pageant and my mom saw me on TV. Now she is proud of me.

What advise would you give young people that are currently having gender issues?
My advice to parents is to be open with your children. My advice o the young trans is be true to yourself and focus on your career and studies. You are the only one who can help yourself.  Don’t be scared of society. Every time I’m discriminated against – it makes me stronger. I respect myself for who I am.

Anything else you’d like to add?
SLAY helps me a lot. As a kid at school I filled in a questionnaire that asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” And I wrote “a runway model.“
And after 10 years, here I am! I love being a model  – and hope to be an inspiration for others.

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