By Brendan O’Boyle
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – When Hurricane Agatha battered a Mexican beach hamlet popular with LGBTQ residents and visitors earlier this week, members of the community sprang into action to help the town rebound.
Zipolite, located on the enchanting southern Pacific coast of Oaxaca state, found itself directly in the path of the storm on Monday. The storm touched down only about six miles (10 kilometers) west of the town as a Category 2 hurricane, damaging buildings and filling the beach with debris.
By Thursday afternoon a GoFundMe campaign had already raised over $21,000 to be used “for the reconstruction of this paradise,” the GoFundMe page said.
Zipolite Diverso, a group of over 30 LGBTQ-owned and LGBTQ-inclusive small businesses, organized the fundraiser to address such immediate needs as food and water and to help the community rebuild in coming months.
“None of us were expecting to have such a large response,” said Ricky Castellanos, one of the fundraiser’s organizers and the owner of a bed-and-breakfast that was damaged in the storm.
Castellanos said the donations could help “provide sustainable services to people who won’t be able to get back on their feet right away.”
The group raised its fundraising goal to $50,000 from $10,000, saying on its website the damage was huge.
“Thanks to all, Zipolite will come back, and stronger,” it added.
Zipolite is famous for being one of Mexico’s few nude beaches and has become increasingly popular in recent years with LGBTQ tourists attracted to the town’s laid-back attitude.
The popularity boom has strained the water supply and other services and has at times caused tensions between tourists and locals.
“We’re organizing this as members of the LGBTQ community, but the aid will be directed to those who need it the most, whether they’re part of the community or not,” said Thomas Flechel, an artist, business owner and coordinator of Zipolite Diverso.
On social media, the fundraiser was being shared far beyond Mexico’s borders.
Tristan McAllister, a brand strategist and podcast host in New York who has visited Zipolite since he was a child, said he had donated to the campaign so the community “can keep on creating the best possible place for the people that need it the most.”
“This is a place that young, queer Mexicans need. It’s a one-of-a-kind place for Mexico and for the world,” McAllister said.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Boyle; Editing by Bradley Perrett)