Vallarta’s SETAC Sets New Course, New Services and New Home in ZR

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More than $200,000 Pesos Raised at Community Meeting

At a community meeting held at STUDS Bear/Leather Bar, lead by interim operations director Mike Owens, SETAC (Solidaridad Ed Thomas, AC) leaders promised more transparency in its financial and daily operations, along with new leadership and expanded services.

The meeting came after the announcement on August 7, 2023, that SETAC would restructure and put into place a new board of directors. Owens explained that the process was ongoing and that a full time operations director and a full time director of communications and fundraising would be hired.

Mike Owens
Mike Owens – Photo by Oscar Almeida.

He explained that “SETAC is the largest non profit organization for LGBTQ+ community in Mexico and the work done was important.

SETAC is a civil association legally founded in 2009 with the mission of “providing comprehensive health and wellness services and programs, focused on the LGBT community, all in an environment free of stigma and discrimination.”

“But we just scraped the surface,” he said. “There is so much need and we want to touch as many people as we can -including nationals, tourists and residents.”

Owens said his involvement with SETAC was very personal and the work was close to his heart.

“In 1995 my younger brother died from AIDs,” he told the crowd. “Growing up and living in the South, I wasn’t able to stand up for my brother and do what needed to be done for him. But his story is no different than so many others. My brother was 16 years old when he came out and got kicked out of the house. He ended up living on the streets and getting involved in activities that eventually lead to him becoming HIV positive and then dying from AIDs. I’ve also had close friends die from AIDs. This is our opportunity to stand up and help protect and provide a safe space for people.”

Entertainment during the meeting was donated by Wendy Warhol and Alberto Cuevas.

Owens said money raised was going towards the SETAC mission and all donations were appreciated. He said they would soon be sharing financial information on their website on a regular basis.

He said the current operating budget of SETAC was $273,000 pesos a month, which covered rent on two large locations, staff salaries and services provided to clients.

“But we are looking to downsize our location in Versalles, and are 80 percent complete building out a smaller more efficient space in Zona Romantica,” he said. 

SETAC new home.
SETAC will soon move much of its operations to this new home – located on the second floor of this building – on Insurgentes, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, just across from Avida Residences, and will be used to provide a safe space for at-risk youth, events and fundraisers, and most of the staff will move there for daily operations.

The new SETAC space is located on Insurgentes, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata, just across from Avida Residences, and will be used to provide a safe space for at-risk youth, events and fundraisers, and most of the staff will move there for daily operations. 

Owens said the SETAC new board of directors was in place but could not be publicly announced, as they were waiting on an official to sign off on the new structure. 

“We can’t introduce them just yet because we are still waiting  for paperwork to be signed by a judge,” he explained. “The board is the governing board of the organization that gives oversight and accountability.”

SETAC currently provides services to more than 350 clients each month. 

Owens asked the group to donate and help SETAC continue to provide the vital services and even expand the scope of services.

He said when the announcement came out about the restructuring he received more than 200 email messages and one of the biggest concerns in the messages was the confusion over the “free” prep program.

SETAC Staff in front of their mobile medical clinic. Photo by Oscar Almeida
SETAC Staff in front of their mobile medical clinic. Photo by Oscar Almeida.

“I wanted to take a few minutes to explain how that program currently works,” he told the group. “The prep medication is provided by the government, at least for now. We never know how long that may last. But we have to cover the costs of the counseling and lab tests that are necessary for individuals on PREP. When we ask for a donation to help with the PREP program, that’s what we are asking you to help cover the costs on. If someone can’t donate, then the donations of others help cover those costs as well.”

More than $200,000 pesos was raised during the SETAC community meeting, with several community business leaders stepping up with large contributions.

Don Pickens, owner of Casa Cupula, promised to match any money raised during the event. Substantial donations were also made by Christopher Maluck, owner of the Swedes Bar and Restaurant as well as Georgia from Casa Carma.

Owens also announced that SETAC had received a $20,000 USD donation from Broadway Cares (approx $340,000 pesos) and that the money was coming in “at the right time.”

“We’re super excited about our direction and we appreciate the community involvement,” he said. “Since the reorganization announcement I’ve had 12 businesses approach us wanting to host fundraising events. Many people have asked what they can do to be involved.”

He suggested the following ways to get involved with SETAC:

  • Donate cash (USD or Pesos). It is possible to make a US tax deductible donation. 
  • Repost and share SETAC social media 
  • Sign up for mailing list 
  • Attend the monthly events

Photos from the community meeting. Photos by Oscar Almeida.

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