MEXICO CITY (AP) - Thousands gathered in Mexico City's huge central plaza Saturday to pucker up for peace and break the world record for the largest number of people kissing at one time.
As they awaited for the appointed moment, city workers in cupid wings offered hugs, teenage boys carried signs volunteering their kissing services and couples practiced openly in a country that surprises many with its pervasive public displays of affection.
"We love demonstrating our love in front of everyone and in front of our family," said Lucia Gutierrez, 38, who spent the afternoon rehearsing with Vicente Romero, 34, her boyfriend of 10 months. "There's nothing bad about showing your love."
The Valentine's Day group kiss is meant to remind people that love matters even as a crackdown against drug traffickers has led to widespread violence across the country. At least 6,000 people
died in drug-related conflicts in 2008.
"More than 35,000 will simultaneously kiss to show that warmth and love are at the core of this capital, the heart of the Mexican Republic," the city's tourism department, which is organizing the gathering, said in a statement.
The smooch-fest "is aimed at changing people's attitudes toward human relations, especially between couples, so that respect, equity and tolerance are at the center of any relationship," the city said.
Gathering that many people for a mere kiss - followed by a free concert - should be easy for a city that saw about 18,000 people pose nude in the Zocalo last year for U.S. photographer Spencer Tunick. Temporary gates were installed in the square Saturday so people could be counted as they walked in.
Benito Zavala, 53, who works in a store nearby, said he didn't have time to go home to get his wife. So he plans to help set the record with his 2-year-old Chihuahua, Onix, who was already licking his lips.
"It's a good idea because a lot of people feel this need to share their affection," Zavala said. "They already do it in the Metro, in the street, so I think it's best if they all do it together."
The event includes workshops on violence-free relationships and AIDS prevention, and will be followed by a two-hour free concert by Mexico's most popular ranchera singer, Vicente Fernandez.
Mexico City is competing to dethrone Weston-super-Mare, England.
The seaside resort town 140 miles (225 kilometers) west of London
holds the Guinness World Record for the largest group kiss since July, 2007 when more than 32,000 people kissed for 20 seconds.
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