Orgullo embodies the spirit of Madrid. No wonder the Madrid Pride Parade is the biggest gay demonstration in Europe
Emily DeFranco and Leanna Carroll
A tall man is walking down the center line of the street. I would say he stops traffic but the roads are already blocked off. He’s about six feet, nine inches tall, about five inches of which can be attributed to ruby red, sparkly stiletto heels. The rest of his ensemble is just as extravagant: chunky pearl jewelry, a white-blond 80’s style wig, contour makeup about an inch thick and a skin-tight white mini-dress that doesn’t leave much to the imagination. And he’s working it—because he is proud.
The Madrid Pride Parade, known as Fiesta del Orgullo Gay has been held the first Saturday after June 28 since 1979. This year’s Pride Parade, which marked the 10 year anniversary of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Spain, was held this past Saturday, July 4th. The event is organized by COGAM (Madrid GLTB Collective) and FELGTB (Spanish Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals) and is supported by other national and international LGTB groups.
During the 80’s, the LGBT community settled down in the Chueca neighborhood, situated in the heart of the city. Over the years, Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgenders made this barrio their home, in harmonious coexistence with their neighbors and even outsiders. Together they transformed Chueca into one of the areas with greatest freedom, tolerance and diversity in Madrid, setting standards for many other cities in the world.
The first Gay Parade in Madrid was held after the death of Generalissimo Franco, with the arrival of democracy, in 1979. Since then, dozens of companies like Microsoft, Google and Schweppes, and several political parties and trade unions (including Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, United Left, Union, Progress and Democracy, CCOO and UGT) have been supporting the parade.
The Madrid Pride Parade is actually the biggest gay demonstration in Europe, with more than 1.5 million attendees in 2009, according to the Spanish government. The number of expected attendees increases each year.
Being the third country to legalize gay marriage, after Belgium and the Netherlands, Spain, a very Catholic country, where being gay was still taboo in 1979, has been on the forefront of gay rights. Ten years later, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center, it is one of the most tolerant nations toward homosexuality. For example, 88% of Spanish citizens indicated that being gay is “socially acceptable,” as against 60% Americans.
However, evidence of Orgullo were already visible even before the main event (Pride Parade) was held on July 4th. Beginning on June 29th, several buildings were notably decorated with gay flags. It was truly a sight to behold as throughout Madrid historic buildings, apartments, and commercial stores celebrated Pride, changing the atmosphere of the entire city into one of absolute celebration.
The nights of July 2nd and 3rd marked the official pre-celebration of the Pride Parade. After intense preparation during the day, barrios throughout Madrid offered a variety of Pride related events. On July 2nd, the Plaza del Callao, which is located very close to Gran Vía, sported a large stage and offered live music and performances throughout the night and into the early morning. On the 3rd, Chueca was illuminated with decorations, colorful costumes, and lively people, singly or in groups, marched through the streets.
The parade on the 4th was an incredible amalgam of sweaty bodies and colorful statement outfits. Members of the LGBT community, their friends, families and throngs of other supporters took to the streets stretching from Plaza de Espana to Plaza de Cibeles and up and down every side street in between.
Representations from local businesses and organizations paraded down the street squeezing through the body-to-body packed crowd carrying banners and signs with messages ranging from equal rights to safe sex practices. Mobile vendors sold ice cold drinks, fans, rainbow flags and other pride-themed trinkets.
To try to find refuge from the heat, people gathered around fire trucks parked every few meters along the street, their firefighters standing proudly on top with wide grins, spraying the crowd with powerful hoses, evoking screams and cheers.
The parade also included marching bands with scantily clad dancers and encouraged audience participation with loud call-and-response chants and songs.
Overall, at the parade, Madrid’s pride was demonstrated in a loud, clear and bright manner.
After several nights of endless parties and other forms of celebration, Orgullo changed its focus on the morning of July 5th, switching to hosting events that catered to younger generations. While some streets were still covered with garbage and evidence from the night before, Chuecha appeared to be spotless as it hosted a number of Pride activities for children. Chueca Kids, whose tent was located directly outside of the Chuecha metro station, offered both face painting and costumes for young children.
Orgullo 2015 was a success in all respects. For an entire week, the Madrileños threw themselves into the Gay Pride celebrations, with the irrepressible gusto that is so typical of them. And yet everything was done in a peaceful manner. Every event remained under control and no one was injured. Orgullo embodies the spirit of Madrid: respectful, outgoing, peaceful, and zealous. Now that’s something to be proud of.
Video: E. DeFranco
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