Spanish people are not known for sitting around quietly while life passes them by. Rather, they take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and never miss an opportunity to celebrate. Since over the years Muslim, Jewish, and Christian people have built this great country together, diversity and innovation are especially celebrated. This is certainly evident in Spain's capital, Madrid.
With stunning plazas, impressive architecture, world-renowned museums, great restaurants, and an incredibly vibrant gay scene, Madrid has its finger on the pulse of everything cool at the moment. And its gay community especially has much to celebrate.
Spain provides one of the highest degrees of liberty in the world for its LGBT community, and it is one of six countries that allows same-sex marriage and permits adoption by same-sex couples.
So, it makes sense that Gay Pride in Madrid is not just tolerated, but celebrated. Every year Hundreds of thousands of gay people come to Madrid to celebrate their pride in a magnificent setting with fellow gay travelers from all over the world! The weather is typically sunny and hot, and drag queens can don their pride parade feathers without concern of them getting dampened.
Madrid's gay area of Chueca is transformed as rainbow flags hang over every street, and performance stages are set up in Chueca's squares. The result is one of the world's largest outdoor parties, offering a variety of music, entertainment, food, booze, and of course, Spanish wine to appeal to almost everyone.
Certainly one of the highlights of the week is the Mr. Gay Pride Spain competition in Plaza Vázquez de Mella, in front of the hip, gay-friendly, Hotel Oscar. Participants come from all over Spain to see if they have what it takes to become Mr. Gay Pride Spain. Essentially, having what it takes comes down to looking good in both underwear and bikinis. Now this is my kind of competition, and during Madrid Gay Pride 2009, I was one of nine judges, and the only non-Spanish judge. We had our work cut out for us, and in the end, the cute, charismatic contestant from Barcelona walked away with the title. I unfortunately walked away with no phone numbers.
In the evenings, partygoers zoom from stage and outdoor bar to the next.
And of course, they pour in and out of the usual gay bar hotspots like "Why Not," "Boite," "Escape" (a great girl bar), "Liquid" and "Studio 54 Madrid."
In addition to the vibrant street parties and bars of Chueca are the incredible gay dance events located in venues all over the city. The biggest is Infinitamente Gay, which takes place at the Telefonica Stadium and hosts as many as 30,000 people! The gigantic space places the DJ and various entertainment in the middle on huge raised stages while the crowd enfolds around them. The sound system is specially designed for the space, so the sound quality of the music is incredible.
Another dance venue is Space, which some people swear by and others believe is just too crowded. Then, of course, is the last big dance party of the week, Supermartxe at La Riviera. Like the last great party of any pride or circuit event, the coy boys who were keeping their options open are no longer playing hard-to-get, and flirtatious energy pervades.
Of course, no mention of Madrid Gay Pride would be complete without describing the parade itself. The parade starts at the famous arches at Parque del Retiro and heads up the Gran Via to Chueca. Now, the Gran Via is the main road through the center of Madrid and it only closes two times per year. The first is May 2, in celebration of the Dos de Mayo Uprising, where in 1808, the people of Madrid rebelled against the occupation of the city by French troops, triggering the Spanish War of Independence. The second time is for the Gay Pride Parade, which should be noted is essentially a celebration of our independence from bigotry, hatred, and discrimination.
Madrid's beautiful buildings provide the perfect backdrop for the parade, and rather than barricading people away, spectators are invited to join in, alongside the floats and other participants! There are as many straight spectators as there are gay, as the Madrid Gay Pride Parade takes the city by storm, and gives everyone the opportunity to stop, reflect, and celebrate the fabric of diversity that has over the centuries made Spain what it is today.
Bryan Herb is Co-owner of Zoom Vacations, an award-winning gay tour company that offer multi-sensory vacations to the world's hottest destinations. Bryan is also the Board Chairperson for the IGLTA, and is a regularly featured travel expert for television, web, radio, podcast, and print publications. You can find more information on his website at www.zoomvacations.com or call 866 966-6822.