Madrid ‘Orgullo Gay’ kicks off this week with events held around the city, and as MadridMan finds out, it’s all about the party no matter your sexual preference.
When you think of the Orgullo Gay parade in Madrid, immediately images of police-officer sunglasses-wearing muscled young men dancing to It’s Raining Men from atop a double-decker bus come to mind, right? That’s what I expected, too, after years and years of seeing photos and video from television, magazines and newspapers, and viewing websites of the annual event.
Gay Pride in Madrid
So I decided to witness the Gay Pride parade in Madrid for myself – worming my way through the dense crowd at 8.45pm to reach the Gran Vía boulevard at the Plaza de Callao. There, I thought, I’d have the best vantage point looking up and down the Gran Vía at the curve of the newly pedestrianised Plaza de Callao.
Time passed. I waited and looked over the heads of what must have been two million others. After about 10 minutes I thought I could see, in the very distance, a small group of banner-carrying parade marchers. Twenty minutes later the small band of 25 persons, a few of whom were carrying ‘the rainbow flag’, Spain’s (former) Republican flag, the flag of one of Spain’s political parties, or banners displaying various social statements. Finally they reached my area, passed me, and I turned back to look up the Gran Vía for the next group. Nothing. No marchers in sight.
I finally came to the realisation that the actual parade of the ‘Gay Pride Experience’ was more about general partying than it was about raising social awareness, support and education, or understanding. Sure, when the few marchers passed by everyone took pictures. But once they were gone – and before they arrived – they were consumed with consuming alcohol (which is fine), chatting with friends, rubbing by one another to reach the next body-less gap in the crowd.
One would have to be in deep denial if they couldn’t see that Gay Pride is one big party and a lot of fun! I’ve never seen a bigger, better party for everyone – gays, straights, and anyone who likes to enjoy life – and you can see some things you aren’t likely to see on a typical day on the streets in Madrid (or anywhere!). You can see the true joy in people’s faces, everyone smiling, everyone laughing, everyone hugging (and possibly kissing), whistling, hand-holding and even a bit of ass-grabbing, too.
Festivities and shows begin on 3 July but the big Gay Pride parade takes place on 6 July. The Madrid Gay Pride Parade leaves at 6.00pm from Atocha and finishes in Puerta de Alcalá at 11pm.
A few years back, news about Madrid’s Gay Pride festival was that the festival location may take place outside the city of Madrid, far away from its home of the ‘gay neighbourhood’ of Chueca. It’s hard to imagine the Gay Pride festival in, say, the suburbs of Parla or Pinto – although those places would be more than happy to have the economic inversion, I’m sure -– but people would then have to take trains and cars to get there. This is not conducive to a ‘central’ festival. But many of those who live in the Chueca neighbourhood have filed complaints about the noise during the Orgullo Gayfestival so the city was to take action. But, so far, the Orgullo Gay Organisation have not agreed to the terms and says Orgullo Gay will stay in Chueca.
I think I attended three Orgullo Gay parades in Madrid in my first four years here. They’re all fun, they’re all hot, and there are always a lot of people, both gay and non-gay, in attendance. In my opinion, there are a number of pros and a number of cons to the parade and festival in general. Here are mine:
- A great opportunity to remind people that homosexuality exists and should not be feared.
- A day for gays to ‘come out.
- A day to tolerate and/or support alternative lifestyles.
- A day and place to be open about being gay with other gays.
- A day to feel more accepted by your peers.
- To remind people that you don’t have to be gay to be ‘gay friendly’ (or ‘gay tolerant’)
- Some incredibly colourful outfits.
- A day which can be very romantic because there’s so much love in the air.
- Free condoms are available everywhere.
- The festival is always sweltering in temperature.
- Lots of sweaty bodies rubbing past you in the crowd.
- Few or no public toilets – those available have long lines.
- Some people pee in the street or between cars.
- Bars in Chueca close their doors at night and serve drinks on the street (no toilets).
- Trash is everywhere and garbage collection insufficient.
- Noise is unbearable for many Chueca residents throughout the festival.
- Long hours waiting for the more colourful parade floats/buses/presentations.
You may laugh, you may shake your head, or you may join in. But one thing’s for sure: Orgullo Gay Madrid is a lot of fun, a true spectacle which should be witnessed firsthand. No doubt there were some homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals in the crowd of onlookers, but I’m convinced about 99.99% of those watching the parade were heterosexuals, out on the town to have a good time with friends and not necessarily there to support alternative lifestyles. And that’s fine, too! Have fun!