This is the first of occasional posts by Bryan Herb, gay travel guru and board chair of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association. Bryan attended Madrid’s massive gay pride, where he served as a judge for the Mr. Gay Pride Spain competition.
Spain provides one of the highest degrees of liberty in the world for its LGBT community, one of six countries to grant both same-sex marriage and 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 descended on Madrid to celebrate. The weather was typically sunny and hot, but the drag queens donned their pride parade feathers without concern of getting damp.
Madrid’s gay area of Chueca is transformed as rainbow flags hang over every street, and performance stages are set up in the public squares. The result is one of the world’s largest outdoor parties,offering a variety of music, entertainment, food, and, of
course, Spanish wine.
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 even skimpier 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 (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. 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 quality of the music is incredible. Another dance venue is Space, which some people swear by while others say is 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.
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 architecture provide the perfect backdrop for the parade, and rather than barricading people away, spectators are invited to join, alongside the floats. 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.
Top of the competition photo courtesy Bryan Herb
Photo credit for the winner of Mr. Gay Pride Spain
Bryan Herb is co-owner of Zoom Vacations, the gay tour
company that offers vacations to the world’s best
destinations. Bryan is also board chair of IGLTA,
and is a regularly featured travel expert for television, web,
radio, podcast and print publications. You can find more
information @ www.zoomvacations.com or by calling 866-