Madrid’s Beating Heart of Equality
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A stroll through the elegant, narrow streets of Chueca today reveals one of Madrid’s most thriving and bustling neighborhoods, where alternative fashion stores jostle for space with gourmet restaurants. It is a success story that goes hand in hand with the conquest of rights by Spain’s LGBT community.
Today’s Spain is a world leader when it comes to recognition of sexual diversity, a remarkable turnaround since the country emerged from the repressive Franco dictatorship in the mid-1970s and began to embrace democracy and individual liberties.
According to the latest survey on this topic by the Pew Research Center, 88 percent of Spaniards said they accepted equal rights for homosexuals, more than in any other country. Spain’s 2005 law granting same-sex couples equal marriage and adoption rights was a landmark, since copied in many other jurisdictions.
Chueca, too, has undergone a complete and utter transformation thanks to its adoption by the LGBT community as a space in which to change society. World Pride 2017 is a marvelous opportunity to reflect on the progress that has been made, marking, as it does, the 40th anniversary of the first demonstrations in Spain – in Barcelona in 1977 and in Madrid the following year – demanding gay rights.
Chueca used to be a neglected part of Madrid; now it is a success story and a symbol of LGBT freedom
Chueca in the 1970s was a neglected pocket of central Madrid where half a dozen bars and cafés sprang up to give a previously hidden community a place to assemble and relax. Now it is a symbol of the freedom that those few hundred brave demonstrators in the late 1970s began to earn for the LGBT community.
2017 will also mark the 30th anniversary of LGBT Pride celebrations in the neighborhood of Chueca, the Madrid event growing year on year to become host of EuroPride for the first time in 2007, also the year in which Madrid’s council first agreed to contribute to Pride financing.
Chueca is today one of Madrid’s most cosmopolitan and vibrant neighborhoods. Branching out from the small but atmospheric Plaza de Chueca, the streets are full of galleries, hip fashion stores, high-quality markets, and a dazzling choice of food and drink options with plenty of outdoor seating so you can soak up Madrid’s abundant sunlight.
The main commercial thoroughfares of Fuencarral and Hortaleza offer the best shopping opportunities in central Madrid, while the up-and-coming area of Salesas is stately, exclusive, and chic.
Once the sun has gone down, Chueca shows visitors what it has always meant for Madrileños: late nights and all kinds of moods and atmospheres from dive bars and divas to top-end glamour and glitz. During Pride Week every summer, the always-bustling streets of Chueca become rivers of humanity as locals and tourists mingle in what many people consider to the “Best LGBT Pride Event in the World.” Madrid’s festival has won the “Best Gay Event in the World” accolade awarded by LOGO/ MTV twice, in 2009 and again in 2010.
A week-long celebration known as the Pride Festival is held in parallel to Madrid’s LGBT Pride celebration, packing some of the city’s many nightclubs and bigger venues with partygoers and DJs who appreciate that some have traveled a long way in search of fun. All of Madrid is involved in Pride; nowhere is off-limits.
Beyond its famous nightlife, Madrid boasts possibly the world’s most remarkable concentration of magnificent art, with its “Golden Triangle” comprising the world-famous Prado, Reina Sofia (home to Picasso’s masterpiece “Guernica”), and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which has a fine collection as well as hosting major exhibitions. Also conveniently central is the shady splendor of Retiro Park, an ideal spot for those in search of a peaceful break from partying.
Madrid has hotel capacity of more than 80,000, over half of which are four- or five-star establishments. Many of the capital’s hotels are proactively LGBT-friendly, with the options on this list including the sophisticated Hotel Urban with its rooftop pool and bar facilities, and the avant-garde and distinctly alternative hostel The Hat, which also has a fabulous terrace on which to enjoy a refreshing drink.
Madrid’s transport service is excellent, with the clean and modern Metro subway service reaching as far as the city’s airport. But however you get to Madrid, and wherever you stay, you will feel the pulse of this fun and tolerant city that will make for a World Pride to remember.
¡Viva la vida!