A Guide to Pride, Madrid-style
Taking its reputation as one of Europe’s gayest capitals to the next level, in June Madrid plays host to World Pride. Let this former resident talk you through how to make the most of the ten day celebrations
Get to Chueca
The barrio at the epicentre of Pride. Though a dedicated gay neighbourhood all year round, where bars, clubs and shops sit alongside residential buildings and gourmet destinations, during Pride the party spills out onto the street. Expect the area around Plaza de Chueca to be filled with more or less constant dancing, parties, concerts and other events to cater to every taste. The main attraction is the Pride Parade with floats representing a multitude of political parties, businessess and other organisations, with DJs, dancers and drag queens (or kings) from the ‘Pride Proclamation’ on the Wednesday to the closing party on Sunday, expect it to be heaving.
From its seedy reputation in the late 80s, Chueca’s largely LGBT-driven regeneration has not led to the flight of some of the area’s more senior residents. Do not be surprised, then, to find a typical Spanish señora out buying fruit as the neighbourhood parties around her. The Mercado San Antón is emblematic of this process, a space incorporating a trendy restaurant, art gallery and more traditional meat and veg stalls. The area is proud of its diverse and respectful population, and thisof a social experiment showing how the residents react when shown an abusive email directed at a gay couple explains exactly why.
Though this area is no stranger to an outdoor terrace for a couple of drinks in the afternoon, the nightlife is what really sets the place apart. Why Not?, Polana, Delirio and Black & White are some of Chueca’s best known clubs. For the more adventurous, no one is safe from LL’s acerbic drag shows, and Organic is the friendliest men’s club in town (I am a woman).
AND, instead of the customary one lesbian bar per city, Madrid offers a full four, all of which are varying degrees of terrible. That said, they play music, serve drinks, and are mostly frequented by women. As the Spanish would say, algo es algo. Hipster lesbian night MissMoustache usually hosts a party during Pride week, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Get out of Chueca
Whisper it, but not every gay’s a party animal, and the huge crowds that are attracted to Chueca’s narrow streets can get a little tiring. Luckily, Madrid is a buzzing city all of its own and, if you ask me, what really sets it apart is the gay friendly aspect of the rest of the barrios, not just the barrio gay. There’s Malasaña for the trendies, multicultural and soon to be gentrified (but not quite yet), Lavapiés for the politically aware, swanky Barrio Salamanca for people with cash to burn, and Paseo del Prado for some of the best art museums in Europe.
Charge your phone
Grindr is the app of choice for men all over the world, and Madrid is no exception. Open Grindr in the middle of town and you can expect it to be full within 100 metres. From anonymous hook-ups, to party buddies and hot dates, this is your go-to. Otherwise, head to SCRUFF for bears and leather enthusiasts.
For lesbians, the classic is Tinder, not free of its usual pitfalls of straight girls in an experimental phase, and body shots of couples searching for the pinnacle of their romantic triangle. Still, women mostly under 30 use this to swipe their way to love, sex, friendship, or to meet their ex’s ex. Alternatively you can try Wapa, a lesbian version of Grindr which has turned the classic tactic of ‘staring at a girl across the bar and praying she’ll make the first move’ into the ‘huellas’ (footprint) function, where you can let a lady know you’re interested without actually having to initiate conversation.
Stay out past 6am
While in most European cities, the night will have died a death by this point, Madrid only really comes into its own after sunrise. As in the rest of Spain, pre-drinks will rarely start before midnight, and don’t expect the dancefloor to fill up until around 2.30am. Afters are clubs which open around 6am and can stay open until the mid-afternoon. Mostly hidden behind nondescript doors, they rely on word of mouth, flyers or a loyal customer base to drive business, so keep your eyes peeled. Operating in a legal grey area as ‘members clubs’ or ‘smokers clubs’, they may ask you to sign the members book upon entry, and many allow you to smoke inside.
Know your history
Madrid pride stretches all the way back to the mid 80s when celebrations started in tandem with LGBT demonstrations. This political element was important in a country still trying to shake off its Fascist past, and remain an important part of Pride to this day. Aside from the festivities, in 2005 Spain became the third country in the world to legalise same sex marriage, and in 2016 the regional government of Madrid went a step further, passing one of the most, which sanctions discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and mandates sexual diversity education in schools. Plaza Vázquez de Mella, where the ‘Pride Proclamation’ is held, was recently renamed to celebrate LGBT activist Pedro Zerolo.
Do you think Pride is a sellout? That it’s no more than a way for capitalist institutions to target an LGBT customer base, while ignoring the political movements that have fought for freedom from persecution for the LGBT community? Do you think it’s proof that the movement privileges the concerns of white, middle class gay men at the expense of the rest of the community? Sick of corporations’ shameless targeting of the pink pound?
Never fear, Spain, the country that gave us the Indignados, Pablo Iglesias and Podemos, shares your concerns. For the last few years, ‘Orgullo Crítico’ (Critical Pride) the ‘hortizontal, anticapitalist, antiracist and transfeminist’ alternative to Pride has held a series of marches, lectures, workshops and parties during Pride week. This is not to be missed.