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Chueca, Madrid, Pride Festival
Courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/taedc/19339362381/
Madrid is host to some of the biggest festivals in Spain, and the Orgullo Gay de Madrid is no exception. It's Europe's largest pride festival, and one of the largest such events in the world. If you're in town in early July, you simply can't miss it. Here's what you need to know.

A History of Pride in Spain

"Orgullo" means "pride" in Spanish (as you may well have guessed), and Spain has a lot to be proud of when it comes to supporting its LGBTQ community. Certainly, such communities still face a great number of challenges around the world, including in Spain—but there's also much to celebrate here.

In 2005, Spain became one of the first countries in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. According to the law, “Marriage will have the same requirements and results when the two people entering into the contract are of the same sex or of different sexes.”

The story begins much earlier, of course. The first open demonstration in support of gay rights in Spain took place in Barcelona in 1977, two years after the conservative dictator Francisco Franco died. Four thousand people turned out in support.

The next year, a demonstration was authorized to take place in Madrid. It has taken place there every year ever since (excluding 1980).

Much of the LGBTQ-rights movement in Spain was born in the Chueca neighborhood in Madrid. The Colectivo de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales y Bisexuales de Madrid (COGAM) was formed here. Chueca is still known as Madrid's gay neighborhood.

In 2007, Madrid was the European capital of Pride, and every year on Pride Week, about two million people spill into the streets or travel to Madrid to celebrate.

European Pride parade (Europride) of 2007
The European Pride parade (Europride) of 2007 in Madrid. | Courtesy Oscar San Jose

When & Where

Orgullo Gay de Madrid (MADO) is hosted in the Chueca neighborhood, but signs of Pride are visible everywhere. Hotels light up in rainbow colors. Rainbow flags, balloons, posters, and more are displayed in just about every storefront. And several of the city's plazas, including the Puerta del Sol and the Plaza de España, host stages with live music and entertainment.

The main events, including a parade, take place on the weekend after June 28, which is the International Day of LGBT Pride.

Roughly 300,000 people travel from international destinations to be in Madrid for the big event, and you can hear just about every language as you walk down many of the closed-off streets. People wear flags, flowers, or other rainbow insignia to show their support. The streets overflow with people decked out especially for the occasion. It's a warm and welcoming atmosphere, if a little chaotic.

The annual parade starts around 5:30 p.m. and travels from Atocha station to the Plaza de Colón.
Pride Parade map Madrid
The annual Pride parade in Madrid marches from Atocha station to the Plaza de Colón.

Can't-Miss Events

Here are some of the most essential events in Madrid's annual Pride celebration.

Mr. Gay Pride Competition

This event, generally hosted in the Puerta del Sol, offers contestants the chance to win the title of Mr. Gay Pride España. The year 2018 saw the 11th annual competition, and featured a performance from Eleni Foureira.

Booking.com

LGBTQ Film Screenings

Hosted in 2018 by Muestra•T, an annual film fest features LGBTQ-themed films. It's an opportunity to engage with some incredibly compelling pieces. What's more, you can see them in equally fascinating venues, including the Matadero (a slaughterhouse-turned-cultural-center) and the Museo Reina Sofia.

The Parade

This event marks the finale of the Pride celebration in Madrid. It kicks off around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and travels from Atocha station to the Plaza de Colón. Grab a picnic lunch in the Parque de El Retiro during the day, take a spin in the small boats on the lake, and then take a leisurely walk to the parade path to secure a good view.

WE Pride Festival

Over the course of about five days, WE Pride heads up several parties throughout Madrid. If you want to truly celebrate and experience Madrid Pride, you simply have to attend one (that is, at least one) of these events.
Gay Pride Plaza Mayor Madrid
Flags and other signs of support for Pride are displayed throughout Madrid, including outside the tourism office in the Playa Mayor. | Photo by Erin L. McCoy
Tags : featuredfestivalsgay prideLGBTQMadridpride
Erin L. McCoy

The author Erin L. McCoy

Erin L. McCoy is an award-winning photojournalist who holds an MA in Hispanic studies from the University of Washington. She's traveled to 20+ countries, five continents, and 45 U.S. states, but she's starting to lose count of how many times she's visited Spain.

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