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Information about Gay Pride in South America

Despite a culturally-entrenched history of criminalization and religious opposition from Catholic and evangelist leaders at every turn, Latin America has been leading the charge in LGBTI rights and acceptance in many ways for decades.

Argentina became the first country in South America to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010, four years before the United Kingdom and five years before the U.S. Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, and some states and cities in Mexico soon followed suit, thanks to the work of gay and lesbian rights organizations, newspapers, activists, and community events.

In the case of many Latin American countries, LGBT citizens have often had to fight for equality while living under political dictators. This often meant getting creative, as in Brazil where the Lampião newspaper served as the main way for the LGBT community to keep in touch and get organized. In Argentina in the late 70s and early 80s, a “cleansing” campaign by the military targeted homosexual and transgender communities. Violence against LGBTI people is still prevalent throughout South America, making every Gay Pride celebration something to cherish.

Argentina: Buenos Aires Pride Week and Parade, held in November each year since 1991, features dancing, art shows, film fests and appearances from the country’s most popular LGBTI television personalities, public figures, and performers. Many of the 300 marchers in the city’s first parade wore masks to conceal their identity; today, the event both celebrates and ensures the continued visibility, acceptance, and safety of Argentina’s LGBT community. Drag queens and transvestites line the streets, and local clubs host after-parties well into the morning.

Brazil: São Paulo, Brazil has the largest festival in the world, bigger even than New York, San Francisco, or Madrid with crowds of three to five million people attending. While the parade and concerts encourage a celebratory atmosphere, the festival hasn’t lost sight of its social and political responsibilities. Each year has a new slogan that calls attention to specific issues within the gay and lesbian community in Brazil, such as transphobia or the separation of church and state. The Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro also hosts its own festival.

Colombia: The first Colombian Gay Pride event was held in Bogotá in 1982 with just 32 people marching, but now draws over 50,000 people to the city in June for its annual Pride Parade followed by political speeches and live music at the Plaza Bolivar. Being the most recent Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage, Colombia is quickly becoming one of the most welcoming to the LGBT community, and has instituted protections for same-sex couples to adopt, as well as immigration sponsorship and health care rights for same-sex couples.

Mexico: The Homosexual Liberation Movement began in Mexico in 1971, shortly after the Stonewall Riots in New York prompted a similar movement and the first LGBT rights marches in the United States. The first Pride Parade was held less than a decade later, in Mexico City. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Mexico City in 2010, and although only 14 Mexican states have legalized same-sex weddings, those performed in Mexico City are binding and legal in all 31 states. Pride parades and festivals are held all over the country. Guadalajara boasts the second largest, but the beaches of Puerto Vallarta and Cancun are proving stiff competition.