Monday, July 5, 2010

Proud in Madrid!

Everytime I hear the Vengaboys' Boom Boom, I'm going to think of dancing my legs off at Madrid Orgullo 2010 in Plaza de España!

Orgullo (Pride) isn't just a weekend here in Madrid, but a week and a half of nightly events and parties that culiminate in a multi-multi-MULTI-block party and concert with guests from all over the world.

I arrived in Madrid amidst all the festivities but didn't begin to attend until the second last night, unfortunately, because I was still settling down. But what I did get to participate in was incredible!

Last Friday night, I happened to be in Chueca, Madrid's trendy gay district, at about 9pm. There was a Lady Gaga talent show type of event, and the Plaza Chueca (the square in which the Chueca Metro Station is nestled) was full of people. The atmosphere was positively exuberant and boisterous, and there were people from all walks of life there - gay, straight, bi, pan, every age and race you can think of - all having a good time together.

When the talent show ended, the DJ started spinning the best music ever and all of a sudden, the entire square began to dance. People had one hand on a giant sangria/mojito and another on a cigarette (only downer), and strangers were just all busting moves, singing along to the lyrics to each other, and dancing like there'd be no tomorrow. I didn't want to leave!

Then the next day, I met up with some co-workers to go see the famous parade. I was hoping all week that the weather reports were wrong, that there wouldn't be a storm, and very fortunately, the heavens rained themselves out on Friday so that we had gorgeous (albeit sweltering hot) weather on Saturday.

At first our spots weren't very good so we couldn't see much, but then we managed to insinuate ourselves closer and closer to the parade until we got fairly good views. I'd never been squished against so many muscles before. :P

There were bears, leatherboys, queens wearing shoes I’d kill myself in, fairies, angels, demons, gladiators, Renaissance ladies, construction workers, naughty nuns - even Avatars!

The parade was very political - there were a lot of signs with political messages (mostly about anti-religion, pro-protection, pro-equality) being waved around. And for a country that is so Catholic, well, this kind of event was really progressive. I realized that I was watching a revolution before my very eyes, something that many people had been fighting for for a very a long time, towards goals that will take a while to achieve - but things are indeed moving along, bit by bit.

The parade consisted of people from various GLBT rights groups and organizations. Many of them had their own double-decker bus, all decked out in gay magic and beautiful people. Condoms were thrown out to the audience in addition to promotional leaflets and fan-shaped papers to help people beat the heat. There were also a lot of people walking around trying to sell souvenirs and cold drinks at a fraction of the cost of the nearby stands.

The music was pumping, and so were many pelvises, and people would dance to the music that buses were playing as they drove by.

After a while, when the parade began to slow down, my hungry/thirsty friends and I decided to go to Chueca to grab a bite and to see what else was going on. On our way there, one of the girls suggested going to El Tigre, a very popular watering hole famous for their free tapas. It was on my list of places to try, so I was very excited!

And indeed, the food was amazing – will write about that in more detail later. 6 € each later, we were all stuffed and very satisfied. It was also at El Tigre that I overheard two boys speaking English, deciding on what to order. I asked them where they were from, and just like that, we found new party buddies to hang out with for the rest of the night.

We all talked and ate, and we decided to go back to the parade, which was headed for the Plaza de España, where the Kylie Minogue concert was to be. We navigated the crazy crowds with our new friends, and all of a sudden, somehow, we found ourselves in the middle of the parade! We danced all the way down the Gran Via behind a bus with two naked ladies on it. No doubt the onlookers must have been wondering who the hell we were, these normally-dressed people between the buses.

The parade itself was a great vantage point to see the festivities and to see the city in all its glory – I was utterly charmed when, at one point, my Madrileña friend gestured at the enormous crowds everywhere and said, “Welcome to Spain!”

All this was happening at the same time as the big Spain vs. Paraguay FIFA World Cup quarter finals match; when Spain scored a goal and eventually won the match, the whole city went crazy!!! People jumped around, hugged each other, screamed, blew out their vuvuzelas...and drank and danced some more!

Finally, we got shooed out by the police, and we found ourselves back in the audience. There were beautifully tempting smells of roast meat in the air, because there were street vendors selling roast meat sandwiches! I was very tempted to get one, but didn’t have room after our tapa feast.

After a very, very long pee-break, we headed towards the stage and got as close as we could. It was so packed I had to tilt my head back and go on tiptoe for fresh air – and even that was hit-or-miss, because there were a ton of smokers.

We waited a good 40 minutes before Kylie showed up (lots of artists opened for her, including the Vengaboys), and the crowd went crazy! I kept looking around to see that there were people as far as they eye could see, in every direction. Tokyo’s like that on regular days, but the streets in Madrid are about four to five times wider.

Right before the last metro was to take off, my co-worker/friend and I dodged some sketchy boys and left. I'd never seen anything like it before, and the whole thing was just enormous, amazing, unforgettable, crazy, hyper... I had the experience of a lifetime!

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