By Roy Heale

Well this month I am celebrating three years since my first trip to Buneos Aires in November 2007 whereupon I decided to make this city my new semi-retirement home. This year I managed to arrange my travel schedule to be at home for the city’s Pride festivities. And what a year to be celebrating in this new gay mecca of South America! This past year saw the enactment of the new Same-Sex Marriage and Adoption Act by the Government of Argentina in July, the opening of Pink Point Buenos Aires—the downtown gay and lesbian information center—in September, and the new Pink Center at the FIT Latin America (International Tourism Fair of Latin America) in late October. These are only a few of the LGBT “firsts” in Argentina this year. Truly a year of jubilation for the local LGBT community and reinforcing the gay-friendly reputation which this country is earning honestly.

However, the celebrations here are slightly different to those organized in other parts of the world. The local gay businesses participate in a late afternoon trade fair in the central Plaza de Mayo from 3PM to 6PM rather than creating elaborate, decorative floats to enter in the parade. The Pride March itself begins around 6PM and heads from Plaza de Mayo to the Plaza de los dos Congresos. This Pride March is more of a political rally than a festive parade as the roots of the March are centered around a demonstration for equality rather than a celebration of Pride. But there is still plenty of color and festivity as one would expect of any gay event in a city of this size.

Talking to the locals, and not surprisingly, it appeared as though this year’s march will prove to be a record breaking attendance. Early reports indicated the crowd to be over 100,000 people. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered, their friends, and families converged on the heart of Buenos Aires beginning early in the afternoon and the crowds kept swelling until late into the evening. Rather than Avenida de Mayo being lined with spectators awaiting to see a parade, it was more of a slow moving throng of people progressing from Plaza de Mayo to the Plaza de los dos Congresos filling the street to absolute maximum capacity.

Many individuals, groups, and same-sex parents were showing their appreciation to the late President Nestor Kirchner for his dedication to equal rights for all Argentine citizens and sympathy for the current President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner at her recent loss. Two lesbian mums with a stroller for their two young children and a sign thanking the Kirchners was one of the most popular and heart-warming entrants in the march.

Participants traveled from all over Argentina and many visitors to the city from other countries turned out to see how the LGBT community in this country celebrates Pride. A young man from Macedonia could not believe the freedom of the gay community and two Americans were impressed at the staging of such a colossal event without any corporate funding or commercial sponsorship. There were no elaborate floats from beer companies or designer clothing, just the Argentine citizens and local organizations volunteering their time and resources to organize this spectacular event.

My first Pride celebrations in Buenos Aires proved to be another occasion which reminds me how lucky I am to be living in this new gay mecca of South America and witnessing the development of the LGBT community in Argentina.