Where else could I start looking at the lgbt heritage of the Hispanic world than in
and Spain . In this little I prefer to use the word Portugal for the area rather than Hispania, the Roman provincial name, because the latter name puts one country in the mind more than the other and both have made significant contributions around the world. Iberia
There is very little definitive references in historical records to show if there was any kind of homosexual culture or activity in pre-Roman times in
, so the best place to start would be to look at the most famous Iberian in the Iberia Roman Empire – the emperor himself, Hadrian.
There is some disagreement among some historians as to Hadrian’s actual birthplace. Some say he was actually born in
, but the most widely held belief is that he was born in what is now Santiponce near Rome . His parents were both Iberian-born. Either way, he spent much of his childhood there. Seville
The last decade or so has seen a resurgence of interest in Hadrian, and a big part of this has been an acknowledgement of his sexuality. Historians no longer skirt around the issue of his relationship with Antinous. Hadrian was held in such high esteem after his death that the many statues of Antinous that Hadrian erected have survived to this day. You can’t say that about the lovers of many other emperors.
Roman empire became Christian, Christian doctrine affected attitudes to all sexual activity and sexual roles in society. In 305 the Synod of Elvira in declared that communion would be refused to all pederasts, men who had sex with boys and young teenagers, implying that pederasty was more acceptable than sodomy to which physical punishments applied. Today it’s the pederasts, or paedophiles, who are punished in Granada Europe.
In 410 the Visigoths attacked
and it’s empire (in the west) finally crumbled. The Visigoths were Arian by religion, a sect of Christianity that had been condemned as heresy. Rome and southeasten Iberia became a Visigoth kingdom. During this era punishment for sodomy was enshrined in several laws, punishment which varied from castration to exile, or even death by fire. France
I has been suggested that it was the severity of the Visigoth punishment that made it hard, too puritanical, for Iberians to handle. As a result, some historians say, Iberians were more receptive to invasion from Islamic north Africa just to rid themselves of the Visigoths. Even though the Koran of Islam prohibits homosexuality the African Muslims didn’t always enforce it. The influence of Islamic Africa on
will be dealt with in more detail in my next Hispanic Heritage article. Iberia
There are another culture in
before the Muslims arrived – the Jews. As in most of Europe Jews were often seen as a bad influence on society and were blamed for many atrocities that were obvious lies, like child sacrifice and ritual blood-letting. In the introduction to “Spanish Writers on Gay and Lesbian Themes” (1999) David Eisenberg writes: “Homosexuality was honoured among Andalusian Jews to a degree scarcely conceivable today…” The poetry of some influential scholar-rabbis contains many examples of male love. Perhaps, as with the Muslim empire and the Romans, it was the geographical remoteness of Iberia , on the edge of the known world, far from the regions of Roman, Arab and Jewish cultural origin, which helped to distance the Iberians from the threat of official punishment. Iberia
The expulsion of the Jews from
came at the same time as the Spanish monarchs were sending Iberia off in search of the Columbus Indies. It was also the time of the Spanish Inquisition. While there are many records of men being executed for sodomy, it should be emphasised that it was NOT the Catholic Church that was responsible, not directly. Death sentences were legislated by civil authorities not the church. The Catholic Church had the death penalty for heretics, and anyone found guilty of sodomy by the local town court could, in their eyes, be guilty of heresy also.
Several Spanish kings of the medieval period are often stated as being gay – two kings of Castille being referred to the most, Juan II (1405-1454) and his son Enrique IV (1425-1474).
Catholic influence across
reinforce the Christian ideal of male brotherhood, of how close friendship between men was a higher ideal than between a man and woman. The church adopted a rite form the Greek Orthodox church which was the same as the marriage ceremony – wedded brotherhood, you could say. Although it isn’t certain, it is likely that the marriage recorded between Pedro Diaz and Muño Vandilaz on 16th April 1061 in northern Iberia was wedded brotherhood. Spain
The death penalty for sodomy introduced by civic authorities persisted through to the 20th century. Very few medieval lgbt Iberians are readily identifiable, at least few who were not executed. Literature was the only outlet for poets and writers who may have been homosexual, and there is a continuity of homoerotic and sexual literature through all of Iberian history. Some homophile centres developed in Toledo and Seville, for instance, and those men who wanted sex with other men could always travel into Spanish North Africa.
In 1822 the death penalty in
was removed. With the spread of ideas across Spain Europe during that century the influence of Magnus Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee helped pave the way for the Independent Teaching Institute in , which opened its Residencia de Estudiantes in Spain in 1915. Famous lgbt residents included Federico García Lorca. Madrid
in Second Republic , created in 1931, saw an explosion of lgbt writings and activity. This liberalisation was halted when General Franco came to power after the Spanish Civil War. Homosexuality was made illegal and vigorously enforced with thousands of gay men being imprisoned. Likewise, in Spain homosexuality became illegal under the dictatorship of Antonio Salazar. Portugal
This didn’t stop the development of an underground lgbt culture in places now virtually synonymous with gay Sapin – Sitges,
Ibiza and . After Salazar’s and Franco’s deaths in the 1960s and 1970s their laws against homosexuality were repealed and a new wave of liberalism grew across Barcelona . It is surprising how quickly this liberalisation took hold in these very Catholic countries. Perhaps the biggest leaps for lgbt rights was the legislation of same-sex marriages in 2005 ( Iberia ) and 2010 ( Spain ), and transgender rights to register their preferred gender in 2006 ( Portugal ) and 2010 ( Spain ). Portugal
From the days of the Roman Empire to today Spain and Portugal have had an underlying acceptance of homosexuality that was greater than most of Europe, even through eras of persecution from various regimes who tried to stamp it out. The present lgbt community across
has a vibrancy and, indeed, the passion, which characterises Iberian culture itself. Iberia