On the map below I’ve selected several locations that are associated with the lgbt heritage of Madrid. It’s a very simplified map again so I wouldn’t recommend you use it as a means of getting around the city, just a general guide.
CHUECA DISTRICT – This is Madrid’s “Gay Village”, the main centre of the lgbt community and night life. It is named after the Spanish composer Federico Chueca (1846-1908). Chueca started to become the gay village in the 1980s when many young lgbt people came here looking for cheap housing. It was an area that was suffering economically, but once the gay community took hold many gay rights demonstrations were held in the area and these led to Chueca to become a focus for further lgbt activism. Many lgbt people were attracted to the area and it was revitalised. The first Pride event was held in 1997 and has grown into the world event in this its 20th anniversary year.
1) PLAZA PEDRO ZEROLO – This is the social heart of the Chueca lgbt community. It is named after the politician and activist of the same name. Pedro Zerolo (1960-2015) was President of the Federación Estetal de Gays y Lesbianas, and on the Board of Directors of the International Lesbian and Gay Association. In 2003 he was elected a Madrid city councillor. For several years he had been campaigning for the legalisation of same-sex marriage and played a large part in the discussions leading to the Act which finally granted it in 2005. Pedro was among the gay first people to marry their partner. Following Zerolo’s death from cancer Madrid city council agreed to the suggestion from the lgbt community to have Plaza Vazquez de Mella renamed in his honour.
2) ROOM MATE HOTEL CHAIN (x4) – If you’re ever in Madrid you could stay at one of these hotels. The chain was founded in 2005 by Enrique “Kike” Sarasola, the first male Spanish athlete to come out as gay, which he did in 2002. Kike represented Spain in equestrian 3-day eventing and show jumping in 3 consecutive Olympic Games starting with Barcelona 1992. He won a bronze medal at the 2001 European Championships. Kike was one of the first Spanish celebrities to marry his partner Carlos Marrero after same-sex marriage was legalised in Spain, with Pedro Gonzaléz, a former Prime Minister of Spain, as a guest. Since founding Room Mate with his husband Kike has expanded the chain into the USA, Mexico, Italy and Turkey. He was awarded the Medal of Merit for Tourism and Innovation in 2015. Just in case you’re wondering, no I haven’t been paid to promote Kike’s hotels. There are other equally excellent hotels in Madrid.
3) PRIDE PARADE ROUTE – This year’s World Pride route begins at Plaza Atocha next to the main railway station in Madrid which brings in visitors from all around Spain. The parade then proceeds north along Paseo del Prado and ends at the Plaza Colon, named after Christopher Columbus, where the world’s largest Spanish flag has flown since 2001. The route passes the three of the most important museums and galleries which host many works by lgbt artists. The most famous of these museums, 4) the PRADO MUSEUM, has created a tour of works by lgbt artists in its galleries.
5) PLAZA JACINTO BENAVENTE – Jacinto Benavente (1866-1954) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1922. He was a renowned playwright during the first half of the 20th century and, like other homosexual writers in Spain at the time, was unable to express his sexuality for fear of arrest. Benavente was elected a members of the Spanish Royal Academy. Plaza Jacinto Benavente was created out of several smaller ones and named after him in 1926. Across the city in the Parque de el Retiro is the 7) JACINTO BENAVENTE MEMORIAL created in 1962.
6) PALACIO DE LAS CORTES – Members of the Spanish parliament are Members of the Cortes and sit in the Palacio de las Cortes. The elected members of the lower house sit as the Congress of Deputies. The first openly lgbt Deputy was Jerónimo Saavedra (b.1936) who represented Las Palmas in the Canary Islands from 1977. He came out in 2000. He also holds the record as the first known lgbt Spanish government minister (1993-6), the first lgbt President of an autonomous Spanish region (Canary Islands 1983-7 and 1991-3), the first openly lgbt mayor in Spain (Las Palmas 2007-11) and the first openly gay members of the Senate, the upper house of the Spanish parliament (1996 and 1999-2003). The first openly lesbian Deputy in the Cortes is Ángeles Álvarez (b.1961). She was elected to the Cortes in 2011 after many years as a women’s rights campaigner and a Madrid city councillor. Angeles was the first lesbian in Madrid to marry her partner after same-sex marriage was legalised in 2005. The civil ceremony was conducted by fellow city councillor Pedro Zerolo (see no. 1).
8) PLAZA TIRSO DE MOLINA – This city square celebrates the life of a Roman Catholic monk who created the world’s most famous womaniser. Tirso de Molina (1579-1648) was a prolific writer by his own admission, claiming to have written over 300 plays. Many of these are lost but the most famous surviving one features the womaniser Don Juan, whose name has been given to womanisers ever since. As Father Gabriel Tellez (his real name) he was a member of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, or the Mercedarians. He lived at the Order’s Madrid monastery which stood in this site until demolished in the 19th century. He later became Father Superior in two other Mercedarian monasteries in Spain. During this period the Mercedarians gained a reputation for sodomy. Several Mercedarians were accused or convicted of sodomy. Tirso himself may have had some homosexual leanings, according to academics who have studies his surviving plays. We’ll never know for sure, but his plays written before he became ordained have many female lead characters and deal with several issues on gender roles.