Gay History Barcelona
15 February, 2017 - Barcelona
Towards a gay paradise?
One of the things Barcelona is famous for is its gay friendly atmosphere which is very present in its streets. Barcelona is considered one of the most opened cities in the world in terms of LGTB rights. But it is also a city with a very interesting history related to the LGTB movement, in both an individual level with homosexual celebrities throughout history and the development of the LGTB movement in the 70´s.
Let’s have a look at its gay history.
Accepted by the Roman and persecuted by the Inquisition
We know that from the I to the V centuries, during the Roman Empire, relationships between men or between women was something citizens were not surprised for. Although during the Visigoth domination in the V and the VIII centuries, homosexuals were castrated.
Later on, the Muslim arrived to the Iberian Peninsula. Under the Al-Andalus, homosexuality was pretty well tolerated until the XI century. Even the nobility and the high society were used to maintain homosexual relationships. Although Barcelona was not under the Muslim domination for a long time.
Some years later, during the Middle Ages, the County of Barcelona, within the Aragon Crown, appears as the most important city in the Mediterranean and its laws were somehow more opened towards homosexuality than in Castilla and it´s possible that the first fraternal unions between men or women were even put into practice.
It is easy to imagine that most of these unions were ways to legalize homosexual unions back that time, but as time went on, this would end up by disappearing, as the conditions and punishments were closer to those imposed by the Catholic Kings. This became even worse during the Inquisition, active until 1834, which persecuted homosexuality as well, and it didn´t only sent a lot of homosexuals to the gallows, but it also left its influence on the society.
One of the modern history hotspots in Barcelona is the China Town of Barcelona, nowadays known as El Raval, which has a very centric location.
In the XIX century, a lot of “Singing Cafés” flourished in El Raval. This Cafés were show places frequented by artists, sailors, prostitutes, criminals and homosexuals, places that were also found inspiring by some artists. It was in fact a neighborhood where two realities were captured from a historical point of view. On the one hand, it is the origin of an opened coexistence with homosexuality and, on the other hand, it was a sort of ghetto where all those practices that the society of the XIX did not tolerate.
Nowadays it has become a modern neighborhood and a place of coexistence between different cultures and artists, without forgetting the gay-friendly atmosphere.
Movement for LGBTQ rights
Many people consider the 70s the starting point of the movement for the rights of the LGTBI community in Spain.
Taking into account the Spanish history, with two dictatorships in the XX century -Primo de Rivera (1921-1930) and then Franco (1939-1976)- it is quite obvious that things were not easy. Take Garcia Lorca´s murder as a clear example. He was killed in 1936. He visited Barcelona on several occasions and maintain a close relationship with Dalí, pretty known by everyone. Nevertheless, during the last years Franco ruled, Barcelona was on the vanguardism on LGTB rights.
In 1970 the Spanish Movement for the Homosexual Liberation was formed. It was the first modern association that defended the gay rights in Spain. It was created as a response against the Dangerousness Law passed in 1970, in which homosexual activities were declared to be illegal, a fact that allowed the regime to imprison and torture homosexuals. After Franco´s dead in 1975, this group were reformed under the name of Gay Liberation Front of Catalonia.
Then, in 1977, the first demonstration took place in 28th June. People marched speaking out against the Dangerousness Law though Las Ramblas up to Plaza Catalunya, where they were brutally repressed by police.
Thanks to this first demonstration, similar demonstrations started to take place all around the country the following year. Therefore, 1979 is the first year of changes in what it comes to homosexual freedom in Spain.
The legality of homosexual unions
In 1988 the Catalan Parliament passed a Law for Established Partnership Unions, the first of its kind in Spain.
This seems like a very small step when compared to all changes that would come later. In 2005, gay marriage was approved in Spain. This measure came even before other so-called modern countries, such as France, where gay marriage was not approved until 2013.
Law against Homophobia
Besides, the Catalan Government approved in 2014 an Act against Homophobia. This law was a pioneer in Spain, as it specified sanctions in order to protect equality and non-discrimination.
During the last 40 years, the progress towards LGBT equality and non-discrimination in Spain is unquestionable. The LGBT community that was persecuted, and even imprisoned, has become an integrated part of the Spanish society. In the case of Barcelona, the Catalan city has in the LGBT community a key asset. Additionally, its tolerance has become an active contributor to the city´s tourism industry.