As Pride celebrates Stonewall, Catalonia remembers its own LGBT breakthrough
Franco's Spain dismissed queer people as a "danger to society." Then, they staged an unprecedented protest in Barcelona
Pride is back in Barcelona this weekend as the global LGBT community celebrates half a century since the revolutionary Stonewall riots. It was not until 1977, after the end of dictatorship, that Catalonia staged its own version, but it has certainly caught up.
At the time of the paradigm-shifting Stonewall riots in the United States, to be LGBT in Franco’s Spain was to be classed as a “danger to society” by law, “mentally ill” by the medical profession, a “mortal sinner” by the church, and a “pariah” by society.
Underground LGBT organizations were developing even as people were still sent to prison for not being straight. Then, the growth of the movement was hailed as one of the triumphs of the transition to democracy, starting with Catalonia’s own Stonewall.
On June 26, 1977, 4,000 campaigners, politicians and supportive citizens came out onto Barcelona’s famous boulevard, La Rambla, to say enough was enough: being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transexual is not a crime.
It was the first major gay march anywhere in Spain, and it caused a stir outside, too.
“Even in New York, everyone was talking about it: Spain, Catholic Spain, the Spain of Franco, had gays protesting! And when the police got involved, even more so," says Armand de Fluvià, a protest organizer, in an interview with the LGTBI history project elfilrosa.cat.
The Francoist police responded with a heavy hand, leaving three protestors seriously injured by rubber bullets and arresting one, Oriol Martí, who spent 52 days in prison and was reportedly beaten and sexually assaulted.
However, the severe intervention only served to strengthen the resolve within the movement and win the collective consciousness of the wider public. Within a couple of years, it was no longer illegal to be gay.
“The protest brought people with different backgrounds and convictions together and that gave its unifying force,” said Mercè Otero, a professor at the University of Barcelona speaking with elfilrosa.cat.
Transition to inclusivity
The death of Franco and end of dictatorship brought about the most dramatic changes, as a cultural revolution accompanied the political and economic ones.
LGBT areas—such as Barcelona’s Gaixample—began to appear in big cities.