Celebrating LGBT Pride in the streets of Medellin

Sam Castañeda Holdren

I realize I’ve been a bit MIA lately. I promise to start posting more frequently. There’s a lot to share.

Let’s start with LGBTI Pride in Colombia! Last weekend Medellin and several Colombian cities joined the rest of the world in celebrating pride. I spent Sunday with several friends participating in this city’s gay pride festivities.

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In Colombia’s second-largest city, they do things a little differently than what I’m used to back in the states, where I’ve celebrated pride in cities like Phoenix, San Francisco, Boston and Flagstaff, which happens to be my favorite event by the way. In American cities, I’m used to a big parade and a big party area with music, dancing, vendors, community organizations, stages and the like. Medellin’s Pride differs in that the parade is an actual march.

Unlike my experience at other Pride celebrations, where the parade features floats sponsored by various businesses, community groups and politicians who either are LGBT or supportive of the community, in Medellin’s gay pride, the entire community marches. Everyone walked along the path, claiming the public streets for an afternoon to unapologetically demonstrate that our community exists, is thriving and that we know how to have fun!

The march kicked off in front of the city government building and ended at the stadium, weaving through the normally busy streets. Visibility was high at this year’s event as the route was much more public than last year’s. At the end point, a stage was setup where musicians and dancers entertained the crowd while community organizers spoke about efforts to advance human rights. With the Orlando shootings still on people’s minds, a moment of silence was observed to remember the victims, further highlighting how universally-connected our community really is.

Not everyone in the community loved the idea of a pride march in their city, as I saw several gay people I know and respect post critical messages on facebook leading up to the festivities intending to instruct participants how they should behave. But that didn’t deter the thousands of marchers from celebrating, waving flags, dancing, kissing and smiling in the streets. One chant I heard from young people that seemed to be a response to the detractors: “La marcha es fiesta. La lucha es protesta.”

I only have last year’s pride march in Medellin to compare against, but from what I can tell, the community is getting more organized and more visible each year. This year’s march was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to see how next year’s event will evolve.

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