Gran Canaria Pride Maspalomas, May 2005

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Maspalomas Pride - Gran Canaria

The Canary Islands are a group of seven islands of volcanic origin in the Atlantic Ocean, off the northwestern coast of Africa (Western Sahara) at about the same latitude as Miami in America. The islands belong to Spain, although it takes a good 2½ hour flight to reach them from Madrid (about 4 hours from London). Gran Canaria is the third largest of the islands, although Tenerife and Fuerteventura are larger in size, Gran Canaria has the largest population, about 741,000 inhabitants. Most visitors to Gran Canaria stay in one of the resorts along the South coast. The most gay of these are Playa del Ingles and Maspalomas.
Playa del Inglés (Beach of the English) is the largest tourist resort of the island. A mass of apartment blocks and hotels, bars, clubs and restaurants it truly caters for all ages and tastes and, despite the name, many nationalities.

Coming from the airport heading south, it seems like a concrete jungle in the middle of a desert with the ocean at one side. That is because this is exactly what it is. In Playa del Inglés you will not find a typical Spanish centre of the town with trees and elderly people sitting talking and playing cards. Most roads are curved and it's easy to get lost. Apart from the hotels and the beach, life happens in the 11 shopping centres that are renown for being quite touristy and don't look very attractive. Playa del Inglés is also considered one of the gay holiday capitals of Europe (in the winter), with gay-oriented entertainment. The Yumbo Shopping Centre is where most of the gay action takes place in the evenings with more than 65 gay bars and restaurants, including hilarious drag shows and group-orgy darkrooms.

The first Gay Pride parade in 1969, known as the March on Stonewall, started as a protest against discrimination and violence against gays in New York City. Today, Pride events have become an annual ritual and have grown to include thousands of gay and gay-friendly participants, not to mention hundreds of spectators. Many gays and lesbians dress in bright colours, head-to-toe leather or sometimes next to nothing. But, regardless of the attire, all of the participants join the festivities to remind the world that gays deserve the same rights as others and people should be free to live their own lifestyle, void of judgment or hate.

Gay Pride is also a symbol of solidarity and an opportunity to express the vivid personalities which reflect the diverse gay communities throughout the world. During this time (and in many places year round), the skies are covered with the Gay Pride flags and banners, the symbol of gay solidarity and freedom. Established in September 2001, GLAY stands for the Gay & Lesbianas Asociados del Yumbo. The organization is aiming at the support and care of the reputation of the Yumbo Centre and Playa del Ingles as one of the best, non-seasonal, homosexual holiday destinations in Europe.

As well as raising awareness, Gay Pride is also about raising money for charities that support and help people with HIV and AIDS, as well as support to family and friends. The local charity in Gran Canaria is called "Amigos contra el Sida" (friends to fight and control AIDS).

Held during the month of May, Gay Pride has become bigger and better as each year passes with various events being held during the week long festivities such as exhibitions, discussions and a film festival, Drag Queen competitions and a Gay Pride march, dance party and show including many star performers. Previous years have seen Boney M live on stage, as well as Sinitta, Viola Wills, Angie Brown, Jo Francis, Jason Prince and many, many others.

The evening of entertainment is closed with the biggest and most extravagant fire work show Gran Canaria has ever seen, and then everyone goes off to party around the Yumbo centre.

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