The streets of Chueca represent the freedom of those gays, transsexuals and lesbians who at the end of the 80s decided to raise their voices and rebuild a neighborhood destroyed by drugs and crime that ended up being their refuge as well as their symbol. And while it became the most famous LGBT territory in Spain, it was also acquiring a great attraction for the thousands of tourists who visit the capital daily. But according to the opinion of the collective, over the years the neighborhood has abandoned some of those initial values that made it a world reference for the LGTBIQ + community. They denounce that it has lost its original essence, its sense of vindication that made it unique, massifying and raising rental prices to exorbitant levels.

Gentrification, for many, is to blame for the displacement of a large number of neighbors who fought for a neighborhood they now cannot afford. Because the current population of the Chueca area is no longer the one that gave everything to transform the area. Alfonso Llopard, director of Shangay, the reference magazine of the LGTBI + collective, remembers the most complicated years of the neighborhood, when its streets were taken over by drugs: "The 80s and 90s were quite complicated years, there were a lot of drugs and a lot of crime. When I started going out I had to always be accompanied, I could not go out alone, because you risked being robbed. If you were a little confused, you already had someone pointing the knife at you and asking you to give him everything you were carrying. We always had to go out in groups of two or three people from the clubs."

Local of the neighborhood decorated for the week of holidays. CARLOS ALBA

These "dens" were practically clandestine places that were cautiously accessed through hidden entrances. And yet, what happened behind closed doors was the main engine that turned Chueca into a reference neighborhood. Claim for gays, lesbians and the rest of the people of the collective of Madrid, who began to feel it as a place where they could be themselves. Thus, helped by the ease of renting due to the marginality of its streets, the community began to organize to eradicate the problems of drugs and crime that prevailed in the area and build the Chueca that we all know today.

The neighborhood is one of the main areas of the Centro district of Madrid and continues to be a symbol for the LGTBIQ + collective, although many have been forced to migrate to other cheaper neighborhoods. According to data from the real estate portal Idealista, the purchase price of the square meter in Chueca is 6,160 euros. These figures place this area as one of the most expensive in all of Madrid, a city in which the average value per square meter stands at an average of 3,995 euros.

Old neighbors of the neighborhood point out that these prices have caused the arrival of new residents with a greater economic capacity, which has attracted the attention of large franchises, especially from the world of fashion, which have colonized a good part of its streets separating the small merchants that constituted the economic lung of the neighborhood and its essence.

And this supposed loss of identity seems to have infected the celebration of Pride. This began as a small demonstration for the rights of the collective that ran through the streets of the center of Madrid and attended by about 300 people in the 80s. However, in 1996, after the establishment of the neighborhood as an oasis for the community and the presentation of the bill for the legalization of same-sex partnerships, Pride was derived into an increasingly crowded party.

Mili Hernández, owner of the Berkana bookstore, is one of the most important people in the process of establishing Pride and narrates first-hand how it was that change of strategy that allowed this claim to reach the magnitude it has today: "At first the demonstrations were very political and were held on June 28, It was Monday, Wednesday or Friday. So we decided to change the day and put a playful-festive touch, because most people did not have that activist involvement."

The Plaza de Chueca, during Pride.DIEGO SINOVA

And that's how the demonstration was moved to Saturday. "We started playing music in a van with a cassette and made flags and banners. We didn't expect many people to go. Our surprise was when, thanks to this change of day, we went from 1000 people to 7500."

The associations that allowed the birth of the Pride party are COGAM and the State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals -FELGTB-, two civil organizations that lead the fight for the rights of the collective. Both, together with the Association of Companies and Professionals for Gays and Lesbians of Madrid and its Community -AEGAL-, are responsible for organizing year after year a party that brings together a million people and leaves more than 300 million profit in the capital.

On the commodification of celebrations, the associations are categorical. "No money comes into our organization because we are a non-profit NGO. Our principles are the defense of the rights of the LGTBIQ + collective and that is why we limit ourselves to appearing with our banner in the demonstration. We do not sell drinks or offer any type of service, we leave that to the hoteliers and the owners of nightclubs and hotels, "explains a representative of COGAM.

The business, specifically that related to the sale of beverages, is one of the most controversial issues that orbit around the organization of Pride, to the extent that it moves away from the purely vindictive aspect. The sale of alcohol and soft drinks, whose brands are stipulated through sponsorships, is done through the bars and booths that the hoteliers set up outdoors.

The drinks represent the greatest economic return for the entrepreneurs of Chueca of the whole year, although there is some disagreement because not everyone gets the same benefit, since the allocation of these booths is made through a draw in which the participants do not have the same possibilities. "As a founding member of AEGAL I have the right to install bars in the Plaza de España, although I must pay 3,000 euros if I want to keep that bar for at least three days, money that is supposed to be used to cover expenses related to artists and others. The allocation of the rest of the booths is drawn, and depending on the location, some will be lined more than others, "explains José de Benito, owner of the Black and White nightclub.

Showcase with real models.E. M.

The choice of guest artists, especially town criers, is another issue that also generates some controversy, since on many occasions people from the LGTBIQ + collective do not feel represented. This happened in 2016, when the organizers chose Samantha Vallejo-Nájera, Jordi Cruz and Pepe Rodríguez, jurors of Master Chef, and had to back down after the commotion generated.

There is no doubt that Chueca has undergone a real transformation in the last three decades, becoming a unique neighborhood of its kind, unrepeatable, inimitable. But no one said success was easy, and it may have had to leave some of its founding principles in the way to survive. You know: renew or die.

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