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28 June 1978: The beginning of Pride in Madrid

The first march in Madrid in 1978.
The first march in Madrid in 1978. / EFE
  • The Spanish capital's now world-famous LGBT event started in 1978 with 7,000 participants, keen to mark the Stonewall anniversary

On 28 June 1978, more than 7,000 people took to the streets of Madrid for the city's first event in support of the LGBT equal rights movement. Organised by Frente de Liberación Homosexual de Castilla, the march marked the end of years of repression under the Franco regime, and followed the international wave of Pride demonstrations happening across the globe. With placards and banners reading statements such as "We are not dangerous" and "We are people, not clowns," participants bravely marched from Torre de Valencia to Marino de Cavia, a far cry from the carnival atmosphere that takes over the city today.

It was the previous year, in 1977, that Spain's first Pride event was held in Barcelona. By 1978, however, the authorities in Barcelona had forbidden a repeat of the event. Nevertheless, some 2,000 people still turned out in protest.

The chosen date of Madrid's first pride event was no coincidence: the infamous Stonewall riots broke out on 28 June 1969. In Manhattan's Greenwich village, police raided a gay club named the Stonewall Inn in the early hours of the morning, arresting customers and sparking a series of violent demonstrations by members of the gay community. The events that followed led to 28 June becoming the most significant day in the gay rights movement with demonstrations commemorating Stonewall across the United States and the rest of the world every year since.

When Madrid first held its march in 1978, individuals were still in prison for being gay in Spain and homosexuality was not legalised by the government until December of that year.

Fifty years on from Stonewall, Madrid's Pride events are world famous. Compared with the few thousand that marched through the capital in 1978, today millions take to the streets in celebration.

In 2017, Madrid held the World Pride event, a huge gathering organised by InterPride, connecting and promoting Pride movements around the world. Two million people celebrated and protested throughout the city, making it one of the biggest events of its kind in the world.

In recent years, Spain has set a global example for gay rights. It was the third country in the world to recognise the right to same sex marriage in 2005, putting it on the same footing as traditional heterosexual marriage.

This year's Madrid Pride festival kicks off today and includes several days of events and live music, culminating on 6 July with the annual demonstration and parade through the Spanish capital.