In late 2014, Montevideo launched its first gay-friendly advertising campaign, two years after Uruguay became the third country in the Americas to legalise same-sex marriage.
Uruguay is the most gay friendly country in South America and 9th friendliest in the world according to the Spartacus International Gay Guide. So isn’t it time you thought about adding your bod to the record-breaking Pride celebrations in Montevideo, the capital?
Your starting point – and it’s Friendly
Friendly Point is a tourist information centre for gay visitors. Head over to the Parque Rodo neighbourhood and talk to Carolina or Fernanda. They don’t speak great English, but “we’ll make ourselves understood” they tell me.
Visit the Friendly Point, Salterain 931 almost on the corner of Gonzalo Ramirez street, Parque Rodó. Monday to Friday, 10 till 6.
Friendly Map has links to gay bars, pubs and shows – and wedding planners.
Currently it’s only possible to marry in Uruguay after three months’ residence, but this law is being amended in the coming months. Time to start planning your Uruguayan wedding for 2016?
Unique gay bars and night clubs in Montevideo
The gay scene in Uruguay is not huge, with evening venues opening Wednesday to Sunday. Gay venues are welcoming of people of all sexual stripes.
There are several typical gay nightclubs –with names like Chains– just like those you can find in any other city. You might as well be anywhere in the world.
So to really check out REAL gay Uruguayez, the Guru recommends:
Small Club is a tiny pub cafe-concert type venue which is indeed tiny. It’s a place to do the previa – the ‘first course’ of the evening before moving on to the main action. In fact Small’s advertising banner is “The perfect previa”.
The previa at Small starts about 10pm and the place will be packed by 11pm as folks arrive for the show which typically starts at 11pm or 11.30pm. There’s no charge for the shows other than to buy a drink (known as consumición).
Small Club is open Wednesday to Sunday. Brandzen 2172 bis on the corner of Acevedo Diaz, Cordon.
Il Tempo is open Thursdays to Sundays (and Wednesdays during the warmer months) on a typical Uruguayan schedule. Saturday nights is “ladies night” (but not exclusively so). The action starts after midnight with an all-women show starting not earlier than 3am and often at 4 in the morning. Much of the clientele moves en masse from Small to Il Tempo.
On Sundays there’s a talent show. What makes it perhaps quintessentially Uruguayan-gay is that the talents are often accompanied by mums, dads and grandparents.
Il Tempo, Gonzalo Ramirez 2121, Parque Rodo.
In 2005, the capital Montevideo became one of the few cities in the world to have a homomonument – a rose-colored granite in the shape of a triangle inscribed with the words: “To Honour Diversity is to Honor Life”. It’s tucked in a little plaza in the Old City of Montevideo (though the plaza is miserable and deserves a good make-over).
Montevideo Pride – last Friday of September
It feels in keeping with Uruguayans’ lack of frivolity where politics and social justice is concerned, that Montevideo’s Pride is currently known as the Diversity March and takes place in the mercilessly cold month of September (ok, I exaggerate but you should be aware that September is winter in Uruguay).
The march –known as the Marcha por la Diversidad in Spanish– starts at the Plaza de Independencia and ends on the steps of the Intendencia of Montevideo. It’s held annually on the last Friday of September.
I remember joining the march around 2001 and we were a few hundred souls. Even ten years ago, marchers numbered less than a thousand. However the last decade has seen significant changes and when Uruguay become the first country in Latin America to pass marriage equality laws in 2013, the 2014 march was the most numerous ever with an estimated 30,000 attendees from all walks of life. It was something else.
Perhaps as Fernando Frontán wrote regarding the history of the march*, perhaps Uruguay is ready for “Pride” as a celebration now.
You’ll be glad to know that Punta del Este as recently started a Pride celebration – in the height of Uruguayan summer – yay! Dates are usually in February.
September – Sexual Diversity Month
Every September, the Intendencia of Montevideo and the Ministry of Tourism promote an month-long sexual diversity agenda with events, talks, conferences and fairs.
This being Uruguay, the programme will only likely be out at the end of August, or even the first days of September itself (sigh…).
Friendly accommodation in Montevideo
Casa Sarandi This art-deco guesthouse’s first guests were an intrepid lesbian couple from Vancouver celebrating their respective 50th birthdays with a round-the-world trip and their friends, a gay poet-choreographer couple from Winnipeg. Winner of the TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Award in 2014 and 2015 and top reviewed accommodation on Booking.com.
Hotel Splendido This charming petit hotel and hostel is located on a two-story bow-shaped building in the heart of the Old City opposite Uruguay’s oldest theatre. Private and shared rooms all with antique furniture.
Uruguay – most gay friendly country in South America
Many thanks to Carolina at Friendly Point for her advice regarding this article.
Photos courtesy Il Tempo
*History de la Marcha de la Diversity in Uruguay, interview with Fernando Frontán, in the Spring 2014 edition of Friendly Map Magazine (in Spanish)