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).
Gays in Uruguay – part of the furniture?
In Montevideo, it’s common to see gay couples – men and women- holding hands on the rambla, the 25-km promenade that borders the River Plate. And while older generations may be taking their time to come around to the changes, younger generations are openly supportive of gay peers.
There are just a few gay bars and my experience is that gay men and women don’t tend to ghettoise. They are very much part of the general fabric of society. Though there is a certain air of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.
A gay emigrant to Uruguay living in Colonia writes: “I live in the Uruguayan equivalent of the Bible belt with my partner of 28 years and thus far have encountered no negative vibes at all. I’ve met with a few surprised looks from officialdom but nothing negative whatsoever. … Unlike the US, UK and Ireland, being gay has never been a crime here so there isn’t the same historical baggage and resentment that you still find in certain places… an individual’s sexuality is viewed as a personal matter and is of no concern to the neighbors (except perhaps for a bit of gossip.)”.
Progressive same-sex legislation in Uruguay for a century
The early twentieth-century is characterised by a golden era of progressive national politics which included the separation of church and state in 1917. In 1934, homosexuality was decriminalised. The same year the age of consent was lowered to 16 – regardless of who you were having sex with.