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Stonewall and Spain: A History

Every year around Pride in Spain, the Stonewall riots are brought up as the origins of Spanish Pride.

Stonewall and Spain: A History

This was originally written for Pride, called "Orgullo" in Spanish, in June 2022.  It is written from a lesbian historical perspective. What does Stonewall mean to Spain and what are similar events that have taken place in Spain that resonate like Stonewall?

Every year around Pride in Spain, the Stonewall riots, which took place over several non-consecutive days after a police raid of the Stonewall Club in New York City[1], are brought up as the origins of Spanish Pride, suggesting a straight line between what happened in the United States and the situation in Spain in the final days of the dictatorship and early days of the democratic transition.  This is not really true, but has some basis in fact. This is an exploration of Stonewall, and the Spanish early Pride marches and similar police raids in Spain.

Stonewall in the United States

The raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York City took place in the early hours of 28 June 1969. What followed was six days of riots and clashes with the police.[2]

Pride marches began in the United States on 28 June 1970 in New York City on the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprising as a way to  "...commemorate the Christopher Street Uprisings of last summer in which thousands of homosexuals went to the streets to demonstrate against centuries of abuse....from government hostility to employment and housing discrimination, Mafia control of Gay bars, and anti-Homosexual laws".[3]

The march came about as a result of NYU Student Homophile League lesbian activist Ellen Brody and Homophile Youth Movement's Craig Rodwell putting together a proposal together with E.R.C.H.O. in November 1969 at their conference.  The 13 homosexual rights organizations attending passed a resolution in support of this calling for a nationally annual demonstration, which they called Christopher Street Liberation Day.  E.R.C.H.O. had already been holding annual marches on 4 July from 1965 to 1969 which they called Reminder Day Pickets.[4]

Stonewall’s influence on Spain

Stonewall’s influence in Spain is not a result of specific American activists coming over from the United States to Spain to do activism or invitations from Americans to Spaniards to come to the United States and learn about activism that they could take back to their local communities. Rather, the influence of the Stonewall uprising is about creating a shared global history of the broader LGTB community. This shared history serves as a touchstone, a reference point and a moment from which others could draw inspiration. It also serves to show that change can come from activism, that the community can grow, can come out of the closet and change the social, cultural and political climate for members of the LGTB community.  

Like all histories and stories, parts of the Stonewall uprising narrative that attract interest change over time and are repurposed to serve the specific local and national goals of the local LGTB community, including the Spanish one.  It is why in 2022 Spain has an LGB community that highlights that Stormé DeLarverie was a lesbian, one of the first on the scene for the riots and that Malcolm Michaels Jr. was a transvestite who always identified as a gay man who showed up after the uprising started.  It is why the Spanish trans community talks about Stormé DeLarverie and Marsha P. Johnson as two hugely influential black trans activists who played outsized roles in starting the Stonewall uprising.

Lesbians in Madrid were aware of the Christopher Street Liberation Day events in New York City on 28 June 1970, and chose that day for their own early marches during the dictatorship on 28 June. [5]

Spanish homosexual rights activists in the transition period had contacts in the United States. Front d'Alliberament Gai de Catalunya (FAGC) co-founder Armand de Fluvià attended the 1977 edition of Christopher Street Liberation Day in New York City, missing the first time such a march was recognized as taking place in Spain. News of the march taking place in Barcelona and the police response to it was reported the day after in New York City.  It was viewed as unusual because of the then very Catholic nature of Spain. [6]

Following the police response to the 1977 march on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, a number of activists started to fear the police less as they saw them in action and had an idea of what they would do.  This meant they were less afraid to be visible and helped spur further protests in other cities in Spain in 1978.[7]

Mili Hernández García attended the Pride march in New York City to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the march in 1994. She had organized a trip through the Berkana bookstore she founded. The Spanish delegation she took included Hernández García, Mar de Griñó and 16 other people. They were joined by Jordi Petit, Isabel Castro and others. The Spanish delegation in the march had a banner that said, “Gays, lesbianas y transexuales de España”. It was written on pillowcases from the hotel room they were staying in.[8]

At the time that Movimiento por la Liberación Homosexual (MLH) was organizing in Granada in 1977, gay male activists were aware of Stonewall and the march that resulted from it. They read a number of different essays about Stonewall, along with Erich Fromm's The Fear of Freedom, the Kinsey Report and some of the writings of Armand de Fluviá.[9]

A rainbow flag was brought from New York City to Madrid in 1994.  The local homosexual rights activists were initially hesitant to use it in Spain at the 1994 march because they viewed it as a Yankee symbol. By then, homosexual rights groups were using pink triangles and lambda letters that soon would be banished. [10]

In June 1994, the Sevilla based group LIGAN inaugurated an exhibition to celebrate 25 years since the Stonewall rights and the start of the global gay rights movement. The event was held at the Ateneo Alternativo El Patio. As part of these celebrations, the group also worked with the Asamblea de Mujeres to hang a banner with the pink triangle at Puente de Triana and then, along with Nación Andaluza, held a rally in front of the town hall. [11]

Stonewall Aragón was founded in Zaragoza in 2007 as an association for people with dissident sexualities and genders.  This included transsexuals, "trans lesbians" and others.  The group was one of a number founded by mostly transgender members who worked with a shared framework to depathologize trans and to provide new discourses on sexual and gender dissidence.[12]

Panteras Rosas organized a showing of the movie Stonewall in 2008 in Sevilla.  They hung up provocative posters to publicize the event. [13]

Cataluña Post-Op, Ex Dones, Ningún Lugar, Guerrilla Travolaka and Girlswholikeporno created the Asamblea Stonewall in 2001. These groups calling out to a shared collective global LGBT history in a Catalan context were bollero feminists who were critical of the commercialized nature of Pride in the city. The Asamblea Stonewall participated in the Plataforma Unitaria del 28J in 2002 as part of their protest against the commercial nature of pride. The event included a demonstration and an alternative party that took place at Plaça Universitat at 3 in the morning. The party was called “Fiesta Stonewall.” In February 2004, Asamblea Stonewall participated in a protest against marriage at the time when most Spanish LGTB organizations in Spain were fighting for marriage equality.[14]

In June 2019, a ceremony was held at the Instituto de Cervantes in New York City where Pasaje Begoña in Torremolinos was officially twinned with the Stonewall Inn in New York City.  The event took place on the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.[15]

Orgullo Crítico del Sur was held in Sevilla in 2019 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.  The critical event was organized by members of leftwing groups, trans groups, feminists, student groups, trade unions and politicians.  They wanted a model for Pride that was different than the highly commercialized Pride events that were taking place, and in 2019 wanted to recover the fighting spirit of Stonewall, and to pay a historical debt to the transwomen that started the Stonewall uprising to make the world a freer place. [16]

The Plataforma Orgullo Crítico Madrid had a motto in 2019 of “Orgullo es revuelta, no una celebración” in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.[17]

Similar Spanish Stonewall events

Torremolinos had many foreigners living in it during the late 1950s and 1960s, and it required the Spanish government to act with more caution towards foreigners in the city as the Franco regime did not want to tarnish its reputation internationally. It was one of the reasons the city had as many as five gay and transsexual bars along Pasaje Begoña between 1962 and 1971 when such bars and open meeting places for male homosexuals would not have been tolerated elsewhere. Among the people to visit these bars were John Lennon, Brian Epstein, Pia Back, Grace Jones and Sara Montiel. Lesbians were occasional patrons at these gay bars. Lesbians were rarely bothered by the regime in that context unless they too openly transgressed the gender norms of the time or displayed their sexuality outside the hidden confines of the bars. [18]

On 24 June 1971, a major raid took place in Torremolinos's Pasaje Begoña, later renamed Pasaje Gil Vicente, in which 300 people were identified and 114 were arrested for "violating morality and good customs" as defined by the Dangerousness and Social Rehabilitation Law. The raid had been ordered by Governor Civil of Málaga Víctor Arroyo. In custody, those arrested were subjected to further humiliation. Foreigners picked up in the raid were deported, and police records were opened for all arrested. Some of them were subjected to further police surveillance upon release. Following the raid, most of the LGB friendly places were closed out of fear.  For many members of Spain’s LGTB community in Andalucía in that period, the event is Spain’s twin to Stonewall. After the raid, the Franco government tried to erase Pasaje Gil Vicente and its history as being gay, transsexual and lesbian friendly.  Many of the bars closed soon afterwards, and the street became a place of prostitutes and drug users.[19]

This major raid and the subsequent intentional removal of the gay, lesbian and transsexual nature of the site by the Franco regime is why the event has sometimes been referred to as Spain’s Stonewall.[20]

Following renewed interest in the events of June 1971 by Jorge Pérez and Juan Carlos Parrilla, the couple went on to acquire most of the premises in the passage, found the Asociación "Pasaje Begoña" in early 2018 and open LGTBI themed shops in it.[21]

Given the nature of Francoism and some of the other events that have been covered up by the regime, it is possible that similar raids took place elsewhere in Spain but for which little documentation actually exists and little has been written about.

Such repression continued into the democratic transition. There was a general increase in far-right violence coupled with institutionalized violence and homophobia ahead of the FIFA World Cup in 1982.  The government was complicit with some of this, making the decision to "clean up" Barcelona, which led to a number of surprise raids on gay venues in the city. There is nothing to mark these raids, nor is there discussion around later FIFA World Cups of Spanish repression in the late transition period. [22]

Early Pride marches

As general background, the dictator Francisco Franco died on 20 November 1975. This set into action the Spanish democratic transition, which lasted until around 1982 by which point Spain had a new constitution, a functional multiparty government, a military coup had been successfully put down and a faction of ETA had agreed to put down arms.

It is in the final years of Franco’s life that any sort of homosexual activism begins to take place. Before Madrid had its first pride march, militant lesbian feminists and some male homosexuals had marched a few times during the early 1970s. They did this in Madrid on Calle Preciados on 28 June in honor of the Stonewall uprising and Christopher Street Liberation Day, with the numbers of marchers ranging between fifty and eighty.

Among the lesbians to attend these early marches during the dictatorship was Vito Virtudes. The participants took great risks to do so as homosexuality was a criminal offense and lesbians could find themselves sent off to correctional institutions. Many of these lesbians were at the bottom of society and had nowhere else to go, a situation that gay men did not face in the same way.

The marches were mostly organized at the dark and underground lesbian bar, Berliner. Marginalization by society gave these women the courage and the ability to speak out as they had nothing else to lose. The Franco regime had done all it could to make these women invisible, first because of their sex and second because of their same-sex attraction. When they became visible, they received sex specific punishment, different than their gay male counterparts. Gay men were repressed using legislative and penitentiary tools while lesbians were repressed using cultural, religious, psychiatric and medical institutions to try to domesticate them.[23]

Armand de Fluvià founded Front d'Alliberament Gai de Catalunya (FAGC) in 1975 shortly after the death of Franco. Two years, later, FAGC played a role in organizing the first recognized homosexual rights march on 26 June 1977. Around 4,000 people attended including Vito Russo and Gretel Ammann; they were dispersed by the police who shot at them with rubber bullets.  Three marchers were injured.  Oriol Martí, a doctor and non-numerical professor at Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona, was detained and held in the prisión de la Modelo for 56 days before being released. During his arrest, he was handcuffed with his hands behind his back and then kneed in the crotch. Over 36 political groups, unions and other civil organizations signed a document demanding his release.[24]Armand de Fluvià was in the United States to attend the Pride march in New York City on 26 June 1977 and was unable to attend the Barcelona march. [25]

Movimiento de Liberación Homosexual (MLH) organized a march in Granada in 1977.  Ahead of time and according to Manolo López, MLH disclosed that their decision to hold Pride on 28 June was a result of the Stonewall riots.  They produced pamphlets that explained what happened at the Stonewall Inn on 28 June 1969 and how activists including gays, lesbians, transsexuals, anarchists, communists, racial minorities and sex workers rebelled against the police and sexual and gender dissidence through a series of general disturbances and demonstrations against the police to defend themselves that day and for several subsequent days.  Their materials explained that as a result of this, the following year, the first Pride event was held in New York City and Los Angeles. The march in Granada in 1977 was because MLH understood that the events of Stonewall needed to be remembered.  At the same time, an event was needed to celebrate and take pride in being different. [26]

One of the reasons that gay men were more visible in the immediate democratic transition period and were more involved in organizing Pride marches in the democratic transition period was that gay men were specifically related to the 1970 Law of Dangerousness and Social Rehabilitation which they wanted repealed.[27]


Stonewall occurred in the United States against a backdrop of regular police repression against homosexuals in New York City.  Its participants were many and varied, with different participants playing different roles in later history as inspiration for specific groups that need to find a historical character that the resonates with their own local and national narrative around LGBT rights.

Spain’s relationship with Stonewall is not one of direct influence, with participants in the uprising coming to Spain to share their activism with the Spanish LGTB community nor Spaniards going to New York City to learn directly from American LGBT activists. Spain’s relationship with Stonewall is one where the Spanish LGTB community looked at Stonewall as a starting point of a global LGBT rights movement and as a shared collective global history of which both countries play a role.  This inspiration was manifested in traveling to the United States, in reading works generated in response to the uprising, in holding their own protests and celebrations eventually called Orgullo that were specific to a Spanish context, and in creating trans organizations that draw on the spirit of dissidence manifested in the original uprising.

Spain had one of its major events, similar to Stonewall. The one on 24 June 1971 in Torremolinos is the most well-known of these police raids on LGTB places in the Franco period, with much of that history only being shared for the first time in the 2010s as the Franco regime worked to wipe the memory of gay friendly Torremolinos from the collective memory.  It is why Catalans looked to the events at the Orlando night club in 2014 as a reason to pass legislation that banned discrimination against the LGTBI community instead of citing the police repression in 1981 ahead of the 1982 FIFA World Cup hosted in Spain. This erasure, unlike Stonewall where a lesbian activist and gay activist worked to remember the event with a march a year later, is why Spain does not have a Stonewall event of its own that serves as a remembered national and international touchstone in in world LGBT history.  It is also why Spain does not remember and celebrate the Torremolinos suppression and the Franco era lesbian Pride marches. Francoism erased them, and Pride marches call forth a shared international history that the Spanish LGTB community has historically been keen to embrace.


Aljama, P., & Pujol, J. (2013, November). Reflexiones sobre la institucionalización del movimiento LGTB desde el contexto catalán y español. Interface: a journal for and about social movements, 5(2), 159 - 177. Retrieved from http://www.interfacejournal.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Interface-5-2-Aljama-y-Pujol.pdf

Álvarez, R. (2020, June 28). Así era el Pasaje Begoña: El ‘Stonewall español’. Newtral. Retrieved from https://www.newtral.es/pasaje-begona-stonewall-espanol-correos-lgtbi/20200628/

archivo-t.net. (2011, November 14). Stonewall Aragón. Retrieved from archivo-t.net: http://archivo-t.net/stonewall-aragon/

Asamblea Queer BCN. (2001, February 15). Nacimiento de la Asamblea Stonewall // 2001. Retrieved from Asamblea Queer BCN: https://web.archive.org/web/20100614014750/http://blog.sindominio.net/blog/asamblea_queer_bcn/asamblea_stonewall/2001/02/15/nacimiento_de_la_asamblea_stonewall

Asamblea Stonewall. (2002, June 29). Fiesta Stonewall 28-J 2002. Retrieved from Asamblea Queer BCN: https://web.archive.org/web/20100614014949/http://blog.sindominio.net/blog/asamblea_queer_bcn/asamblea_stonewall/2002/06/30/stone_6.2

Asamblea Stonewall. (2002, June 29). Mani 28-J 2002. Retrieved from Asamblea Queer BCN: https://web.archive.org/web/20100614014729/http://blog.sindominio.net/blog/asamblea_queer_bcn/asamblea_stonewall/2002/06/29/mani_28j_2001

Asamblea Stonewall. (2004, February 14). Contra El Matrixmonio. Retrieved from Asamblea Queer BCN: https://web.archive.org/web/20120416014954/http://blog.sindominio.net/blog/asamblea_queer_bcn/asamblea_stonewall/2004/02/13/stone_33

Batlle Cardona, M. (2020, June 26). Pasaja Begoña: El Stonewall de España está Een Torremolinos. Retrieved from Viajes National Geographic: https://viajes.nationalgeographic.com.es/a/pasaje-begona-stonewall-espana_15665

Berzal de Miguel, V. (2020, July 19). Historia del Activismo LGTBI Español a Través del Orgullo de Madrid (I). Cultura Diversa. Retrieved from https://culturadiversa.es/2020/07/historia-orgullo-de-madrid.html

Candel, P. (2017, June 28). El día que Barcelona salió del armario. El País. Retrieved from https://elpais.com/ccaa/2017/06/28/catalunya/1498647028_431114.html?outputType=amp

Carretero, R. (2014, July 5). Así han cambiado las marchas del Orgullo Gay en España desde 1977. Retrieved from Huffington Post: https://www.huffingtonpost.es/2014/07/05/historia-orgullo-gay-espana_n_5557231.html

E.R.C.H.O. (1970). Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee Fliers. New York City: Franklin Kameny Papers.

Gil, S. L. (2011). Genealogía de las diferencias. Madrid: Trafi cantes de Sueños. Retrieved from https://traficantes.net/sites/default/files/pdfs/Nuevos%20feminismos-TdS.pdf

Hernández, R. E., & Agencia_EFE. (2019, June 27). El Pasaje Begoña de Torremolinos y el bar Stonewall de EEUU, hermanados por el arcoíris. Agencia EFE. Retrieved from https://www.efe.com/efe/andalucia/sociedad/el-pasaje-begona-de-torremolinos-y-bar-stonewall-eeuu-hermanados-por-arcoiris/50001109-4010313

Mendoza Albalat, D. (2021). Miranda al Sur, Una historia (incompleta) de los activismos de la disidencia sexual y de género en Andalcuía. Granada: Universidad de Granada.

Metcalf, M. (2020, April 10). 1969: The Stonewall Uprising. Retrieved from United States Library of Congress: https://guides.loc.gov/lgbtq-studies/stonewall-era

Osborne, R. (2006, June - December). ENTRE EL ROSA Y EL VIOLETA (Lesbianismo, feminismo y movimiento gay: relato de unos amores difíciles[1]). labrys, études féministes/ estudos feministas. Retrieved from https://www.labrys.net.br/labrys10/espanha/raquel.htm

Peláez, D. (2019, June 23). El "Stonewall" español renace de sus cenizas. Agencia EFE. Retrieved from https://www.efe.com/efe/espana/sociedad/el-stonewall-espanol-renace-de-sus-cenizas/10004-4007268

Serrano, R. (2019, July 5). Entre Stonewall y Las Ramblas, un viaje en imágenes por las primeras revueltas LGTBI. ElDiario.Es. Retrieved from https://www.eldiario.es/sociedad/historicas-cabecera-abrir-camino-arcoiris_1_1454315.html

[1]See (Metcalf, 2020) for a really good overview of the Stonewall riots, the events that led up to it and a history of the early marches in the United States.

[2] (Metcalf, 2020; Álvarez, 2020)

[3] (E.R.C.H.O., 1970)

[4] (Metcalf, 2020)

[5] (Batlle Cardona, 2020)

[6] (Candel, 2017)

[7] (Serrano, 2019)

[8] (Berzal de Miguel, 2020)

[9] (Mendoza Albalat, 2021)

[10] (Berzal de Miguel, 2020)

[11] (Berzal de Miguel, 2020)

[12] (Berzal de Miguel, 2020; archivo-t.net, 2011)

[13] (Berzal de Miguel, 2020)

[14] (Asamblea Stonewall, 2002; Asamblea Stonewall, 2002; Gil, 2011; Asamblea Queer BCN, 2001; Asamblea Stonewall, 2004)

[15] (Hernández & Agencia_EFE, 2019)

[16] (Berzal de Miguel, 2020)

[17] (Berzal de Miguel, 2020)

[18] (Batlle Cardona, 2020; Álvarez, 2020; Hernández & Agencia_EFE, 2019)

[19] (Batlle Cardona, 2020; Álvarez, 2020; Hernández & Agencia_EFE, 2019)

[20] (Peláez, 2019; Hernández & Agencia_EFE, 2019)

[21] (Peláez, 2019)

[22]  (Aljama & Pujol, 2013)

[23] (Carretero, 2014)

[24] (Candel, 2017; Serrano, 2019)

[25] (Candel, 2017)

[26] (Mendoza Albalat, 2021)

[27] (Osborne, 2006)

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