Wednesday, May 25

Witnesses to the Franco raid on Pasaje Begoña relive “freedom and joy” in the cradle of LGTBI rights in Spain


Dignity, respect, tolerance, equality, plurality, diversity, freedom, joy. Everything that was the Pasaje Begoña de Torremolinos was demolished by the Franco regime half a century ago. This Thursday 50 years have passed since the great police raid in that cradle of LGTBI rights in Spain, ordered by the civil governor of Malaga, Víctor Arroyo, for “violating public morality and good customs” under the Law of Danger and Social Rehabilitation. On June 24, 1971, approximately 300 people were identified and 114 arrested (most of them foreigners) for exercising their sexual freedom, restricted at the time. Witnesses and victims of that “abuse of liberties” have received a heartfelt tribute of recognition in Seville, in the central act of the Month of Sexual Diversity organized by the city council. “Not a step back. Always alert,” said Manolita Chen, a transsexual activist and client of Pasaje Begoña at the time when they found “an alley where for the first time we were free to love and be loved.”

The Month of Sexual Diversity pays tribute in Seville to the Pasaje Begoña de Torremolinos

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Lives persecuted, freedoms lost. Remember the suffering so as not to forget History. Place of meeting and entertainment for gay men, lesbian women and trans people in the terminal phase of the Franco dictatorship, and declared a Place of LGTBI Historical Memory by the Junta de Andalucía and by the Congress of Deputies, the Pasaje Begoña suffered a police raid which is considered as the ‘Spanish Stonewall’. That oasis of light and freedom in the dark has been remembered by some of its protagonists. As Ramón Cadenas, a regular in the place, waiter and owner of the Gogó bar: “We were free and dignified there in the midst of the dictatorship”, has commented to the public of the Cajasol Foundation Theater, which has hosted the event. Or Doris Alza, a transsexual client, who has alluded to how the lyrics of the songs changed (“boys have to be with boys”, or “Francoism would sweep away”). “Musical activism”, has summed up after leaving his native Villamartín (Cádiz) at the age of 22.

They fought for their visibility and also suffered the consequences of repression for living their sexual freedom as they wanted, in that “paradise”, in that “oasis”. Representatives of Stonewall in New York and Pulse in Orlando, as well as numerous authorities, including the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, have gathered at the meeting to honor that raid on that “little island of freedom within the death throes of the Franco dictatorship “, as the minister himself called it at the entrance to the tribute. “That day all the rights of men and women were violated simply because of their sexual orientation. Today, the State Security Forces and Corps are at the forefront of defending rights, diversity and fundamental freedoms. What we have changed in 50 years “, has commented

The 50th anniversary of that repressive action in the middle of the night of San Juan is being commemorated in the Month of Sexual Diversity in Seville with two exhibitions and the testimonies, memories and experiences of the people who lived those golden days of Pasaje Begoña, who saw how between 1962 and 1971 dozens of stores were opened in the area. That place became a landmark of the LGTBI movements not only in Franco’s Spain but throughout Europe, with achievements of the incipient LGTBI movement in Andalusia, in the face of the repression and intolerance of the dictatorial regime while a part of society did not accept neither diversity nor affective and sexual freedom. “We are here to thank you for defending joy,” the presenter of the witnesses, Mercedes de Pablo, told them after reading the well-known poem by Mario Benedetti.

Heavy fines, bars closed. The small previous raids in Torremolinos gave rise exactly half a century ago to an unprecedented one, which was echoed by many Spanish and foreign media. “Government plan for sanitation in the rare environment” (La Vanguardia), “among the detainees are suspected drug addicts, women of easy life, investors and friends of the property of others” (ABC), were some of the publications of the national press, which echoed the news reproducing the official vision. However, the raid had notable repercussions in the European media, especially the German press, where the harshness of the repression was denounced.

“Some brave people who showed their faces, even if they broke it,” said Manolita Chen. The charm of “a unique place”, “the place where there was more freedom” and “an example for everyone”. “We must continue to fight for equality,” said Chen, who defined Pasaje Begoña as “the most wonderful thing in Spain. That did not look like Spain.” “Artillera del 74” had to emigrate to Germany because “neither in Arcos de la Frontera nor in Spain” did they want her

“The fight is not over,” said the president of the Pasaje Begoña Association, Jorge Pérez, referring to the continued “mistreatment” of people with diverse sexual orientation. The mayor of Torremolinos, José Ortiz, has defended that the city of Malaga was “a refuge to live freedom” at that time and today it is “a city of diversity”. At the event, the commemorative stamp of the Post Office of the raid on Pasaje Begoña by its general director, Eva Pavón, was presented. Several videos were also screened with witnesses and victims of that historical event. The mayor of La Rinconada, Javier Fernández, and the delegate for Equality and Diversity of the consistory, Noelia Ramírez, also attended.

The mayor of Seville, Juan Espadasm has said that “we must always keep in mind the struggle for LGTBI rights and sexual diversity, vindicate the progress made and keep alive the memory of these serious events that should never have occurred, such as the repression of the Pasaje Begoña or the leisure incidents at Stone Wall and Onepulse. This month of June, the LGTBI flag will shine again firmly in our institutions and our public spaces. In Seville, Torremolinos and Andalusia we vindicate sexual diversity, freedom and equality. We have to protect the achievements obtained during the last decades of those who now promote setbacks and attacks on LGTBI rights, we have to make an effort once again in making it visible and in the fight against hatred and aggression. ”

There has also been a tribute to the Law of Homosexual Marriage and the presentation ‘The Cultural Expression of the Events of Pasaje Begoña’ which has had the participation of Victor Rodríguez Montolio and Daniel Ortiz Sánchez. The meeting closed with a final table on the ‘Vindication of rights and freedoms. Perspectiva Internacional ‘with Friederick Folk, representative of Stone Wall Inn (New York), and Bárbara Poma, president of Onepulse Foundation (Orlando).



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