Don’t Cry for Gay Argentina
Latin America’s most gay friendly new destination
Article Date: 12/07/2007
By Duane Wells
Five years ago, Buenos Aires became the first major Latin American city to approve legalized same-sex unions. This past summer, the Argentinian capital hosted a gay football World Cup. Meanwhile, just last month, the city welcomed The Axel Hotel, Latin America’s first luxury hotel designed specifically for a gay male audience. And this week, Argentina's House of Representatives is expected to vote on a new national law to extend health benefits to gay couples. All of this means there is a little need these days to cry for gay Argentina.
With travel industry experts estimating that about 20 percent of the tourists that visit Buenos Aires are gay (which amounts to about 300,000 visitors a year who spend $600 million annually in the city) it’s no wonder that there are gay tango bars and wine shops sprouting up all over town, and that a new "friendly card" guides travelers and locals to discounts at gay-friendly shops and restaurants.
There is now even, a "Gay Map" that lists gay-friendly nightspots and more.
This is all a far cry from the not so distant past, where the country’s military dictatorship decreed that being openly gay was an offense punishable by jail time.
According to an International Herald Tribune report, Argentine social mores began loosening in the 1990s, when the pegging of the peso to the dollar gave Argentines more spending power, allowing many to travel abroad for the first time.
Thereafter when Argentina plunged into economic chaos in late 2001, devaluing the currency and turning Buenos Aires into a relative bargain for Western tourists (many of whom were gay) discrimination based on sexual orientation became a petty concern, the report continues.
Against this backdrop, it is not hard to see why Juan Juliá, the savvy 37-year-old entrepreneur from Barcelona, chose Buenos Aires as the site for the second ‘hetero-friendly’ gay targeted Axel Hotel over other destinations like Rio de Janeiro; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; and a slew of European capitals.
Suffice it to say that it is the dawn of a new day in Argentina. Si!