Open Minds and Wild Costumes: Gay Parade Chile 2009

This year’s Gay Parade Chile: Open Mind Fest started early, with techno blasting from the speakers of the three stages by 3pm. The sun was shining and Santiago’s urban tribes were out in their full costumes – androgynous teenagers with brightly colored hair, platform boots and elaborate makeup.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Jessica Phelps

Paseo Bulnes, the pedestrianised boulevard approaching the La Moneda presidential palace, was packed with over 25,000 people for the 4th annual anti-discrimination event organized by Chile’s leading gay rights group, Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MOVILH), to celebrate the International Day for Tolerance, on November 16.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Jessica Phelps

Three stages pumped out a techno-heavy set from 30 different DJs over the course of the event whilst spectacular drag artists paraded up and down the Paseo and got the crowd going with energetic podium dancing in their dangerously high platforms. A drag impersonator of President Bachelet was particularly popular with the partying crowd, who fought to get their photos taken with her.

MOVILH activist Sofia Velasquez called for the presidential candidates to follow up their promises for a more equal Chile with concrete action against all discrimination. Party for Democracy (PPD) Deputy María Antonieta Saa, present at the event, took to the stage to give her support to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual (LGBT) movement.
The peak of the festival came with the crowd singing “Happy Birthday” to MOVILH who has been tirelessly fighting for LGBT rights in Chile for the past 18 years.

The candidates for Mr. Gay Chile 2009 were announced, followed by the award for Miss Lesbian Chile 2009, which was presented to 22-year-old María José Zárate. “I want to prove that I am a daughter, a cousin, an aunt and a person as well as being a lesbian,” said Zárate, who is a publicist from Concepción.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Jessica Phelps

“I want to break the stereotype that prejudiced people hold, and show that lesbians too think and feel, and that homosexuality is not just a ‘phase’ but a day-to-day life.”

The celebrations had a political aim, to bring awareness to LGBT rights and to push for approval of an anti-discrimination law as well as same-sex civil unions, but the overwhelming feeling of the day was of a relaxed, happy party as the attendees danced into the evening and the Carabineros (Chile’s uniformed police) stood peacefully on the outskirts of the crowds.

“This has been the most successful event of the four,” said MOVILH President Rolando Jiménez. “We are very happy that all these people, of all sexualities, have come together to celebrate the diversity of our country.” MOVILH helps organize events throughout the year, including the 2nd annual Chilean festival of LGBT cinema which screened films at the National Library through December 4.

MOVILH also recently ran a campaign to collect Christmas presents for underprivileged children living with HIV/AIDS. The collection drive, in its 10th year, aims to bring joy during the holiday season to children experiencing discrimination as well as family and financial difficulties due to the virus.

For additional information on MOVILH and their activities, please visit their official website:

Open Mind Fest
November 16 2009

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