Indeed, South America doesn’t have the best track record for welcoming and understanding the diverse scale of human gender identity and sexuality. This has been the case within both culture and politics due to religiosity’s strong current in South American society. The Catholic Church’s foothold and influence have made it very difficult for many South American people to reach a more profound and ultimately empathetic understanding of human gender identity and sexuality.
However, the past two decades have encouraged swift change and broader acceptance for members of the LGBTQ+ community through higher rates of immigration, global ideas circulating more freely, and strong government initiatives against hate crimes. Notably, countries like Uruguay and Argentina have become international leaders in the global human rights movement for LGBTQ+ inclusion and visibility.
If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community looking to travel to South America and are a bit wary of the cultural climate (understandably so), consider adding one of the following most progressive and vibrant South American cities to your bucket list!
Welcome to the “Athens of South America!” As Colombia’s capital and the third-largest city in South America, Bogotá is home to some of its leading universities and libraries. From the Caribbean and Pacific coasts to the Andes and the Amazon, people from all corners of Colombia have gravitated to this academic hub and created the country’s most impressive melting pot.
More recently, Bogotá has also drawn international migrants and ex-pats, essentially individuals from drastically different and diverse walks of life, which has encouraged local grassroots movements and civil society organizations to speak up throughout Colombia! Some groundbreaking milestones towards LGBTQ+ rights and visibility include: 1) in 2015 the right for trans individuals over 18 to legally change their gender on identification documents 2) in 2016 the right to same-sex marriage 3) in 2019 the election of Claudia López as Bogota’s first woman and openly lesbian mayor.
Be sure to check out the Chapinero neighborhood, home to gay-friendly bars, restaurants, and clubs, such as the Estación Café and Theatron, which is the largest LGBTQ+ club in all of South America!
Considering the dreadfully dark days under the Pinochet dictatorship from 1973 to 1990, Chile has gained impressive ground towards LGBTQ+ rights and equality in a very short period. This past January 2020, the Chilean senate made history when they gave the approval (22 votes in favor and 16 against) to legalize same-sex marriage. Although parliamentary proceedings are still taking place to officially implement this law, the senate’s green light shows monumental solidarity from the Chilean government towards equal rights.
Chile’s capital, Santiago, remains the heart of this solidarity. For instance, the president’s central office called the Palacio de la Moneda dons bright rainbow colors on May 17th, the International Day Against Homophobia.
On the whole, Santiago is such a vibrant and welcoming city. Still, it is worth noting that queer culture and nightlife is concentrated in the booming Bellavista neighborhood.
This brings us to the “Paris of South America!” As the first Latin American country to make same-sex marriage legal in 2010, it’s no surprise that Buenos Aires is considered one of the most accepting South American cities.
Alongside the right to same-sex marriage, the Argentine government recognizes essentially every familial right to same-sex couples, including the right to adopt. And in 2012, the Argentine government created and approved one of the most comprehensive transgender rights laws globally! Transgender individuals have the right to legally change their name without being subjected to psychiatric, judicial, or medical procedures; and hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery are legally covered within both public and private healthcare plans.
Definitely make sure to pass through the bohemian San Telmo market, and grab a drink at the Pride Café, in addition to the queer tango halls such as La Marshall and Tango Queer (also in San Telmo).
Of course, in addition to these three cities, you will find other welcoming pockets scattered through the entire continent. And thanks to cities like Bogotá, Santiago, and Buenos Aires, these pockets are finding their way towards a deeper understanding of LGBTQ+ rights, issues, and visibility. Contact us to learn more about how you can customize your ideal journey to South America, bespoke to your travel style, interests, and comfort!