Portly, leather-clad bears joined by links of silver chain. Flannel-wearing girls and high-heeled-women. Clusters of 'Barbies' in tight T-shirts. Flamboyant drag queens and transgender people – and every sub-culture and type in between. It’s Pride time again, and the community, including the parents, siblings, cousins and straight friends who love them, is coming out in force on Avenida Paulista for São Paulo’s 17th annual Gay Pride parade (Parada Gay), on 2 June.
First held in 1996 with a mere 300 participants, the Parada has since reached epic proportions, hitting estimated attendances of more than 3 million. And even if that number, wheeled out annually, sounds a little over-enthusiastic, there's a hell of lot of pride about.
This year’s parade, with the theme ‘Never again in the closet! Unity and awareness in the fight against homophobia’, should give those naysayers pause for thought. For everyone else, here’s our lowdown on the best ways to enjoy yourself, and stay safe, at the year’s biggest, gayest shindig.
The official parade
The theme to this year's parade is 'Never again in the closet! Unity and awareness in the fight against homophobia’, and it kicks off outside the MASP (Museu de Arte de São Paulo), heading northwest along Avenida Paulista before veering right onto Rua da Consolação and ending downtown, at Praça Roosevelt. Moving sound systems and bands of revellers keep the party going, but take care as the day progresses, as things can get messy (see Pride top tips). The day culminates in a concert, at 7pm at Praça da República, with the lesbian singer Ellen Oléria, winner of 2012’s reality TV singing competition, The Voice Brasil. Avenida Paulista. Starts at 11am, 2 June. Metrô 2, Trianon-Masp.
The Week, Sao Paulo’s foremost gay club, will be rolling out its 5th annual hymn to hedonism with the Eterna Festival, to coincide with the Parada. Six different parties across five nights will offer the pick of global and local DJs within this sizzling Sao Paulo institution. Various locations, see theweek.com.br for more details. 29 May-2 June, midnight-late.
The gay club Tunnel also has a special line-up for the week running up to Gay Pride. Three parties and a roster of DJs and special attractions will get the crowds warmed up for the big day. Rua dos Ingleses 355, Bela Vista, see tunnel.com.br for more details. 29 and 31 May, 1 June, midnight-late.
Inspired by the Gay Day that has become an annual, albeit unofficial, feature at Disney World in the USA since 1991, the Brazilian Gay Day, now in its 13th edition, takes over Hopi Hari amusement park, a 35 minute drive from the centre of São Paulo. São Paulo's most fabulous drag queen, Silvetty Montilla, will play the hostess with the mostess for the day's events. Hopi Hari is at Rodovia dos Bandeirantes, Km 72.5, Vinhedo. 25 May, 11am-7pm. R$79-$89, R$90 for two people.
In town for Gay Pride? Get in the mood on the Thursday before the parade with a full day of live music at downtown's Vale do Anhangabaú, at the Feira Cultural LGBT. Look out for Lívia Mendonça, the first transgender performer to take part in Brazilian singing contest, the reality show Ídolos. Mendonça will sing MPB from 2pm. Another highlight will be local singer Rose Cohen, performing Rihanna covers from 6pm. Vale do Anhangabaú, Centro. 30 May, 10am-10pm
For more Pride and Pride-related events, check the official site (in Portuguese), paradasp.org.br.
Safety & security
With millions of people milling around Avenida Paulista and its environs, there are bound to be a few adventurous baddies looking for easy opportunities. Don’t be one of those opportunities: leave jewellery, passports, credit cards, expensive cell phones, cameras and other unnecessary valuables at home or in your hotel’s safe. Only carry essential amounts of cash and one photo ID. Front pockets are marginally safer than back pockets, and keeping your cash in your underwear is an even better idea.
Alcohol and drugs are a big part of many people’s Pride celebrations, and some of them will end up uncontrollably inebriated. These people are not fun. To avoid this demographic, head to the parade early, joining it around noon, and consider wrapping it up by around 3 or 4pm. It’s a tight squeeze on Paulista, and though all that close contact can be part of the fun – you’ll make new friends easily – if you hate crowds, then this event isn’t for you.
Women have, unfortunately, been the targets of sexual harassment by men at the parade in increasing numbers over the past few years. The easiest and safest way to deal with it is by ignoring the Neanderthals and just walking away. There will be municipal and state police officers on hand in case things get ugly.
Getting there & getting out
The most efficient way to get to the festivities is by taking the metrô to Trianon-Masp or Consolação stations along Linha 2 – Verde, which runs the length of Avenida Paulista. If things start going Pete Tong or you just need a breather, exit down any of the side streets into Jardins, south of Paulista. If you're looking to abandon ship altogether, head to Paulista or República stations. There you can sit down and have a coffee in relative quiet – all the festivities will be heading in the opposite direction.