Since attracting more than an estimated 5 million participants in 2013, São Paulo’s gay pride parade cemented it’s reputation as the pride event in the world. The parade was also heavily featured in the latest series of the popular Netflix series, Sense8 – in which one of the central character’s, Lito, outed himself to enthusiastic crowds on Paulista Avenue.
This year the event will take place on Sunday June 18th, and the theme of the parade is ‘Regardless of our beliefs, no religion is law!’
Bizarrely, for an event with such a huge international audience, there is very little online about the event in English. Which is where I hope this post will help those of you coming to Brazil to experience your first São Paulo pride event. What can you expect?
I ask this because, before attending my first pride event in the city, the words gay pride used to conjure up images of politically driven rallies and angry protesters. However, it didn’t take me too long to realise that São Paulo’s gay pride is not like this, not at all. It is a whole lot more fun!
NOTE: The pride parade kicks off at 11am this year. So make sure you’re not too hungover from the MANY parties taking place the evening before to arrive on time! The event is not ticketed, and to participate in the parade you literally just need to turn up.
Back in 2015, I remember that within minutes of stepping onto Paulista avenue before the start, my friend and I found ourselves surrounded by people dressed up in some amazingly flamboyant costumes. We were also met by enthusiastic crowds, beer vendors and many trio eletricos (these are floats fitted with enormous sound systems, on which pop and electronic music are blasted out for the duration of the route).
Unfortunately, I have been aware ever since my first pride event that it isn’t just the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community out to enjoy this day. Pickpockets also adore this celebration of gay culture; although clearly for different reasons. So nowadays, I make sure my cash and phone are well secured in a travel wallet before leaving home.
The first year I ever went to the parade, after reading advice online, I was extremely cautious. For this reason I left my camera at home. But you know what? As soon as I joined the crowds on this avenue I instantly regretted it. This is because there’s a lot of competition for those in costume (and of course, for those in drag) to look the most fabulous. So you will find plenty of people on the day taking pictures of those who have managed to stand out from the crowd. And with a crowd of up to five million people, this definitely takes some doing! Yet with more than enough people up for the challenge, there are many picture opportunities to be had.
As the trucks Start Moving
Expect to see people dancing behind these huge sound systems, feeding off the party vibe, and many doing so with a beer in hand. While the thought of being around millions of people on one street might sound fairly daunting, I’ve always felt safe during the early stages of the parade. This is likely to be in no small part down to the fact this event is strongly supported by the federal government, who spend a lot of money on policing and security.
So with these guys on standby as things got started, people (relatively) sober and DJ’s spinning electronic/pop music, the atmosphere at the beginning of the parade is very exciting.
Midway through the parade
My friends and I decided to take a breather down one of the side streets, buy a beer and then re-join the parade later as it moved onto Rua De Consolação. With the carnival-like atmosphere becoming beer fueled, I couldn’t help but notice that the street had become much, erm…friendlier, as we joined the sea of people heading down towards Republica.
The first year I was in attendance, I followed the floats right down to the end; but I tend to avoid this part of the parade nowadays. I’m getting old and just don’t have the stamina to dance like John Travolta for hours at a time anymore!
With many indulging in all the revelry that goes with a day-long celebration, things are predictably a little messy by this point too. So don’t feel like you will be missing out on too much if you don’t make it all the way to the finish, or if you slip off to enjoy some of the early evening pride parties taking place in the clubs around the city.
For more information on the event, check out the official site here and the Facebook page here. These are in Portuguese, so if you’re not able to get these automatically translated into English through Google Chrome, feel free to drop me a message and I’ll try to answer any questions you might have about the big day!