Madrid's Chueca neighbourhood gets to keep its Gay Pride event

Madrid's Chueca neighbourhood gets to keep its Gay Pride eventMadrid  - Madrid's vibrant Chueca neighbourhood will retain its annual Gay Pride festivities, despite complaints from residents over noise and security concerns, Spanish media reported Thursday.

The festival kicked off overnight, with writer Boris Izaguirre and Eurovision singer Soraya Arnelas inaugurating a week-long extravaganza of parades, costumes, music and dance.

Attended by 2 million people in 2008, the festival has spread over the boundaries of Chueca, with drag queens and other colourful figures filling the streets of the city centre.

Some residents complained that music lasting until the morning hours prevented them from sleeping, prompting the city council to announce plans to move the festival elsewhere in 2010.

After a meeting with gay representatives on Wednesday, however, the authorities backtracked, saying it was up to the gays to decide where to stage the event that is now being held for the seventh consecutive time.

Chueca had become a reference point for the global gay community, the gays argued.

Gay Pride organizers will, however, mull ways of staging some of the events outside the neighbourhood.

Once a poor and marginal Madrid neighbourhood, Chueca has come to life thanks to gay residents who now own about 300 bars, cafeterias, shops and other establishments in the area known for its night life.

Formerly known as a conservative Catholic country, Spain has come a long way since the 1939-75 rule of dictator Francisco Franco, when homosexuality was outlawed.

Spain now stands at the forefront of gay rights after it became one of the world's first countries to equate homosexual and heterosexual marriage in 2005.(dpa)

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