Forget New York, Mardi Gras or any pride event you’ve ever been to or seen. On Sunday (10 June) more than 4.5 million lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people and their friends will be partying at the biggest and most spectacular gay pride festival in the world – in São Paulo, Brazil.
This is one huge street party. You’ll meet people from all over Brazil and beyond, including gay Indians, cowboys, German Brazilians, farmers, glamorous boys and girls, the local paulistanos and the transvestites which will show how to party!
People join the march dancing alongside (and on top of) flamboyant, exuberant and imaginative floats known as ‘trio elétricos’ created by various organisations, groups and clubs from all over Brazil and beyond.
So get ready after you’ve recovered from Saturday night and make your way to the meeting point for pride at the fabulous Museum of Art of São Paulo or MASP as everyone calls it, a must for culture vultures right at the middle of São Paulo's sky-scraper lined Avenida Paulista.
Pride starts officially at noon but things really get moving around 2pm to 3pm. The parade is 2.6 miles long (4.2 km) and ends at Rooselvelt Square, in old Downtown São Paulo, at around 10pm.
The energy of the huge partying crowds, the dazzling array of floats, amazing drag and music all surrounded by sky scrapers that rival New York’s or Dubai will be an experience you will cherish for the rest of your life. It’s a huge street party and you can move from float to float, each having its own DJs and fans. And, of course, pride also has a political message, this year’s theme is ‘Homophobia has a cure: criminalize hate and educate!’
But before we even get to Sunday, there are some other events you shouldn’t miss in the lead-up.
On Thursday (7 June), there will be the Cultural LGBT fair from 10am until 10pm in the pedestrianized area of central São Paulo called Vale do Anhangabaú. There are stalls, shops, musicians, food, parties, dancing, and much more. The atmosphere is friendly, fun and relaxed meaning it’s a great opportunity to get chatting to local gay, bi and trans people and also to learn about the various groups involved in the community projects throughout Brazil. Admission is free.
On Saturday (9 June) you’ll be spoiled for choice. You can head out early (10am) to the Gay Day at the São Paulo’s Hopi Hari park that puts other amusement parks to shame, with singers, shows, drag, DJs, and, of course, jam rides jam-packed full of gays. You can buy tickets at the Cultural LGBT fair or online.
If you decided to stay in town or came back early from Hopi Hari, then at 5pm on Saturday the world renowned drag volleyball tournament is taking place with glitter, glamour, extravaganza jaw opening action accompanied by DJs, another free event.
Parties start early, including the amazing Girasol (Sunflower) party at Clube Nacional, from 4pm until late. Meanwhile bears have their own biggest Latin America’s party called Ursound (Bear Sound) happening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (the last day includes food) and DJs from Argentina and Spain.
Beyond the parties, São Paulo, affectionately known as Sampa, is a fantastic melting pot on par or even surpassing multicultural cities like New York and London. Greater Sampa has nearly 30million inhabitants and is the economic and cultural heart and centre of South America. Best of all it is a really gay friendly city, having been voted the fourth most LGBT-friendly destination, coming on top of London and Madrid.
The old Downton, called simply Centro (centre) boasts fantastic art-deco buildings and skyscrapers, including architectural gems like Neimeyer’s Copan or the breath taking BANESPA retro-skyscraper which sports an amazing view from its top floor restaurant.
Centro is also home to fantastic Museum of the Portuguese Language housed in the impressive train station Estação da Luz which was built by the British. And if you’re after art don’t miss the Pinacoteca, the most important art collection in Latin America.
Centro also has its gay scene which caters for a more mixed, traditional crowd as well as Latin America’s biggest bear community, largely clustered around Largo do Arouche Streett and Avenida Doutor Vieira de Carvalho Street. Checkout Soda Pop Bar, number 43 on that street, enjoy a drink and ask friendly owner Marcelo for tips where to go later.
You should also visit the Liberdade neighborhood, home to the biggest Japanese community outside of Japan, with road signs in Japanese and Portuguese and lots of places to eat delicious and affordable sushi!
Bella Vista is the Italian quarter, while the Jardims neighbourhood is the posh shopping area, with a fantastic array of boutique shops, restaurants and cafés as well some of the most trendy gay and lesbian bars and cafés. Try the hip lounge Sonique for starters and then chat to the locals about where to go.
If you want a place to have the most amazing cocktail over a pool with a view on to the glittering sky-scrapers of São Paulo – head out to the Skye-Lounge, a fashionable bar where you have to dress to impress but are guaranteed to be dazzled in return. If you’re looking for a place to stay, then the Lounge is part of one of the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful design hotels – Unique, a name which sums up the place pretty well.
There is no better time than during gay pride to discover this incredible American megalopolis with one of the world’s most fantastic and diverse gay scenes.