Kathy Sánchez is a lesbian from El Salvador. Her story was told as part of the history of resistance exhibition organized by the Fundación Triángulo Extremadura in August 2021. Born around 1990 in San Martín in the capital district of El Salvador, she realized she was a lesbian when she was a 12-year-old. After confessing this to her father, she was mistreated and rejected by her family after conversion therapy failed to work. Her mental health deteriorated and she tried to commit suicide twice. When her sexual orientation became known in her barrio, Sánchez decided to flee to protect her life. She managed to save some money and bought an airplane ticket to Madrid-Barajas, and from there onwards to Talavera de la Reina where she had an acquaintance named Manoli who provided her with a new and accepting family. She also was supported locally by Fundación Triángulo in Caceres, attending their events and growing her support network.
Christelle Nangnou is a lesbian from Cameroon. Fearing persecution in her country after details of her homosexuality were published in a newspaper and the police appeared at her door, Nangnou fled Cameroon for Spain in March 2015. Upon entry to Spain though, she found herself detained at Madrid-Barajas Airport for 24 days until her authorization to stay to Spain for humanitarian reasons because of her sexual orientation was accepted by the Spanish courts after initially having been denied. The decision to flee was made after her picture was published in a local newspaper saying that she was the leader of a group of satanic homosexuals. Nangnou first boarded a plane for Nigeria, before then taking a flight to Madrid using someone else’s identity documents. At immigration in the airport, Nangnou tried to claim asylum and was given an interview at the airport’s Asylum and Refugee Office. During her 24-day stay in Barajas, Spanish authorities tried to repatriate her four different times. As a result of one struggle against repatriation, she was injured and ended up in the airport infirmary.
In 2013, a Cameroonian lesbian named Carine came to Spain via Barajas to claim asylum because a warrant had been issued in her country because of her sexual orientation. She spent 10 days in the Madrid-Barajas airport before being sent on a plane to Istanbul, the first European country she landed in on her journey to Spain. After her expulsion from Spain, she dropped off the face of the earth and Cameroonian LGB activists fear the worst. Between 2011 and 2015, Spain accepted asylum claims from 69 people for persecution as a result of being homosexuals.
Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport is the main international airport serving Madrid and the local environs. The airport, opened on 22 April 1931, is the second largest in Europe, only smaller than Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Madrid-Barajas is an important hub for domestic travel in Spain. Given its importance in bringing people to Spain, it has served as an entry point for lesbians from the Americas fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation. Among those who fled via the airport were Kathy Sánchez, who fled El Salvador and settled in the province of Toledo where she made a new family for herself.
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