Lesbianas Sin Duda and La Radical Gai were at the forefront of the battle against AIDS and HIV in the city of Madrid in the early 1990s. They would play key roles in turning the body into a dimension of space from which sexuality and gender would then be used to exercise resistance against the state.
Lesbianas Sin Dudas (LSD) was a lesbian activist organization but not in the institutional sense. Instead of working from the inside, they worked in challenging political ideas in society. Lesbianas Sin Duda were created in Lavapies in February 1993 from a network of friends. The women came from different backgrounds. Some had been active in homosexual rights activism during the 1980s, some came from feminist groups, and some came from left wing extra-parliamentary groups. The group sometimes said their acronym said for different things like Lesbianas Sin Dinero. Lesbianas Sin Duda was an artist collective founded in 1993 in the barrio of Lavapies in Madrid. Members included Estíbaliz Sadaba, Virginia Villaplana, Itziar Okariz, Azucena Vietes, Fefa Vila, Beatriz Preciado, Carmela García, María José Belbel, Marisa Maza, Liliana Couso Domínguez, Floy Krouchi, Katuxa Guede, Pilar Vázquez and Arantza Gaztañaga. They were identified as more explicitly queer than many of their contemporaries in their conceptual and theoretical approaches to art and activism.
During 1993 and continuing into the next few years, LSD worked on drawing attention to the impact of HIV and AIDS on women and on lesbians through art. They teamed up with a number of other organizations as part of these efforts, including ACT UP (France) and La Radical. They held photography exhibits, designed posters and created fanzines inspired by Barbara Kruguer as part of these efforts. One of their goals was to stop allowing others in the broader AIDS and HIV activist community to represent lesbians and lesbian sexual activities, and to give lesbians their own voice in describing their sexual practices as it related to AIDS and HIV.
The work of LSD artists often showcased the power of friendship as a motif. The body of work produced by LSD artists also included photographic depictions of lesbians, acknowledging their existence and challenging a status quo that often denies them visibility. Menstruosidades y Es-cultura lesbiana in 1995 was one of the most important exhibitions for LSD photographers. Some of the photos were then used at the 1996 EuroGayPride in Copenhagen, where they were enlarged. The piece “Desnudar el desnudo” was published in the Barcelona based magazine El Viejo Topo in December 1995.
Lesbianas Sin Dudas would change the meaning of LSD to reflect the message they wanted to send in their activism at the time. When Pope John Paul II visited the city in 1992, they said LSD stood for Lesbianas Sin Dios. When the International Monetary Fund and World Bank held their meetings in 1994 and became targets of criticism by the group, they said LSD stood for Lesbians Sin Dinero.
Lesbianas Sin Dudas held Fiesta de Lesbianas para Lesbis y sus Amig’s on 25 May 1994 in Lavpiés on Calle de Lavapiés. Their imagery for the event included the faces of many types of lesbians to highlight that lesbians were different but united in their differences.
The group Radical Morals, which emerged from the gay rights group La Radical Gai founded in Lavapiés in 1991, opposed the inclusion of lesbians in literature on the prevention of AID/HIV during the 1990s because, according to one of their proposals, lesbians do not fuck and cannot pass on the virus as a result, the media does not discuss lesbians getting AIDS/HIV, lesbians cannot enter hospitals and, anyway, lesbians do not exist.
Joaquín Belda’s 1915 erotic novel La Coquito features the barrio as one of the major settings in the book. While written by a man, the book gives an idea about cultural views in the city at the time as it relates to lesbians.
Cuando Madrid era Sarajevo is a poem in Spanish by Gloria Fuertes. It describes the barrio during her youth, growing up in the Civil War.
Lavapies is a historic ward in the barrio. Starting in the 1970s and accelerating into the 1990s, it became the neighborhood of lesbians in Madrid, the lesbian equivalent of Chueca. Lesbians were attracted to the barrio because, unlike Chueca, it was often much more affordable to live in; this was important as lesbians have historically had less purchasing power in Spain than our gay male counterparts. It is in this barrio that Gloria Fuertes spent her youth and parts of her adult life. It was a place where, because Francoism was not very concerned with female homosexuals, Fuertes could walk hand in hand with her American girlfriend Phyllis Turnbull without attracting undue attention. While Fuertes sometimes lived elsewhere, she often revisited it in her writing in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. People in the ward are very proud to claim Fuertes, and often celebrate historic anniversaries related to the author. Guided tours of Lavapies with a focus on the author are offered by various guides.
Conservatorio Superior de Música y Declamación, located at Calle Doctor Mata, 2, is where Victorina Durán Cebrian studied painting and piano from around 1906 at age 9 to 17. It is also where Lola Rodríguez Aragón worked as a teacher during the Franco period. Founded in 1830, it is the oldest music school in Spain. It was originally located at Plaza de los Mostenses, a street now called Calle de Isabel la Católica, and located at number 25. The school moved to buildings attached to the Teatro Real de Madrid in 1852. During the Second Republic, in 1932, the school moved again to Calle Zorrilla, 2. It moved again in 1939 to the Teatro Alcázar. As this location proved to small, it moved again to Calle de San Bernardo, 44, the following year. In 1966, the school moved yet again, this time back to its original home attached to the Teatro Real de Madrid. The school moved for a final time to its current home on 12 December 1990. The Indumentaria del Conservatorio de Música y Declamación is part of the music school.
Calle del Duque de Alba is the primary location where the events in Joaquín Belda’s 1915 erotic novel La Coquito take place. While written by a man, the book gives an idea about cultural views in the city at the time as it relates to lesbians.
Mesón de Paredes is a secondary location where the events in Joaquín Belda’s 1915 erotic novel La Coquito take place. While written by a man, the book gives an idea about cultural views in the city at the time as it relates to lesbians.
The Centro Dramático Nacional produced a show in 2020 about the life of Elena Fortún based on the research by Nuria Capdevilla-Argüelles, María Jesùs Fraga y Marisol Dorao and directed by María Folguera at the Teatro Valle-Inclán. While the play references the relationship with Matilde Ras, it does not make explicit the couple’s relationship. The theater is located at Calle de Valencia, 1 and seats around 450 people. It was constructed from 2002 to 2005 on the framework of a previous theater in the same location.
Placa de Calle de la Espada, 3, is where the city government has put a plaque honoring where the author Gloria Fuertes was allegedly born on 28 July 1917 in attic apartment. Fuertes was a poet and member of the Generación del 50, the first post-war generation of Spanish writers. Later researchers revealed this address was incorrect, with the plaque commemorating her birth really should have been being placed at Calle de la Espada, 9. Fuertes’s father was a doorman at a very nearby Gota de Leche, an early type of Madrid childcare center that also taught mothers parenting skills.
Calle del Mesón de Paredes, near Fuente de Cabestreros, is the area where the school that Gloria Fuertes attended in 1920s was located. Fuertes spent much of her childhood in this area.
Calle de los Dos Hermanas is a Street in the historic La Latina area of the barrio where writer Gloria Fuertes lived for a while as a child.
El Rastro is an open-air market in Madrid. It has featured in the art and writing of generations of lesbians from the city. Victorina Duran had had a novel based on the market. Gloria Fuertes had a collection of children’s stories published with the name of the market. Both women frequently visited the market, which has over 1,000 vendors. The market, open on Sundays from 9am to 3pm, is bounded by Calle Toledo, Calle Embajadores and Ronda de Toledo.
UNED – Centro Escuelas Pías, 14, located at Calle de Tribulete, 14, was burned heavily in July 1936 during the Civil War. Much of the area faced similar problems, making life very difficult for residents during the war. Among those living in the immediate area during that period include Gloria Fuertes.
Plaza de Tirso de Molina is a triangle shaped public square named in honor of 17th century writer Tirso de Molina. The square was created in 1840 following the demolition of the Convento de Nuestra Senora de los Remedios with the idea of using the space to make a clean and green area for local residents. Among those who would go there was Gloria Fuertes, who played games in the plaza during her childhood in the 1920s.
El Barberillo de Lavapiés, located at Calle Salitre, 43, was a bar for women, mostly lesbian but also heterosexual ones. Ángeles Álvarez ran the bar for a decade, allowing her to work in what she described as in an open and dignified way while still being an out lesbian. The bar continued to exist as late as 2009 but has since disappeared.
El Gallinero was a lesbian and women’s bar that opened around 2011, and originally at located at Calle San Carlos, 6. It hosted exhibitions of women’s arts, drag king shows, language exchanges and video performances. It appears to have closed sometime in 2012. It has since been replaced by a bodega.
Fundación 26 de Diciembre, located at Calle del Amparo, 27, is the first retirement facility for members of the LGTBIQ+ community. It opened on 21 February 2014 initially to provide psychosocial intervention programs, expanding to include a senior residence center in 2020. It was founded by Federico Armenteros. The foundation draws its name from the 26 December 1978 epeat of the Law 16/1970 on Danger and Social Rehabilitation that outlawed homosexuality. Empar Pineda Erdozia has been a long time supporter of the organization, assisting older lesbians.
Medea Lesbian Club, located Calle de la Cabeza, 33, was one of the most popular lesbian clubs in the city during the early 1990s. It was run by women. It was later renamed Club 33, and changed its focus to be more for women in general. This focus has subsequently changed over the years and became more open to everyone.
Consejo de las Mujeres del Municipio de Madrid, located at Calle de los Señores de Luzón, 3, is the institutional feminist group for the city. Their goal is to achieve the incorporation of the gender perspective in municipal policies and to make sure women’s voices are heard in Madrid government. Vito Virtudes is a lesbian activist, militant feminist and abortion rights activist who has given a presentation.
Eskalera Karakola, located at Calle de Embajadores, 40, was the first “asamblea de la casa okupada de mujeres”. Lesbians and women occupied the house in November 1996. While lesbians were key players in instigating the occupation, heterosexual women were also involved as they were feeling unsafe in other politically based okupadas; a rape had taken place in el labratorio of CSOA and militants inside in the okupadas movement had tried to cover it up. The women would later move to Calle de Embajadores, 52 in 2005, after being evicted from number 40 on 10 May 2005. The original building was then demolished in 2010. The women now pay the city government a symbolic rent on the property. The early years of the group marked a change for lesbians, moving from lesbian feminism to queer feminism.
Mary Read, located at Calle del Marqués de Toca, 3, is a transfeminist bookstore that opened May 2021. It positions itself as lesbian, but also responding to what the owners saw as the rise of the right and anti-trans efforts coming out of the broader feminist movement in Spain. As a result of the pandemic, they wanted to put their money and privilege where their beliefs were by opening the shop. They criticized feminists undermining transrights, and suggested that lesbians should be allies because there shouldn’t be divisions on the street when it comes to fighting for queer rights.
Taberna de Antonio Sánchez, located at Calle del Mesón de Paredes, 13 and founded in 1768, is where Gloria Fuertes often went as an adult to drink white wine, eat a pan de mollete and read when she lived in the area. Even after she moved to Avenida de Alberto de Alcocer, she continued to frequent the tavern.
Café Barbieri, located at Calle del Ave María, 45, was founded in 1902, borrowing its name from the nearby Teatro Barbieri. It has served as an important literary gathering place in Madrid. Among those who have given literary performances there is Gloria Fuertes. Unlike a number of other literary cafes, it still exists and serves traditional Spanish food.
La Mala Mujer, located at Calle del Mesón de Paredes, 76, is a women’s cafe and bar, focused on the interests of women, lesbians and transpeople. It has a library of activities that women can use to learn more about each other, make friends and better share feminist ideals. The project also hosts workshops and training sessions about the need for feminism, especially the needs of women, lesbians and transpeople. Workshops that have hosted include Women in Art History, Queer Tango, Biodanza for Women, Political Theater, Reflections on Power and Feminism, Let’s Question Romantic and Monogamous Love, Communication Skills, Post-porn for Women, Bolleras and Trans, Compose Your Own Songs feminists, Introduction to feminism, Lesbian sexuality, Feminist self-defense, and Transfeminism. They have been around since at least 2014. They serve coffee and pastries.