Librería de Fernando Fé, once located at Puerta del Sol, 15 near where the lottery store now is, held tertulias. It also sold some lesbian themed materials, including the book Zeze by Ángeles Vicente. This location opened in 1907, having moved from Carrera de San Jerónimo, 2 where they originally opened in 1876. The store and its publishing house were bought out in 1929 by the first large Spanish publishing company, Compañía Iberoamericana de Publicaciones (CIAP)
Centro Hijos de Madrid was a school for orphans that opened on 18 April 1904. It was located at Calle de Alcalá, 12. Students included Lucía Sánchez Saornil, who enrolled around 1908 when her mother died.
Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, located at Calle de Alcalá, 13, was founded by Royal Decree on 12 April 1752 as a national academy of fine arts; the school subsequently added a museum. Women were allowed to join long before other institutions in Spain were open to them. Lesbians who have attended the academy include Carolina Durán, Rosa Chachel and Matilde Calvo Rodero in the 1910s.
Cines Callao, located at Plaza de Callao, 3, was opened in 1926. It was and remains a popular place for all Madrileños to visit and catch a movie. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, it was also a place where lesbians would covertly have dates with other women. Among those lesbians taking dates there was Victorina Duran. The best day of my life is a documentary film made during World Pride Madrid, and follows the story of six people who attended the march from countries where homosexuality is illegal. A March 2018 preview of the film was held at Cines Calloa that was attended by Manuela Carmena and the film’s director Fernando González Molina. One of the stories told was that of Ugandan lesbian activist Ruth Muganzi. In her country, being a lesbian can result in up to seven years in prison and where others can murder lesbians with impunity.
Escuela de Artes y Oficios de Madrid was a school located at the Plaza de Jacinto Benavente and Calle de Atocha on the site of an old convent. Rosa Chacel was enrolled at the school to study drawing around 1910. She was only a student for a single year before transferring to the newly opened the Escuela del hogar y Profesional de la Mujer. It was also here that Carmen de Burgos took a teaching position in 1911. It was around this same time that de Burgos also started teaching the deaf and blind in the city, an activity she would keep up until her death. The building where the school once stood no longer exists.
Un sueño de la razón by Rivas Cherif is the first Spanish play to deal with lesbianism. It was performed by the theater group Caracol at Sala Rex, which existed only for only two years between 1928 and 1929, in a basement at Calle Mayor, 8.
Teatro Albéniz, originally located at Calle de la Paz, 11, opened on 31 March 1945 in a building designed by a number of architects including Manuel Ambrós Escanellas. Its opening created a new theater center in the city, with its heyday occurring in the 1970s. The theater ultimately closed on 21 December 2008. Lola Rodríguez Aragón organized an opera season there in 1946.
Calle San Bernardo, 44, is where Lola Rodríguez Aragón successfully organized her own music conservatory on the grounds of the old Conservatorio madrileño. The school officially opened on 15 November 1970 after several years of effort as the Escuela Superior de Canto de Madrid. It was officially inaugurated on 17 January 1972, with Rodirguez heading the school for the next eight years before an emotional farewell performance by students in 1980. The school continues to operate to this day and is open to Erasmus students to enroll.
Calle de Alcalá, 1, is building where the telephone company, now known as Telefónica, that Lucía Sánchez Saornil once worked for was located. She was eventually fired from this job in 1931 because of her unionist activities. Being fired resulted in Sánchez redirecting her energy towards politics.
Gloria Fuertes created a women’s writing group that met in the basement of Carrera de San Jerónimo, 5. Some didn’t like them in the space, and played loud games of tabletop football, shouting out goals in order to make it impossible for the women to work.
Café de Lisboa, located on Calle Mayor, 1, in the Casas del Corderos building, was an important literary gathering site in Madrid. It opened on 4 November 1875, replacing two previous cafes located in the same spot. Ownership changed in 1910, with new owner Arturo Rodríguez cultivating it as a meeting place for members of the press. Prior to that, he did extensive remodeling, making it a bright airy space. Unlike most cafes of the day, it had a ladies dressing table and a separate entrance for women. While the main part of the café remained dominated by men, it offered women their own intellectual space and slowly integrate over time for writers and intelligentsia, both male and female. Among the women who gave literary readings there was Gloria Fuertes. It closed in the late 1950s, being replaced by the restaurant Noche y Día, and then a succession of other hospitality related business. The most recent was McDonalds. Nothing indicates the importance of the place in Spanish literary history.
Edificio Sociedad Madrid-París is a building located on Gran Vía, 32 and currently occupied by H & M. During the Civil War, the Republican aligned Unión Radio Madrid was based in the building. In addition to broadcasting La Pasionaria’s famous “No pasarán” speech, they also broadcast Lucía Sánchez Saornil’s poem “Madrid, Madrid, mi Madrid” around 1937 as the city was being bombed by Franco’s forces.
Because of intense bombing during the siege of Madrid, Mujeres Libres moved their offices from Gran Vía to a private home on Calle de Diego de León. Mujeres Libres was anarchist women’s union co-founded by Lucía Sánchez Saornil, Mercedes Comaposada and Amparo Poch Gascón. At its peak, the organization had 20,000 affiliates. It played an important role in educating women, teaching them a broad range of topics from basic literacy to sex education.
Librería Abril was a bookstore on Calle Arenal, about 300 meters from Plaza de Ópera. It was owned by Carmina Abril, José Gerardo Manrique de Lara and Pepe Hierro. It was inaugurated with a poetry reading by lesbian writer Vicente Aleixandre. Other writers who performed at the library included Gloria Fuertes, who after reciting a poem there in the late 1960s almost went to jail after a man denounced her for being a pacificist. This would have been difficult for the author because her homosexuality was relatively well known in literary circles, and the state could have punished her for being a lesbian despite her being discrete about her relationships.
Arantxa Serrano and Esther Olassolo were arrested on 23 February 1986 in front of Casa de Correos, which had served as the Dirección General de Seguridad during the Franco regime, and is located at Puerta del Sol, 7. The building had only formally changed its purpose a few days earlier. The couple, aged 23 and 21 respectively, were then detained for two days, and subject to police abuse which included a vaginal search. The police were found guilty of abuse of power, and were sentenced on 23 February 1987. The couple reported this abuse, and three years later, they won before a trial, winning financial compensation of 6,000 pesetas each.
Feminists in Madrid marched in protest of sexual exploitation, surrogacy and the proposed Trans Law on 23 October 2021. Their route started at Plaza de Neptuno and ended at Puerta del Sol. Several thousand women participated in one of the largest marches by women since the start of the pandemic, after the previous 23 Marzo International Women’s Labor Day marches had been denied permits by the government. One of the groups of women actively participating in the march were lesbians, who claimed that the gender self-identification components of the Trans Law were homophobic and lesbophobic. Many lesbians in Spain have been accused of being TERFs for excluding male bodied individuals from their dating pool. Some of this was reflected in signs, both by lesbians and other women in in attendance, including signs that said, “Terf es el nuevo feminazi” and “Ser lesbiana no es transfobia”.
Fundación Entredos, located at Calle del Marqués Viudo de Pontejos, 4, is a space for women to learn from other women. Classes and events they have run include yoga classes, writing workshops, cooking classes. Lesbians who have been involved in the organization include Victoria Virtudes. The foundation has marched in Orgullo Madrid.
Lua Les&Bi, located at Gran Vía, 40, planta 7, oficina 1, is a trans friendly pscyhology clinic for lesbian and bisexual women in the city. They use a integrative therapy , based on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. The women who founded the clinic had been catering to the pscyhological needs of lesbian and bisexual women since around 2005.
The Consejo de la Juventud, located at Calle Montera, 24, played host to the III Jornadas de Activismo LGTBI Internacional in 2020. The event was organized by Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gais, Trans y Bisexuales (FELGTB) with support from the Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, Unión Europea y Cooperación, in March 2020. The purpose of the conference was to share information about the persecution of LGBTI people around the world. Representatives from the European Parliament , ILGA World and All Out also participated, to assist attendees in understanding how they can be effective advocates for LGBTI rights outside Spain. Among the topics discussed was lesbophobia in Africa.
Café Varela, located at Calle de Preciados, 37, is a historic Spanish intellectual and literary cafe starting in the late 19th century and continuing well into the 20th century. In this period, it had high backed red couches, thin flowery columns and full moon shaped mirrors. In its hay day, women who gave poetic performances there included Gloria Fuerte. As Franco tried to silence regime critics by preventing gatherings of the intelligentsia, the cafe fell on hard times. It has since been replaced by Restaurant “Café Varela” which tries to maintain a similar style, though much of the original architecture disappeared when subsequent cafes operated in the space removed them. The current serves traditional Spanish and Galician food.
Marches, manifestations, demonstrations and parades
Before the city had its first pride march, militant lesbian feminists and some male homosexuals had marched a few times during the early 1970s. These were often organized at the dark and underground lesbian bar, Berliner. One such march took place on calle Preciados. Vito Virtudes was among the lesbians participating in these early marches.
In February 1986, two women were arrested for having kissed in public. Lesbians in Madrid gathered at Puerta del Sol on 23 January at 8PM to protest the arrest on the day the police were to be sentences for abuse of power, and to proclaim their right to express their sexuality just like any heterosexual couple, even if they did not in general like such public displays of affection. They protested with prolonged kisses of other lesbians on the mouth.
The 1988 Pride event took place on 28 June. Around 100 people participated in the march, organized by lesbian groups, with a route taking place from Plaza de Callao to Puerta del Sol and then on to Calle de Preciados. It was in this period that Pride continued primarily because of lesbian activists. Transactivist have criticized pride in this period for excluding transwomen, engaging in transmisogyny and being largely focused on lesbian feminism. Lesbians disagreed, saying their need for visibility and the need to combat sexism in the homosexual rights movement was why they were being so militant.
Puerta de Alcalá was the starting point for the city’s pride route between 1995 and 2003, with Puerta del Sol being the end point for the march each of those years.
The 1996 pride march, called Día del Orgullo de Gays, Lesbianas y Transexuales, had a route from Puerta de Alcalá to Puerta del Sol. More than 2,000 people participated. The march included the first float. Several lesbian organizations participated including LSD, Feminista de Lesbianas, and Coletivos de Gays y Lesbianas. Mili Hernández was involved with the march. The march took place in 30 degree weather, and started with a lesbian orchestra leading the way. They were followed by a float full of transvestites dressed in carnival type costumes, and followed later by more male nudity. There was little female nudity in the event.
The 2004 pride march and 2006 pride march both started at Puerta del Sol and ended in Plaza de Callao. The 2007 pride march started at Puerta del Sol and ended in Plaza de España. This route was chosen because it was longer and could accommodate more participants.
CRECUL organized Marchas por la Visibilidad Lésbica in 2008 and 2009 in Madrid. The route went from Puerta del Sol de Madrid to Calle Preciados. These marches were successful in terms of gaining media attention to issues that mattered to lesbians.