Colombia overall is widely regarded as a Catholic country and so one might expect that their views towards homosexuality would be relatively conservative. However, much to an outsider’s (my) surprise, many of the political views, (specifically towards the LGBTI community) seem to be quite progressive and open minded. Colombia only trailed the United States by a few months in legalizing gay marriage but same-sex couples have enjoyed inheritance and property laws since May 2007! Way to go Colombia! Every June, Bogotá hosts Colombia’s largest gay pride parade, where lesbian, gay, transgender, transsexual and cisgender people all come together to celebrate individuality and tolerance. Tens of thousands of supporters attend the colorful parade making it one of the greatest in South America.
I am a straight woman, but I have always supported the LGBTI community and their civil right to marry around the world. When I moved to Colombia I assumed that because of the abundant religious influence of Barranquilla, having a few gay friends in my little black book would not be the case. Boy was I wrong! During Carnaval 2015, and the now-traditional gay parade, I was introduced to this subculture in Barranquilla, and it is HUGE!
The majority of Barranquilla’s gay bars (also known as ¨free bars¨) are clustered around one of its busiest streets, Calle 72. Here you will find two of the city’s largest and most popular gay dance clubs – Lives and Rumours (Patio), which both pack in partygoers on the weekends, who crowd the dance floor to thumping tunes. There are multiple smaller, more intimate localities where the music is just as engaging and fewer people if huge crowds aren’t really your thing.
Lives – Lives Megaclub is by far my favorite in the city, probably because on Saturday nights, 25 thousand pesos gets you in the door AND all you can drink until supply runs out. It could also be the extremely sexy bartenders. I couldn’t care less that the chance we play the same field is very low. My 25.000 lasted until about 2:45am and at some point I had to take off my tacones from too much dancing. Electronic music in ¨The Palace¨, crossover in ¨Konga Latina¨ and dance hall outside in ¨The Village¨ guaranteed that I couldn´t stay in one place for long. It was the drag show that eventually brought me back to The Palace. There is also a smaller, quieter bar at the front of the establishment called, ¨Londres Café¨ where you can sit and enjoy conversation with your friends, but we weren’t there to chit-chat! The only negative thing I have to say about Lives is the long wait to get in and I’m still not sure why they make people wait so long, totally worth it, however.
Rumours/Patio – #2 on my list is Rumours. The cover charge is $19.000 and sometimes that comes with a free beer but what Rumours is lacking in ¨free drinks¨ makes up for in music and customer service. Like Lives, this dance club also offers three different ambiances plus a front patio area for quieter visits, but what I really enjoyed was the table service and the fact that I could sit with my friends and I didn’t have to throw elbows with the crowd to get a drink. Our (very handsome) waiter did that for me. The super fun thing about Rumours is that it has an evil twin that only comes out on Sunday afternoon. The Patio is a Sunday-only bar concept where, after 5:00pm, you can meet all of your friends and enjoy things like $3.000 beers or buy six for the price of 5. Check out their Instagram @patiobaq.
There are various, smaller establishments in Barranquilla that are much less expensive and equally as entertaining. FEATHERS, located across Romelio Martinez Stadium, has 2 x 1 drinks before 10:00pm and after 10, you pay 15.000 for all you can drink. The dance floor is nice and spacious, the patio out back is ample with comfortable seating. It’s a favorite hangout for local and travelling drag queens, and I LOVE drag queens. Who doesn’t!?
The next on my list is Friends. Friends really reminds me of the gay-friendly bars back home. Small and quaint where everyone knows your name. The music is nice and not too loud. There is plenty of space to dance and the bar staff is extremely friendly. I loved the patio and the bathrooms were very clean. My favorite part was, of course, the drink prices; comparable to your local neighborhood tienda, one can enjoy him or herself for very little plata.
And finally, there’s Mantonio’s and I couldn’t help but to giggle at the name. Mantonio’s is discreetly hidden and upon first sight, you would have no idea that it was even a bar. It looks like someone´s private patio, but someone who has a number of friends. The bar inside is quite small and seats are limited, but nonetheless, I had an amazing time. The bartenders were so friendly, the music was pumping, and the people were all the more willing to dance with the gringa and ensure that I had an amazing time.
I am well aware that there are multiple other gay bars in Barranquilla, but these are the ones that I enjoy the most. If you would like more information on LGBQI friendly establishments around Colombia, you can visit this online guide.