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Exclusive: Memorial to LGBT People Dedicated by Barcelona Mayor

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Story and Photos by WILL SHANK

Guestblogger Will Shank lived many years in San Francisco, where his day job was head of conservation at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and he is widely published on matters of culture, art and how to take care of it. He married his husband, American sculptor U.B. Morgan, in Barcelona, where the couple and their daughter Anastasia have lived since 2006.

You can visit him online at WillShank.com.

On Sunday morning, March 20, Mayor Jordi Hereu of Barcelona dedicated a granite triangle framed in pink in the city's central Ciutadella Park. The location was a compromise after the Roman Catholic church raised a ruckus over the proposed installation of the memorial in the immediate vicinity of Antoní Gaudi's famed Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, which is also the city's number one tourist attraction.  

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In a dignified ceremony under sunny skies in front of hundreds of supporters, the mayor spoke of the history of Barcelona as a haven for persecuted groups and individuals, and for the city's respect for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.

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Hereu, speaking to members of the press.

Only Amsterdam has a similar such visible statement, literally carved in stone, among gay-friendly European cities.

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The triangular slab slants slightly upward toward the observer, with an inscription in Catalan that reads, "In memory of the gays, lesbians and transexual persons who have suffered persecution and repression throughout history, Barcelona 2011."

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After the ceremony, which featured show tunes in several languages from the local gay men's chorus, (all dressed in black except for their boas, in one ABBA number), local GLBT groups left bunches of flowers around the monument, whose resemblance to a tombstone was hardly coincidental.

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Correction:  The author inadvertently overlooked the many European monuments to the queer victims of the holocaust in Europe in Berlin, Frankfurt, the Hague, and in several other European cities, as well as the sites of concentration camps.  Thanks to all of the sharp readers who pointed them out!

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Comments

  1. So beautiful.
    There are some wonderful people out there, doing wonderful things, and this beautiful memorial has, for this moment, given me faith in humanity.
    It's amazing how powerful this symbology can be, hey?

    Posted by: Chaq | Mar 21, 2011 9:06:21 AM


  2. This memorial is itself a symbol of discrimination. It was originally meant to be built near the Sagrada Familia, but then after the protest of catholics have been moved in the Ciutadella Park.

    Posted by: calvin | Mar 21, 2011 9:24:40 AM


  3. @CALVIN: I suppose you are correct. However, the memorial was built and dedicated, I am also quite sure, despite the protests and pressures brought to bear by the Catholic church. So, it is a victory for gay people not just of Barcelona, and Spain and Europe, but everywhere. Such a memorial is something you will NEVER, EVER see in America. At least not in our lifetime.

    The rest of the world progresses in so many ways, while America regresses on all fronts except, finding new and inventive ways to make money from nothing.

    I salute Barcelona and its people. I salute Spain and its people. Thank you for recognizing and honoring us.

    Posted by: Bob R. | Mar 21, 2011 10:44:31 AM


  4. This is great. I was going to visit Barcelona anyway this spring and am so happy to spend my tourist dollar in a friendly jurisdiction. I urge all my fellow LGBT to avoid spending in jurisdictions that invidiously discriminate and to visit and spend freely in places that support equality.

    Posted by: Traveler J | Mar 21, 2011 10:49:16 AM


  5. Berlin is another city with a "visible" memorial. It's dedicated specifically to gay people who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis. Typically, it's been vandalized several times.

    Posted by: gregory brown | Mar 21, 2011 10:50:28 AM


  6. Wonderful.
    I wish I could travel to Bcn every week.

    Posted by: Matt26 | Mar 21, 2011 10:55:26 AM


  7. @ BOB R.: Such a compromise is offensive. Don't be fooled, progress on LGBT rights are just skin-deep in Europe. Europe's progress is about law, not society.

    Posted by: calvin | Mar 21, 2011 11:10:38 AM


  8. Yes this is wrong:

    "Only Amsterdam has a similar such visible statement, literally carved in stone, among gay-friendly European cities."

    Berlin has a wonderful monument also in stone next to the Holocaust memorial and near the Brandenburg gate, and continuously shows a beautiful film of two men kissing. It was vandalized twice in the first year but not since.

    Vienna, Rome and the Hague also have monuments (see http://andrejkoymasky.com/mem/holocaust/ho08.html)

    Posted by: Patrick M | Mar 21, 2011 11:24:46 AM


  9. Correction: the planned Vienna memorial was cancelled so that city is now way overdue for one (www.krone.at/Wien/Mahnmal_fuer_homosexuelle_NS-Opfer_gescheitert-Kein_Rosa_Platz-Story-176612).

    However, Frankfurt and Cologne also have memorials.

    Posted by: Patrick M | Mar 21, 2011 11:49:14 AM


  10. What is it with people making categorical statements that turn out to be so wrong today?

    Bob R, yes of course there are monuments in the US. What are you smoking? In San Francisco unsurprisingly, but there is even one in Palin-friendly Anchorage of all places. (andrejkoymasky.com/mem/holocaust/ho08.html)

    Posted by: Patrick M | Mar 21, 2011 11:53:01 AM


  11. There could EASILY be a triangle gay memorial built in Boston with little or no public out cry. Don't know why there isn't. There is here an impressive WW2 holocaust memorial and memorials for everything under the sun. I'm sure gay memorials could be built in many other places in America also.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Mar 21, 2011 1:20:43 PM


  12. I am NOT impressed by this at all!

    We homosexuals have long suffered and it's been decades since the scientific community declared that we're not abnormal.

    So why only now when many are standing up for homosexuals? Have people not any courage? This should have been done ages ago!

    No offence,but Jordi Hereu can f*ck off! I take offence at him using us!

    Posted by: J | Mar 21, 2011 1:52:35 PM


  13. If you'll read more carefully, Shank has not said this is the only memorial to gays and lesbians, the sentence reads "Only Amsterdam has a similar such visible statement, literally carved in stone, among gay-friendly European cities" I've seen other memorials but as he says, none are as visible and such bold works of art. I know West Hollywood has a small plaque but unlike the Amsterdam or Barcelona works, it is far more discrete.

    This new work should be celebrated as something truly wonderful. It doesn't negate those that came before it or diminish their importance. It simply raises the bar and is a new landmark in our struggle for acknowledgement in a world that often would prefer we not exist or at least exist somewhere quietly where we won't scare the horses.

    Posted by: Hamp | Mar 21, 2011 5:01:05 PM


  14. Hamp, you are just wrong.

    The Berlin memorial is also carved out of stone and is in a more prominent tourist area, being next to the Brandenburg gate and the main Holocaust memorial. It is obviously a big deal, even to the extent that it has been vandalized.

    And while I'm glad that Barcelona has installed this memorial, it has a couple of flaws that mean it doesn't actually "raise the bar". The memorial uses the pink triangle of Holocaust iconography which makes sense in Amsterdam but isn't as relevant to neutral Spain. More importantly, it doesn't make any direct reference to the persecution of the tens of thousands of homosexuals in Spain throughout history by the Catholic Church and under Franco, true horrific tragedies of gay Spain. The Amsterdam and Berlin memorials are contextually a better fit.

    By the way, the correct word is "discreet."

    Posted by: Patrick M | Mar 21, 2011 5:23:58 PM


  15. I love Barcelona - and it is great they were able to get this done - there is, as in America - a strong far right wing element that misses the days when they ruled by Religion.

    Franco was no leftist.

    Posted by: rjp3 | Mar 21, 2011 11:56:54 PM


  16. Bob R., there are definitely gay memorials in the US. An installation called "Gay Liberation" by the artist George Segal has stood in Sheridan Square across from the Stonewall Inn in New York since 1992. In 2000 the buildings comprising the Stonewall Inn and the surrounding streets were named National Historic Landmarks by the US government. In Philadelphia in front of Independence Hall there is a bronze marker commemorating the first civil rights demonstration by LGBT people which was held by the Mattachine Society in the early to mid 1960's. The plaque was installed by the National Park Service. What I like about these memorials is that they are not simply funeral monuments to gay victims but celebrate more positive developments in our history. Then, of course, there is the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which, although a private endeavor, has been displayed on public lands around the country since 1986 including several times on the National Mall in Washington.

    Posted by: tim | Mar 22, 2011 1:41:01 AM


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