Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hotel, Soccer and Tango for gays in Buenos Aires

An exclusive hotel for gays, Axel Hotel opened today in Buenos Aires, the first of its kind in a country famed more for machismo and Catholicism than overt homosexuality.

Male tango dancers and drag queens will perform at an inauguration party tonight to which 1,000 people have been invited.

The hotel, aimed squarely at gay men, not women, is the second opened by the Axel group, a Spanish company which started its maiden one in Barcelona in 2003. Named after a former boyfriend of the founder, Juan Julia Blanch, the group plans rapid expansion.

The move to Latin America is a sign that a continent once marked by conservatism and homophobia is liberalising, albeit slowly and unevenly. Colombia has recognised gay rights and Venezuela has outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Argentina blazed the way with a law allowing civil unions among homosexuals which has helped make Buenos Aires Latin America's gay capital. Some 300,000 gay visitors are estimated to spend £300m here each year in the city.

Last month the city hosted the 10th Gay World Cup soccer tournament, a first for South America, and next month it will host the first gay tango festival, Tango Queer.

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