LGBT history in Chile

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20th century[edit]

State repression[edit]

The port of Pisagua, in the north, was used by Carlos Ibáñez del Campo and his successors as a gay concentration camp.

Unlike some tolerance lived in some aristocratic areas, most of the country manifested a strong rejection of homosexuality. While sodomy was already criminalized in the Penal Code, the arrival of Carlos Ibáñez del Campo to power in 1927 deepened the policies of persecution against homosexuals.

Ibanez's dictatorship was characterized by strong repression of his opponents, many of whom were killed by paramilitary groups. While there is no evidence that actually had been made, within the practices that the government of Ibáñez del Campo terrorized the detainees were those of "fondeamiento" which consisted of throwing political opponents from ships at sea with a weight bound in his legs, so that quickly sink. Ibáñez del Campo, who was deeply homophobic -according to some, because his son Carlos was homosexual-, executed a series of raids and arrests against homosexuals. On many occasions, but has never been proven, it was mentioned that the government of Ibáñez made several arrest raids against homosexuals in Santiago, which have been subsequently sent to ships in Valparaíso to be executed by "fondeamiento".[1]

What is effective is that several of those arrested for sodomy were sent to the port of Pisagua, in the north, where a kind of concentration camp for homosexuals was established, which not only was conducted by Ibáñez del Campo, but also by his successors, existing certain of these policies until 1941, during the government of Pedro Aguirre Cerda. Pisagua, a town surrounded by high mountains and the ocean, at the time suffered a mass exodus of its inhabitants, so that it became a perfect fit for the jailing of several people that were persecuted, practice that would later be continued by Gabriel González Videla and Augusto Pinochet against his political opponents.

President Jorge Alessandri was the victim of homophobic attacks by some opposition media.

In 1952, when Ibáñez del Campo returned to power, this time in open democratic elections, as president, he continued its repressive policies. During his government he promulgated Law 11625 on Antisocial States and Security Measures (1954) (Ley 11625 sobre Estados Antisociales y Medidas de Seguridad), first proposed during the administration of his predecessor González Videla, a law establishing various security measures (such as healing internments, fines and imprisonment) against groups of "social dangerousness ", including vagrants, drug addicts and homosexuals, among others. This law required the enactment of a regulation that would facilitate its implementation, but that was never issued, so it could not be applied until it was finally repealed in 1994. However, this law would apparently had a marginal application, with little records of some homosexuals moved to places like Chanco and Parral.

The former freedom lived in artistic circles and the aristocracy until the 1950s, virtually disappeared as a result of Ibáñez government persecution. One example was the actor Daniel Emilfork, who settled in France. Many preferred to emigrate to Europe and the United States in search of greater freedom.

In subsequent governments, although the repression by the state decreased significantly, it was not in the society. One example was the treatment given by the media to homosexuals or how they used homosexuality as a way of discrediting. The clearest case was lived by the president of Chile between 1958 and 1964, Jorge Alessandri. Alessandri was the first bachelor president in the history of the country, generating a series of rumors in such a conservative country like Chile about their sexuality; the myth of his homosexuality was used by the satirical magazine Topaze and newspaper Clarín, who called right-wing Jorge Alessandri as "The Lady" (La Señora).[2]

Popular Unity and the first gay demonstration[edit]

Perhaps the most important emblem of media homophobia was Clarín, a popular, sensationalist and left-wing newspaper, which continuously published notes on homosexuals in a disparaging way, usually titrating with reports of crimes committed by "colipatos", "locas" or "yeguas" as usually they called gay people.[3] This homophobia conducted by the leftist press can be considered as an effect of the idealization of the prototype of man during the years of the Popular Unity, corresponding to the hard worker. Thus, the left visualizes manhood as the ideal of the revolution led by Salvador Allende, while the right took advantage of the image of femininity, visible in pot-banging demonstrations known as cacerolazos; homosexuality therefore was contrary to both conceptions, especially from the political left.

On April 22, 1973 occurred in the Plaza de Armas in Santiago the first manifestation of homosexuals in Chile. Nearly twenty-five homosexuals and transvestites who often roamed at night the Huérfanos and Ahumada streets in downtown Santiago gathered to protest abuses by police, which continually jailed them for "indecency and bad manners", beat them and shaved their heads. Despite this repression, the demonstration proceeded normally; however, the media made the attacks through their chronicles. Even the governor of the province of Santiago, Julio Stuardo, said he would use "the security forces and all the springs that the constitutional mandate gives" just to prevent a new demonstration scheduled this time in the capital's high-class neighbourhoods.[4]

Military dictatorship (1973–1990)[edit]

During the military dictatorship of Chile, despite violent repression, the first LGBT organizations began to appear, although illegally and hidden.

In 1977, a group of homosexuals founded the first gay organization in Chile. The group called Integración organized meetings in private homes, where educational talks about homosexuality were dictated. Despite its quiet performance, the group performed in Santiago the first homosexual congress in Chile in 1982 in a place called El delfín, where about 100 people attended. Founded in 1983, Ayuquelén was the first lesbian organization in Chile and represented for years the only lesbian voice, participating in international meetings and conferences. The group was from the beginning linked to the feminist movement. In 1992 they organized the first National Feminist Lesbian Meeting, where about 50 women from different regions of the country participated. In the late 1980s, in the city of Concepción, emerged the groups SER and Lesbianas en Acción (LEA), the first gay and lesbian organizations in southern Chile.[5]

The only public actions by homosexuals were through the radical artistic group Las Yeguas del Apocalipsis (The Mares of the Apocalypse), formed in 1987 by the artists Francisco Casas and Pedro Lemebel. They aimed to question the status quo imposed by the dictatorship.

The group, whose name made fun of the concepts associated with homosexuality, religion and AIDS, was characterized by spontaneous performances based on transvestism, generating controversy in the context of the time and a strong rejection, even by leftist opponents of the dictatorship. During the proclamation of Patricio Aylwin as Concertación candidate for the presidential election of 1989, Lemebel and Casas unfolded a large banner that said "Homosexuals for change." The ceremony set the beginning of Aylwin's campaign to be Chile's first democratically elected president since Salvador Allende.[6]

Return to democracy (1990-present)[edit]

The return to democracy prompted many social changes and somehow facilitated the founding of different LGBT rights groups, gaining the opportunity to claim for their rights. During this moment of transition, Chilean homosexuals articulated an organized and militant political voice for the first time. Their main achievement in this decade was the decriminalization of homosexual acts in 1999.[7]

In 1991, in the southern city of Coronel the first officially Chilean Homosexual Congress took place, which was attended by various organizations born during the dictatorship. The first gay organization, the "Movement for Homosexual Liberation" (MOVILH) was founded in June 1991, which would later become one of the main groups of LGBT activism in the country.[8]

In 1992, the Chilean government decided to make the first HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns, despite the rejection of the Catholic Church in Chile. This was used by various groups to put on the table the issue of homosexuality in the country, participating in interviews, newspapers and on television for the first time. On March 4, 1992, human rights organizations called for a march to commemorate the publication of the Rettig Report on human rights violations during the military dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet, between 1973 and 1990. The group MOVILH responded to the call and about ten of its members, with their faces covered and dressed in black, joined the march. The group marched carrying a banner with the message "For Our Fallen Brothers and Sisters, the Homosexual Liberation Movement." The responses varied widely, receiving expressions of support and rejection. In March 1993, during a march organized by the Association of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees, more than 300 homosexuals and transvestites marched for the first time with unveiled face after the return to democracy, achieving great media coverage.[9]

In early 1994, the AIDS prevention commission of MOVILH left the organization and formed the Lambda Center Chile, a parallel gay group that focused its work primarily on AIDS prevention. In the 1996 municipal elections, the first gay candidacies were registered in the communes of Santiago, Concepción and Antofagasta, but without success. In 1997, the Unified Movement of Sexual Minorities (MUMS Chile) was founded with the merger of members of MOVILH and Lambda Center Chile. Meanwhile, the LGBT rights group MOVILH changed its name to "Homosexual Movement of Integration and Liberation".[10]

In June 1999, the first March for Sexual Diversity was held in Santiago, demonstration for the rights of the LGBT community and the fight against homophobia.

Homosexuality in Chile was decriminalised in 1999.[11]


  1. ^ Fernández, Leonardo. "El mito de los homosexuales asesinados en alta mar por Ibáñez del Campo" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 1 August 2008. Retrieved 21 November 2009.
  2. ^ Crespo, Octavio (2009). "¿Estamos preparados para un Presidente gay? Los candidatos responden" (PDF) (in Spanish). Revista G. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 June 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2009.
  3. ^ Robles, Víctor Hugo (1 August 2008). "Clarín: ¿Firme contra el gay?" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 14 September 2008. Retrieved 28 August 2009.
  4. ^ Robles, Víctor Hugo (2008). Bandera hueca: historia del movimiento homosexual de Chile (in Spanish). Editorial Cuarto Propio. p. 215. ISBN 956-260-436-5. Retrieved 30 November 2009.
  5. ^ Bandera hueca: historia del movimiento homosexual de Chile (in Spanish)
  6. ^ El Mundo gay en la Dictadura (in Spanish)
  7. ^ Signos de apertura (in Spanish)
  8. ^ "Historia | Movilh Chile". Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  9. ^ A la cola de la izquierda (in Spanish)
  10. ^ "MUMS Chile – 25 Años de Historia – MUMS CHILE". Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Where is it illegal to be gay?". BBC News. Retrieved 23 February 2014.