When it began in 1997, the Sao Paulo LGBT Pride Parade attracted only 2,000 people. However, the event grew exponentially over the years. According to the organizers, the LGBT Pride Parade Association, the 2003 edition brought one million people to the streets, growing to three million in 2006 and a whopping five million in 2013. This number makes Sao Paulo’s parade the largest gay pride event of its kind in the entire world.
While it may not seem like it at first glance, Sao Paulo’s LGBT Pride Parade is first and foremost a political demonstration. Each year, the event adopts a slogan and theme in defense of LGBT rights and the creation of public policies, with demands ranging from the legalization of same-sex marriage (granted in 2013) to the approval of a new gender identity law. The slogan of this year’s parade will be “Independent of our beliefs, no religion is law! Everyone together for a secular state!”
While the parade itself doesn’t set off until the afternoon (normally around 2–3 PM), crowds begin to gather hours before outside the Sao Paulo Museum of Art, commonly known as MASP, in the middle of the city’s most important avenue, Avenida Paulista. The entire street is closed to traffic every Sunday, so expect to see families walking their dogs or riding bicycles mixed in among the parade’s early arrivals.
Due to the size, color and incredible atmosphere of the event, the Sao Paulo LGBT Pride Parade always attracts camera crews and important figures from around the world. In 2013, British comedian Stephen Fry filmed a documentary from atop of one of the parade’s floats, while cast members from hit TV series Orange Is the New Black were in attendance in 2015. During last year’s parade, the cast and crew of Netflix sci-fi drama Sense8 filmed scenes for the show’s recently released second season during the LGBT Parade.
After a full day of dancing, drinking, and celebrating (the parade officially comes to a close at 8 PM), many of the revelers keep the party going at one of Sao Paulo’s many LGBT clubs. Places such as Club Yacht and The Week are always popular choices, while L’Amour, housed in an old strip club in the city’s traditional center, is becoming a favorite of many.
People flock from all over Brazil and South America to take part in Sao Paulo’s LGBT Pride Parade, such is its popularity. As a result, if you are planning to visit the city for the parade (which you most definitely should), don’t leave sorting out your accommodation to the last minute. The official site of the event has a page with a list of hotels offering special rates during the parade.
While it is certainly the headline event of LGBT Pride in Sao Paulo, the parade comes at the end of an entire month of pride events held around the city. For example, on the Thursday before the parade, which is a public holiday, there is the annual LGBT Cultural Fair, where visitors can peruse stalls selling clothes, arts and crafts, and food.