‘It gives me joy’: the LGBT Colombians embracing visibility in town with a legacy of abuse

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02/03/2022

In a mountain town near the north coast of Colombia, three drag queens strike poses in the blazing sun. Wearing extravagant Caribbean carnival costumes, they place each high heeled step carefully to avoid puddles. Neighbours come out to take photos and cheer. This impromptu show has unique significance in the streets of El Carmen de Bolívar, representing the remarkable resurgence of a community once brutally victimised by homophobic armed groups. For nearly 30 years, the town and surrounding region of Montes de María were infamous for violence perpetrated against LGBTQ+ individuals, targeted at one time or another over the country’s long civil war by rightwing paramilitaries, leftwing guerrillas, government soldiers and the police.

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