Barcelona’s Groundbreaking Monument to Trans History

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Last Updated on: 12th January 2023, 09:30 pm

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Find the best city tours, day tours, bus tours, & skip-the-line tickets on GetYourGuide and Viator.

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For English-speaking private airport transfers, book through Welcome Pickups.

For road trips and independent travel, rent a car through Discover Cars.

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Book an affordable family or romantic photography session on your trip through Flytographer (Use the code HISTORYFANGIRL for 10% off your first photoshoot).

For travel guidebooks to have with you during your trip, I always pick one or two from Rick Steves and Lonely Planet.

When traveling, or thinking of where to visit to memorialize civil rights events and advances, it’s all too easy for straight people to forget about LGBTQ monuments. That’s partially because of the lack of proper sites memorializing LGBTQ rights. But on today’s episode of the History Fangirl Podcast, I talk with someone who completely changed my perspective on travel. We’re talking with José Ramón Harvey of the travel blog My Normal Gay Life about the Barcelona transsexual monument in Parc de la Ciutadella, how and why it was created, and why it is unfortunately so singular.

Barcelona’s history of gay rights

As José tells me, Barcelona was actually ahead of the curve of many European cities when it came to gay rights, even if “being ahead of the curve” can still seem so backwards. In the 1970s, for instance, it decriminalized “engaging in homosexual acts,” long before other places took those laws off the books. But in the 1990s, there weren’t many protections for trans people, and in 1991, Sonia Rescalvo, a trans woman, was murdered by six Neo-Nazis because of her gender identity.

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Who was Sonia?

Sonia Rescalvo was a trans woman who ran away from home when she was 16, after her family rejected her identity. She was able to work in theater for some time, but as José tells me, she had to resort to prostitution, as many trans people had to, because it was difficult for her to find work. So because of these circumstances, she was sleeping in a park at night, in a bandstand. And during this time, the Olympics were coming to Barcelona, and there was a crackdown on sex workers, making it extra difficult for someone like Sonia. The bandstand became a place where many homosexual and trans people who had been marginalized would meet and sometimes sleep at night. And it was there that six Neo-Nazis brutally attacked Sonia and two of her friends, killing her and badly injuring her friends.

How the monument came to be

In 1993 a gay liberation organization go into the Parc de la Ciutadella and place a plaque near the bandstand where the murder happened. And the authorities allowed it to stay, and for more than a decade, that’s what the monument was. Then in 2011, an official plaque is put in place by the city, and then in 2013, the bandstand is renamed in Sonia’s honor, with a new plaque to ensure visitors understand the significance of the location. The plaque specifically spells out that the bandstand is where Sonia was murdered by Neo-Nazis, and that the city of Barcelona rebukes anyone who would infringe on the rights of someone because of their gender identity.

Other LGBTQ historical sites in Barcelona

Of course, the bandstand is not the only place of historical significance for LGBTQ people in Barcelona, and José walked me through the other sites he visited during his time in the city. This is a really eye-opening episode for me, and as I said José’s approach to travel completely re-oriented my thinking on what to see when I visit a place, and the need to recognize not only LGBTQ historical sites but important people like Sonia, whose lives continue to impact us to this day. I hope you’ll give this episode a listen.

See also
7 Tips for the 100 KM Camino de Santiago from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela

If you have two or three days in Barcelona, you can easily fit in a few of these important sites during your time in the city!

Outline of This Episode

  • [7:30] Being aware of issues for LGBTQ travelers
  • [15:06] Environment around the time of the murder
  • [18:41] How the press reacted to her murder
  • [22:52] LGBTQ rights in Spain
  • [26:08] How the monument came to be
  • [31:32] Other LGBTQ sites
  • [36:00] Food recommendations
  • [42:00] Where else to travel for LGBTQ history


Resources Mentioned


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5 Things to Pack for Your Trip to Spain

Greece - Crete - Stephanie Luggage

Along with sunglasses and sunscreen, make sure to pack these:

The Lonely Planet Spain  or Rick Steves Spain guidebook for your trip. It can be hard to find big, international travel guides and travel guidebooks once you land (or they’ll be way overpriced).

Get yours ahead of time, either a hard copy or on a Kindle.

An Unlocked Cell Phone so that you can use a Spanish sim card while here to help navigate public transportation and when you’re on the road.

A Camera since Spain is beautiful! I use a mix of my Sony ZV-1 and my iPhone 12 Pro smartphone these days.

Backup Charging BankThis is for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS, and general travel genie.

Great Day Bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc). 

My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for tourist destinations because it has many anti-theft features designed to deter pickpockets plus RFID technology to keep your credit card digits safe. 

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50 Giggle-Inducing Barcelona Puns & Jokes for Your Spain Pics

It also transitions to a night bag more easily and won’t embarrass you if you go to dinner directly after sightseeing all day.

Before You Leave for Spain – Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!

Make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road.

I use Safety Wing on transatlantic travel, and I’m happy to recommend them!

It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in cities (like Barcelona and Seville…ahem) where tourists can be the victims of pickpockets.

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51 Silly Spain Puns for Your Spain Instagram Captions & Statuses

Get a Travel Insurance quote for your trip.

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