Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, has long been a gay vacation spot. It became popular among gays around the world first for its 2003 same-sex civil unions law and was further made so by the 2010 passing of the country’s same-sex marriage act. But while you’re planning your Argentine getaway, have you ever wondered where Argentines plan theirs? The answer for many is Mar del Plata, a resort on the Atlantic coast, a four- to five-hour trip southeast of the capital in Buenos Aires Province.
Mar del Plata is a large city on its own, with nearly 750,000 year-round residents. This swells to millions in the South American summertime, which is the reverse of North America’s. You’ll find it’s happening from November to March and busiest in December and January. Much of Buenos Aires’s cultural scene moves here for the season, with summer stock theatre and other entertainment, along with DJs who travel the beach scene circuit. The city is not as chic as Uruguay’s Punta del Este, where Argentina’s jet set head. Instead, you’ll find largely middle- and working-class Argentines vacationing here, many spending every summer weekend in second homes that have been held by their families for generations.
Don’t expect the Caribbean or even Rio de Janeiro, either — the Atlantic is, relatively speaking, on the cold side at this latitude, but the beach is definitely the city’s social focus. The long waterfront promenade is called La Rambla. Its heart is a plaza fronted by stone sea lions (real ones can sometimes be found on the beach) and the city’s casino complex, which also houses an NH Hotel, an iconic structure designed by Argentine architect José María Bustillo in the 1940s. You’ll often find street entertainers and buskers thrilling the crowds on La Rambla. Further from the heart of the city, the beaches are lined by rocky bluffs.
It should come as no surprise that this city by the beach has a thriving year-round gay scene, one that really heats up with the temperature.
Marcos Duszczak lives with his partner, Rodolfo Moro, in Mar del Plata. Together, they produced the documentary Familias por Igual, or Families Alike, about queer families in Argentina.
Duszczak says, “The gay life in Mar del Plata is very rich. It has two gay beaches, one near downtown, called Playa Chica, and the other one, Playa Escondida, in the outside of the city”; the latter serves as the city’s nude beach. He adds that for vacationers wanting to meet locals, “During the day and night, one of the best ways to meet people is to walk around the shore. The city is really gay-friendly, and usually you see gay people in the diverse variety of pubs and bars, in Alem Street, or in the clubs, like Sobremonte in Avenida Constitución. But for those who prefer a strictly gay place, you can choose between the three gay clubs of the city: Extasis Disco is the oldest club in the city; Pin Up Club recently opened in a new location; and Clip Club — great place with great DJs.”
Duszczak adds that day and night, Mar del Plata has something to offer. A trip to the city will teach you how the Argentines vacation, all in a gay-friendly way.