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Made in Ibiza: Antonio Balibrea, gay rights activist

An interview with Antonio Balibrea, gay rights supporter and the man behind Ibiza Gay Pride.

On the eve of the gay rights parade on 17 June for Gay Pride Ibiza 2017, we caught up with Antonio Balibrea, its founder.

What is your advice for anyone coming to Ibiza?
'Ibiza for me is a paradise of tolerance and liberty; it has been a place where I have been able to express myself freely and do what really moves me, motivates me and makes me happy. Working for the LGBT community in Ibiza, a platform that looks out to the world, and doing things related to supporting that makes me feel happy and gives me peace.'

'I had come to Ibiza as a 16-year-old, goose bumps and all and I remember saying "what a magical and beautiful place". I've never lost that thought.'

What is your favourite memory of the island?
'I'll never forget the first time I came to Ibiza. I arrived on a boat from Alicante and I remember that the castle of Dalt Vila seemed to be at eye level. I had come to Ibiza as a 16-year-old, goose bumps and all and I remember saying "what a magical and beautiful place". I've never lost that thought.'

What big changes have you seen since you first arrived here?
'I think the feeling of equality has got lost a little. I'm not one for going out, but before I liked it better because we were all the same. I don't personally like all the private parties and the VIP phenomonenon or the ‘I've got more than you' attitude that is prevalent today. The Ibiza of the recent past would entail finding yourself eating next to a prince, model, famous singer, waiter or a nobody. No one asked what you did, everyone was the same and the atmosphere was very relaxed. I think that that's been lost and it is what I miss most.'

What to you are the three most special things about Ibiza and why?
'One of the first things that won me over was its mix of tradition and culture, very rooted in old customs and tinged with modernity and tolerance. Obviously I love the beaches of Ibiza and I am in love with Dalt Vila (Ibiza's medieval old town) where I live. it seems to me like one of the few magical places left to live in the world.'

'The Ibiza of the recent past would entail finding yourself eating next to a prince, model, famous singer, waiter or a nobody'

Why did you bring back Gay Pride to Ibiza?
'The island was being labelled expensive and inaccessible and the gay community had stopped coming as well. I decided, along with a group of other people to tell people what was happening and ensure that the island gay community would not be forgotten. Then came the idea of Ibiza Gay Pride and we spoke to European and international organisations to get the right to use the word 'pride'. It took three years to get the first event ready and it's been three more years since the we started. It's like having a small child that keeps you awake at nights because it is a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of investment. Like a child too, it gives me a joy and pain in equal measure.'

What can we expect at Ibiza Gay Pride?
'A gay pride event had been tried before and it didn't go anywhere. Now, Ibiza Gay Pride is in its third year strengthening its position more and more. Brands are starting to take us more seriously, though companies find it difficult to be able to invest in the LGBT community. Little by little that is changing. We set ourselves a five-year celebration goal by which time we hope that the event would have established itself firmly on the island.'

How do you see Ibiza Gay Pride developing in the next few years?
'We want to be the main European Pride location in 2020 and we want to be a powerful presence amongst all the Pride events in Europe. People always used to ask us why Ibiza didn't have a Pride event. Now, we have one and it's good.'

Ibiza is quite mixed, gay and straight - do you think the gay scene has to work harder to get noticed?
'I think that the last few years has seen everyone merge. There have been no big gay parties on the island and everything has become much more mixed, something which I am totally in favour of. I consider that a gay pride event is open to everybody and when we have more visibility and more integration with people, we will achieve more. We are on the right path and more still needs to be achieved.

The rise in mixed parties is the right way to go. I can be in a club kissing or hugging my boyfriend with a straight couple next to us who don't even bat an eyelid. Ibiza is really driving that and I think it's a good thing. Ibiza is a place of tolerance, respect and freedom. the island embraces freedom and polysexuality, which to my mind is the right way to go.'

If you were honoured here on ibiza, what monument would you choose?
'I would make a monument to all the great friends I have loved and to those lost to AIDS.'

What is your advice for anyone coming to Ibiza?
'People need to start thinking that Ibiza is open every day of the year. People should come outside the busy months of July and August and come at the start or end of the summer season. We get great weather from April to October too. The magic of Ibiza is in every corner of the island. I invite people to really live the magic of Ibiza that is to be found on its beaches, in the sand, in the trees or in its sunsets.'

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