PAULO Molleda has lived freely in Torremolinos for 15 years.
As a gay man and owner of a gay bar in the LGBT-friendly resort on Spain’s Costa del Sol, he has never felt unsafe, until now.
The rise of the right and far right in Spain, a country often seen as one of the last bastions of left wing power in Europe, has, according to Molleda, allowed homophobia and transphobia to come out of the shadows.
“There has been a huge shift this year,” Molleda, who owns the popular Cafe el N.A, told the Olive Press today, “Since this summer they have hurled verbal abuse and insults at me and customers at my bar.
“A group of men screamed ‘maricon!’ at a gay couple and mocked them for ‘doing what women do.’
“I was also told by a group men ‘we are going to end this faggery!’”
For Molleda, 46, a popular local figure known for his funny online videos, it comes as no coincidence that the rise in persecution comes almost a year after far-right party Vox stormed into the Andalucian parliament.
Last December, the party, who’s leader has said he is against gay marriage and the ‘indoctrination’ of children in classrooms (referring to lessons on diversity), won 12 seats in the regional elections.
It was the first time a far right party won seats at that level since the death of Dictator Franco in 1975.
But the party made history again on Sunday when it became the third largest political force in the country following Spain’s fourth general election in as many years.
“The fascists and homophobes who hid their views out of shame or fear that society would reject them now feel safe to come out of the shadows because they have 3,500,000 people who support them,” Molleda, originally from Cantabria, said.
“They no longer feel alone. The bad thing is that some gays themselves are deceived and think that nothing bad will actually happen … but the fact is that since Vox has entered the game I have lived and I have seen lots of disrespect and abuse towards our community.
“Collective and homophobic aggressions have increased because they feel safe and defended.”
In April this year, a popular drag queen was attacked in the centre of Torremolinos.
Satin Greco, one of the most well-known drag performers on the Costa del Sol, was set upon by a group of men as he walked home from work at around 7am on a Saturday.
The men reportedly shouted ‘fag’ at Greco before jumping him and trying to rob him in La Nogalera, the neighbourhood deemed safest for the LGBTQ+ community.
A gay British expat was also the victim of a homophobic assault in the town in May of this year.
Molleda has said he won’t go as far as going back into the closet, but he will be more weary of how he acts when on the street.
“I am afraid of being noticed when I leave the comfort zone of my bar,” Molleda confessed, “Even the other day I went for an operation and the doctor asked me if I had come with my girlfriend and I was too scared to say I was gay so I just said ‘no’.
“I’m not going to get back in the closet, but I will be more cautious of how I act in public.”
Molleda added: “I fear for the country, if these things can happen in a liberal place like the Costa del Sol, what could happen in the pueblos?”
Vox was the second-most voted for party in Malaga province, awarding it three seats at the national level.
It lost only to PSOE, which was awarded four seats.
Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists won the most seats with 120, and must now, once again, try to find a way to reach the absolute majority of 176.