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Gay Chilean boy Ivan tells us about gay life in Chile

Stefan Arestis
Gay Chilean boy Ivan tells us about gay life in Chile

We got the low-down on gay life in Chile from local boy Ivan from Santiago along with invaluable safety tips for LGBTQ travelers to Chile.

Chile has come a long way since the dark days of the oppressive Pinochet years between 1973 and 1990 when gay people were detained and reportedly killed.

In just a few decades, the country has quickly evolved to having major gay events, a strong queer culture, and full gay marriage laws as of 2022. Santiago's gay scene is huge, with gay couples holding hands/kissing publicly in the streets, and one of the largest gay clubs in the whole of South America, Il Divino, is in Viña del Mar. All the local gay guys we met in Chile were open and comfortable with their homosexuality.

In Santiago, we met Ivan who told us more about gay life in Chile, what it's like growing up gay here and what the gay scene in Santiago is like.

Hola Ivan, where are you from and what do you do?

Hello Nomadic Boys, I'm Ivan, 34 years old and originally from south Chile in Puerto Montt. I grew up in Conception then moved to Santiago when I was a teenager where I have been living ever since. I recently set up a gay tour company aimed at gay travelers, called Pride Tours Chile

My company offers fun and personalized services to the LGBTQ community traveling to Chile. We provide a variety of activities including bicycle/walking tours in Santiago, vineyard tours, and tours further afield in the country. Our most popular tour is of Santiago's gay nightlife where we take you around the many bars and clubs in our Bellavista gaybourhood.

For your readers, we are offering an exclusive 5% discount off all our tours if they quote “NOMADIC5” when booking.

Ivan interview gay life in Chile
Ivan, the charming and incredibly cute founder of Pride Tours Chile

Tell us about your coming out experience

I come from a very religious background and was even a Jesuit boy growing up. I had my first sexual encounter with another man when I was 19, but my Catholic guilt did not allow me to accept being gay until I turned 24. That's how old I was when I came out and finally accepted it. 

I came out to my friends and family when I was 26. There were a lot of tears and drama – my mother cried for a month. But over the years, everyone grew to accept it and now my mother is like my best friend. My father always accepted it, so no conversation was ever needed. He said he always knew.

My grandfather is actually a very cool man: when I was a little boy I used to love playing with Barbie dolls. Instead of telling me off for this, he bought me a gender-neutral toy to play with: a giraffe! I loved it and at the same time, it stopped other children from teasing me. 

Ivan in Santiago gay life in Chile interview
Ivan out and proud cooking sopaipilla fried pastries

What's it like growing up gay in Chile?

I was a young boy during the Pinochet regime when homosexuality was completely suppressed. During those times people simply did not believe gays even existed! Since those awful days, the Chilean LGBT community has started to gain more visibility: by encouraging more public debate about LGBT issues and increasing awareness about us. This has caused public opinion to shift in our favor, and in turn, Chilean society evolved to accept us, realizing we did not choose to be this way.

Chile is still of course very conservative, which is the main reason I didn't come out until my mid-twenties. This is also why LGBT laws are not as advanced as it should be in Chile compared to some of our neighbors. 

Our path to change really started to get going in the 2000s, especially in 2010 when former President Sebastián Piñera had an openly gay man and famous Chilean activist, Luis Larraín Stieb, as his PR expert. Stieb went on to run the LGBT organization called Fundación Iguales and is now a politician running for a seat in Congress.

Luis Stieb activist gay life in Chile
Luis Larraín: recognised by The Economist as one of the 50 world leaders in diversity

Also, every year for the International Day Against Homophobia Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB) on 17 May, our government lights up our Moneda Palace in central Santiago with rainbow colors. A decade ago you wouldn't have seen anything like this at all anywhere in Chile, which goes to show how far we've evolved on LGBTQ rights today.

Gay life in Chile moneda palace rainbow lights santiago
La Moneda Palace in Central Santiago lit up with rainbow lights every year for IDAHOTB

Have you ever experienced any homophobia growing up?

Luckily I've never been victim to any homophobia growing up, but I came out quite late and was always very straight acting.

After coming out, I experienced homophobia from family members, especially the older generation. I can almost excuse them because that is generational, so we've reluctantly learnt to live with each others' differing opinions of life.

More recently, an uncle kept making nasty homophobic comments at family gatherings, reciting verses from the Bible, which hurt me a lot. I eventually plucked up the courage to confront him about it. He responded by threatening  to punch me for being disrespectful to him and to God. I pointed to my right cheek and told him to do it, then told him I would offer him the other cheek – a reference from Matthew 5:39 from the Bible, meaning I would not swoop to his level:

“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also”

He just stood looking at me in horror, not knowing what to do and backed off. It was truly a beautiful and very satisfying moment: his face went pale white and he hasn't made any homophobic comments to me ever since.

Ivan interview gay life in santiago chile
No one messes with our Ivan!

How did you meet other guys growing up?

I grew up in Puerto Montt, a city in the South of Chile, which did not have any gay hangouts when I was growing up (today you'll find bars like Club Angels there). When I was coming out and discovering that aspect of my life, we only had chat websites like Gaydar.

Since the advent of mobile dating apps like Grindr and Hornet over the last decade, it has became much easier to meet other guys.

Today, I live in Santiago, a city with a large gay scene with plenty of gay hangouts for almost every day of the week, so meeting other gay guys here is easier than it's ever been.

Gay life in Chile gay bars in Santiago
A gay night out in Santiago with Ivan and friends

Which are your favourite gay bars and clubs in Santiago?

There's actually quite a few to choose from. We have our own “gaybourhood” in Bellavista with many gay bars and clubs along the Bombero Nuñez street and around.

Station Restobar is an excellent place to start the night and Bar 105 one of my favourite gay bars in Santiago to have drinks with friends. 

I love Farinelli and Dionisio for the drag shows – even if you don't speak very good Spanish you'll love it and guaranteed to laugh all night long. In terms of gay clubs in Santiago, my favourites are Barcelona at Bunker and Toby at Femme

Farinelli gay bar in Santiago Chile
Hanging out with the HILARIOUS drag queens at Farinelli gay bar in Santiago

Are there any big gay events or parties in Chile?

The gay Pride Parade in Santiago is pretty big and has been going strong since 1999. It's called the Marcha del Orgullo and takes place on the last Saturday in June. 

In November we have another annual parade called Open Mind Fest, which is one big electronic street party, sponsored by Movilh.

The Mister Gay Chile event is another big deal for us, especially when Pablo Salvador won the International Mr. Gay Competition in 2009. One of my favorite contestants was the 2017 Mr. Chile – Juan Pedro Pavez Bohle…although he lost in the final to Mr. Gay Philippines, he remains one of my heroes!

Mr Gay Chile events in gay interview with Ivan
Juan Pedro Pavez Bohle, a former Mr World Chile contestant

Where would you take a date for a romantic dinner in Santiago?

I would go to one of our many famous wineries outside Santiago in the Casablanca Valley for a wine tasting afternoon, then a romantic meal at the gay owned Sarita Colonia restaurant. I love this place, it's so unique with a quirky “Peruvian Transvestite” theme. They do the best ceviche in town, yummy cocktails and their “Princesa” fondue dessert is to die for!

What's your favourite Chilean food?

I love pastel de choclo (beef and corn pie). For Chileans, this is comfort food and one of our most traditional foods.

I also love our sea food, which is famous as we have almost 3,000 miles of coastline! A popular recipe is machas a la paremsana which is razor clams baked in their shell, mixed with cheese and wine. One of the best places to try fresh Chilean seafood is at lunch time at one of the many small restaurants in the Mercado Central (Central Market) in Santiago.

gay life in Chile interview with Ivan Chile seafood
Seby tucking into a plate of fresh fish and chips at Santiago's Mercado Central

Are there any famous gay Chilean celebrities?

We have quite a few. La Botota is one of our most famous drag queens who rose to fame via the reality TV shows and now performs at Fausto gay club in Santiago. And of course we all love Olympic gymnast Tomáz Gonzáles who is smoking hot – he's not officially out, but he's well known in our gay scene. 

Tomaz Gonzales gay chilean gay life in Chile
Tomaz Gonzales gay Chilean gymnast

Jordi Castel is a famous Chilean photographer and TV presenter who was one of the first celebrities to publicly come out on TV. José Jaime Parada Hoyl was our first openly gay politician to be elected to public office.

Others include journalists and TV personalities like Jose Antonio Neme, José Miguel Villouta, actor Iñigo Urrutia and dancer Rodrigo Díaz.

Jaime Parada Hoyl gay life chile
Jaime Parada Hoyl first openly gay politician to be elected to public office in Chile

Any Chilean gay slang words LGBT travellers should know?

Our Chilean accent is famous as being one of the hardest to understand in Latin America, especially as we have many slang words. A few Chilean gay slang words you can learn to use on Grindr or, if a drag queen pulls you on stage(!)…

  • hey gurrl: que tal hu-e-o-na
  • boyfriend: pololo
  • dick: pico or pichula or verga
  • you whore/slut: que maraca
  • versatile: moderno
  • very kinky: super cochino
  • lesbian: torta
  • hangover: caña

Finally, we keep seeing the Indio Picaro everywhere we go in Chile with the large penis popping out. What's that about??!!

Oh my god, the Indio Pícaro!! Hahaha – this always baffles visitors and tourists in Chile.

This is a small wooden carved Chilean souvenir toy where you slide up the body and a large dick pops up. It's sold everywhere in artisan shops across Chile and you only find it here.

Indio Pícaro means “kinky Indian” and it all started as a joke back in the 1990s when an artisan was tasked to make an apache Indian-like toy for his boss. He added this tongue-in-cheek “feature” and became so popular, other people asked him to make one for them as well. He sold more and more and has become a popular souvenir ever since – even former USA Vice President Dan Quayle bought a few when he visited Chile.

You can find an almost life sized Indio Pícaro in Valparaiso's main market:

Gigantic El Indio Picaro Valparaiso gay life in Chile interview
No matter how many Pisco Sours you've had, you'll never be able to conquer this Indio Picaro bad boy!

Happy travels are safe travels

We recommend you always take out reputable travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft, or a cancellation? Many gay travelers forget about it and regret it when something happens. Better to pay a small price and have peace of mind and not worry.

For more inspiration:

Read our interview with Ivan to find out what it's like to be gay in Chile
Stefan Arestis

Hey everyone, I'm Stefan, the curly-haired Greek flavor behind the gay travel blog Nomadic Boys. Together with my other half, I have explored more than 90 countries across 5 continents. What I love most about traveling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends, learning new cultures. I've written about LGBTQ travel in numerous online publications such as Gaycation Magazine, Gaycities, Gay Times and Pink News as well as for other non-gay-specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post. Check my full bio here.

Julia Maginn

Sunday 12th of May 2019

would I be able to ask some questions for a university essay on sexual oreiantion in chile.

Was it difficult to find someone willing to interview?

How do you think LGBT rights could be improved in Chile?

How does Chile's rights comepare to rest of Latin America, North America and the world?

Nomadic Boys

Monday 13th of May 2019

Sure. It was easy to find someone. LGBTQ rights are always being improved in Chile and their next step is pushing to same sex marriage laws being passed. Chile hasn't yet passed gay marriage laws but we know it is being discussed and hopefully it will be made law very soon!


Tuesday 9th of October 2018

Nice blog and as well video.. You both are looking funny in that picture and food looking so yummy.

Nomadic boys

Tuesday 9th of October 2018

lol thanks :)

Lucy - The Determined Diner

Saturday 28th of April 2018

This whole series of articles is amazing and inspiring. It's easy to forget, living in London, how other cultures around the globe react to homosexuality and the challenges that can be faced, particularly when growing up in a strict religious environment. Great insight into the lives of others - thanks for sharing.

Nomadic boys

Saturday 28th of April 2018

Thanks Lucy!


Saturday 9th of December 2017

Hey guys. This is so so good. More especially for me who has this obsession with Latin America and especially Chile, Peru and Bolivia...well actually every country in Latin America. And I hope to meet my wife in one of these countries soon....:-). Seriously though I dream about this... I wish it was easy to find information on lesbians as well. But, well done on the great travel tips you are sharing with the world!!

KD from South Africa.

Nomadic boys

Saturday 9th of December 2017

Thanks KD :)

Bruno lesco

Tuesday 24th of October 2017

Hello Is there some gay tour in Galapagos Ilands ? Thank you , have a good day.

Nomadic boys

Tuesday 24th of October 2017

We have one every year in October - just finished one in fact :)