The capital of Argentina, home to cowboy culture and the brutally macho tango dance, has just thrown open the doors to Latin America's glossy first five-star hotel for gays.
"Here, we don't have to give anybody any explanations. My boyfriend and I ask for a double bed, and nobody gives you a second look," David Molina, a fit 32-year-old fashion stylist from Spain, told AFP at the upscale bar of the hotel, the first international branch of Barcelona's Axel Hotel.
Advertisement"I like the hotel for a lot of reasons, but essentially because it makes a lot of things a bit easier for me. I feel more comfortable here," added Molina who works with international fashion houses and visits this sprawling city often.
His comments suggest that traditional values, machismo and discrimination are not exactly a thing of the past.
"Here I can hold my partner's hand, or give him a kiss in the bar, without inviting any uncomfortable sideways glances," Molina said.
With more than 12 million people, cosmopolitan Buenos Aires has gradually become more and more gay-friendly, with bars, restaurants, guest houses and now a five-star hotel meant for them.
Buenos Aires leapt to the forefront of Latin American capital cities when civil unions for same-sex couples were legalized in 2002.
This year, it was host of a gay football World Cup.
Experts estimate that a hefty 20 percent of tourists who visit Buenos Aires are gay. That means 300,000 gay visitors a year who spend 600 million dollars in the city, according to industry figures.
The Axel is looking to cash in on the potentially big and lucrative market niche.
"When you travel a lot, it can be cold having to live in hotels. But this is different. We gays are looking for something extra; a different way of thinking and cutting edge design. We are interested in the details," said Molina.
"We are more refined people, more polished" Molina said of gays. "We like to be surrounded with beautiful things, we appreciate design. And this place comes through on all those levels."
The hotel, in the trendy San Telmo district where there are other gay-oriented businesses, was designed by the Spanish architect Inigo Hernandez Tofe.
For Molina, the world is well aware that gays are worthwhile consumers, for their economic heft.
"We are a really attractive market because we do not have a family, a wife and kids to take care of. We are on our own, and what we earn we spend on ourselves," said Molina, adding that homosexuals may be more likely to travel more often, as they are not waiting for kids' school breaks.
He said that while in his view discrimination against gays and lesbians was decreasing, many people still react with disapproval when homosexuals show each other any public affection.
So after a day of working out, swimming, a tour and some drinks, he and an Italian friend, enclosed in a glass elevator, were off to enjoy their home away from home.
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