In a country where Catholic majority views on homosexuality clash with the government's recognition of gay marriage, gay pride organizers use smaller regional venues to build momentum for a national parade in Madrid.

Thousands of people celebrated gay pride in Spain along with New York City, San Francisco, and Paris on Saturday. Demonstrations in Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao and Zaragoza celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of Gay Pride Day in Spain with novel activities such as planting flowers and raising rainbow flags.

An event in the central city of Talavera de la Reina honored gay rights by planting a pride-colored flower bed in a park. A rainbow flag, the international symbol for gay rights, was raised by the Santa Cruz City Hall on Tenerife in the Canary Islands on the strings of a Handel concert, reports the Spanish news agency Efe.

But in Spain this was just a warm-up for a national act to follow.

Spain's giant national gay pride parade is set for Saturday, July 5th in Madrid. An estimated 1.5 million people are expected for a gay pride parade winding down the streets of the country's capital city.

Like parades in the U.S., Spaniards plan to celebrate recent gay rights victories. Re-election of the progressive Socialist party in the spring – despite condemnations by the Catholic church and the Pope – ensured gay marriage rights will not be rolled back anytime soon.

A monthslong calendar of cultural events runs alongside gay pride. The Festival Visible 2008 brings together cultural events at diverse city venues. Celebrating its 4th year, Visible offers dance, music, films, and theater options that celebrate or inform on GLBT issues. Pride week highlights include a Gloria Gaynor concert and a Tom of Finland retrospective.