Christian Santos was invested as Gibraltar’s 19th Mayor, taking over from John Gonçalves, on the 1st June. In the Chief Minister’s address on the occasion of the investiture, he said: “As Equality flags fly from some of Gibraltar’s main flagpoles in celebration of the start of Pride Month, we celebrate our own diversity by welcoming to this Civic Office our first openly gay Mayor.”
Still only 44 years of age, Christian Santos states that he always wanted to get to a point in his life where he could be considered to be the Mayor of Gibraltar. “I just didn’t expect it to come my way so soon to be honest,” he says, going on to say that he thinks people can achieve whatever they set their minds to if they have realistic aims and objectives. “I didn’t ever want to be a famous footballer because I knew that was not in my skill set, but being the Mayor of Gibraltar is something that I thought that with time I could achieve.”
As the youngest of three brothers growing up in Gibraltar, Christian says that he was a very independent child with a lot of freedom. “My parents are part of the older generation but they are open minded and have always accepted all my life choices,” he says. “I was very academic as a boy and whilst my Dad was one hundred perfect behind me becoming a performer, my Mum did keep asking whether I wanted to go down the route of having a safe and stable career such as a lawyer or accountant, but of course she was perfectly happy when I decided on performing arts and now that I am Mayor it is her proudest moment.”
Standing on the balcony of City Hall where he was presenting Kaiane Aldorino (latterly to become Mayor in 2019) on her homecoming as Miss World, looking out on the crowds below and taking into account the diverse political and religious differences, was when Christian realised that he would love to represent the united community of Gibraltar as Mayor, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t shocked and delighted when he was asked to do so by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.
“I received a phone call telling me that I had to go to No. 6 urgently,” His Worship recalls. “I thought I had done something wrong but when the Chief Minister calls you just go, and I remember being totally overwhelmed when he asked me if I would like to be the next Mayor of Gibraltar.”
Because it was a role that Christian had always wanted to take on, he didn’t have to think twice about accepting the offer and said ‘yes’ immediately. “I should of course have consulted my husband Samuel, whom I married in June 2019, and who was the person who would be by my side on this new journey, and also my family, but they were all immensely supportive.”
With a varied career that has taking him from singing and performing around the world, including working with the prestigious Disney Entertainment conglomerate, it is evident that Christian Santos is a driven person and someone who relishes starting new projects. “I enjoyed my early career in the performing arts and then when, after a four year stint in Tokyo, I got to a point where I was working regularly I thought I needed to do something else – so I came back home and started Santos Productions, where I helped produce many of the major local entertainment performances including some of the Miss Gibraltar Pageants.” In 2008 Christian founded Santos Productions Academy and then GAMPA in 2015. “Becoming Mayor is another start-up for me, and although it is only early into my tenure, I am really enjoying it at this point in my life where I have got the energy that I can expend on it.”
As a performer, putting on the ceremonial robes must be a bit like donning a costume for a theatrical performance, but His Worship admits that it was only when he put the robes on for the first time that he understood the gravitas of the role he was taking on. “The traditional style of the mayoral garments and wearing the chain of office really does transform you and makes you realise that you are truly a representative of the people.”
Christian has it very clear in his mind that the role of Mayor is bigger than he is as a person. “Everything I do is not for myself but for the office of the Mayor and for Gibraltar and I am honoured to be able to slip in to this role that will always exist beyond me as it existed before me – add my little pinch of salt and little grain of sand to it – so I am just acting as a caretaker until I am a past Mayor.”
His Worship has a clear vision of what it is that he wants to achieve during his tenure. “All my work has been focused on how proud I am of being Gibraltarian, promoting our culture, community and our people, no matter what your social economic background, gender, sexuality, religion or faith,” he comments, continuing, “and we are all very special and despite our differences we all live together in peace in a very small space of land.” It is with this in mind that Christian has created his ‘We Are One’ campaign to celebrate the diversity of the community. “The hardest job one has in life is truly being your authentic self and you don’t necessarily need to achieve something to be celebrated – because I think achievement is very relative to who you are – so what is an achievement for me may not be an achievement for someone else,” he says.
One of the initiatives of the campaign has been the Pride of Gibraltar Awards, celebrating the unsung heroes who worked tirelessly and selflessly during the Covid Pandemic in Gibraltar, making a real difference to the community by volunteering or helping family and friends. Something else that His Worship Christian Santos wants to celebrate is social awareness of the LGBTQ+ community. “We have achieved equal rights in everything, so I now want to use my sexuality in a positive way to show people that I am living a very mainstream life and that members of the gay, transgender and LGBTQ+ community can live mainstream lives too in whatever career or job they have.”
Working with young people is what really drives Christian Santos and he is immensely proud of his many past students who have gone on to further their careers in the performing arts, whether that is in London in the West End or working elsewhere in the industry. “The one thing that also makes me extremely proud is how those students who didn’t go into the performing arts and who are now accountants or lawyers have used the transferrable skills we taught them, such as discipline, working as a team, being responsible and having high self-esteem, in other aspects of their lives,” he explains.
Asked what His Worship wants his legacy to be as Mayor, he replies that he thinks how you are remembered is decided upon by others. “I just want to be remembered for having done this in a positive way and for making people feel special and for them to look back and say ‘Christian Santos was a really good Mayor’, and whatever their experience of it will be my legacy.”
What about the future? “Right now I am just at the beginning of a two year plan and goodness knows what is going to happen or how things are going to develop. One day I was the Principal of GAMPA and that same afternoon I was the Deputy Mayor of Gibraltar – so that is how fast life goes.” Whatever else he achieves, there is no doubt that His Worship Christian Santos will spread the message of equality and diversity throughout the Gibraltar community.