Cuba’s Yellow Submarine

Daisy Valera 

Yellow Submarine bar in Havana. Photo:

A few steps from the park where every year a memorial concert marks the murder of John Lennon, and where there’s also situated a brass statue of him that’s well-known here in Havana, one can now find the “Yellow Submarine.”

It’s a bar that occupies the space where an old club lied in ruins for years.  Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s that former facility had been known mainly for promoting rock music.

I went in the Submarine with only a few pesos in my pocket at seven o’clock in the evening, because up to eight o’clock they don’t charge admission.

When they charge admission it costs 2 CUCs (a little over $2 USD); it’s a price that’s affordable for some but excessive for most – and I’m among that latter group.

I figured that Eddy and I could each have a beer with that money and spend a little time there.

The first thing I heard as I walked in was the high-tenor voice of Freddie Mercury.   He was being remembered with his songs on his birthday, which was this past September 5.

After a while, when my eyes began adapting to the darkness, I could start to make out the characteristics of the place.  I reached my conclusion quickly: it was amazingly beautiful.

I don’t know if I jumped to my conclusion due to the few chances I get to frequent expensive clubs here in the capital, but I sense that this was probable.

The bar was decorated entirely in yellow and blue – from the seats and cushions down to the bathroom door, with that latter element designed like those in the submarines I’ve seen in movies.

Along with fragments of songs by the Beatles, the walls displayed their cartooned images from the movie The Yellow Submarine.

Behind the bar, the bottles were guarded by large imitations of the covers of albums by those boys from Liverpool.

The powerful air conditioning completed the magic of the place, because cold air is otherworldly here in the tropics.

The Submarine is a place exclusively for listening to rock and roll, especially concerts of Beatles songs played by different groups.

But there’s something very special in the place, beyond the expensive design and the not too shocking prices.

What’s atypical is the kind of patrons the bar now attracts; students and university students aren’t majority this time around.

When we were there, people between the ages of 40 and 50 occupied almost all the tables, singing at the tops of their lungs and even dancing, all of them with smiles from ear to ear.

People born in the 60s feel content in the Yellow Submarine; they’re recovering the preferences that were kidnapped from them in past times by the cultural policies of “daddy state.”

I’m sure that when I’m in my fifties I’ll be able to peacefully enjoy those things that are prohibited today.  It’s just a shame that I’m not very patient.