Havana’s “Gay” Parties (Part II)
HAVANA TIMES — Parties have always been good opportunities to meet new friends and start new interpersonal relationships. Put differently, since human beings discovered that dancing and drinking together gives rise to these encounters, parties have been good places to hook up. Cubans, the eternal revelers, like nothing more than to go out partying, to eat, drink and dance to the rhythm of their favorite music.
As for me, a Cuban friend who lives abroad and came to the island on vacation, eager to go out and enjoy Havana’s night scene, made me discover new places (discos, clubs, bars and cabarets) where people – particularly the young – enjoy themselves.
These places – some private, some State, and some a bit of both – open their doors at 10 or 11 at night, close at around 3 or 6 in the morning, play music videos by renowned artists and have become spaces where young people from different backgrounds socialize, in a city that, until recently, had only a handful or no affordable options for them.
Some of these establishments operate as so-called “discotembas” (“discos for middle-agers”), where music from the 60s to the present is played. These spots, though by no means closed to heterosexuals, are also preferred by Havana’s gay community. Some examples are:
– The Divino project organized at the Basque Cultural Center, the Pico Blanco and the Café Cantante cabaret (on Saturdays), where one can reserve a table and general admission is 3 CUC.
– Saturday’s “ghost parties”, for which people are picked up in cars continue. The transport service along with a table can be reserved for 25 CUC (this includes a bottle of rum, 4 soft drinks and a serving of tapas). Or otherwise straight admission is 3 CUC.
Some popular clubs, cabarets and bars include:
– Escaleras al Cielo (“Stairway to Heaven”), particularly popular on Fridays. The establishment plays disco music and stages live performances by the Cuban band Aceituna Sin Hueso. Admission is 3 CUC for women and 5 CUC for men. Tables may be reserved. An ad for Studio 54, a famous bar in Madrid, is hung on one of the walls, I am told. This is the only disco in Havana that has metal posts on stage, it’s the only one with poles used by strippers (who don’t get naked) and a pool table in the smoking section.
– Fashion Bar Habana, on Saturdays, has 20 and 30s decor. The place is reinvented every week with new culinary and cocktail surprises, as well as different transvestite shows. Admission is 3 CUC. There are tables and a bar.
– The Humbolt bar, frequented almost exclusively by men, they say. People also say more members of the gay community frequent Le Chansonier on Sundays. A transvestite with the stage name of “Chantal” performs at the Esencia Habana bar and restaurant on Mondays. Admission at Los Violines is 2 CUC for women and 5 CUC for men.
– The Las Vegas cabaret, with a 2 CUC cover on weekends, is generally frequented by women. El Colmao charges a 1 CUC admission for everyone on weekends and the Echeverria Social Club 1 or 2 CUC. It operates several days of the week.
As you can imagine, the admission usually determines the kind of crowds that these establishments draw. Some charge women less and have become places where females predominate.
Many people in Havana don’t know of these places because there is no information or promotional materials on the city’s different night venues available. The media also make no mention of them. Is it to keep people from getting frustrated? I don’t know.
We shouldn’t deceive ourselves: only well-off kids or the middle and high classes (or those willing to blow all of their earnings) frequent the more expensive establishments.
It’s not that people’s incomes have become a whole lot better. It’s just that some people prefer to (and can) spend their money seasoning their lives with fun. The majority, however, still cannot do this.