An Entertainment Project Called “The Divine”

Luis Rondon Paz 

HAVANA TIMES — A while ago I had found out that, thanks to the activism from both within and outside CENESEX (the National Center for Sex Education) — in addition to the LGBT movement around the world generating money in some environments — a project has started that’s called “El Divino” (The Divine).

I learned that this activity supported and promoted parties for non-heterosexuals as well as heterosexuals whose mentalities were free of prejudices regarding sexual diversity.

With this, what came to my mind was the phrase “how divine,” which is to say that it’s great that there’s a public setting that’s making itself available for people of diverse sexual orientations.

Finally there’s something like this, after so much time having gone by with secret parties and persecution.

At long last it’s being recognized by “another left” that for society to be more united, socialist and emancipatory, the right to entertainment shouldn’t be only for one group of people based on their sexual orientation or genre identity (though I in particular think that the ideal situation would be where categories that discriminate against humans didn’t exist).

With this information in hand, I had no other alternative but to satisfy my curiosity and visit this famous locale known as “El Divino.” First I had to plan my budget though, because the admission price is 3 CUCs (which is equal to 75 CUP (regular pesos), or the equivalent of seven working days for me, someone who earns 395 CUP a month in take-home pay).

I should mention, though, that there are places that are much more expensive, though that fact doesn’t make this place any less costly, without forgetting to mention that a reserved seat for seeing the show costs a little more.

When I had everything ready, I showed up at about 11:00 PM. There was almost no staff at the door, but I was lucky enough to stumble onto an old friend, and he was nice enough to invite me to sit with him and his friends once we got in. They had already reserved a table and there was an extra place, so I graciously accepted (I told myself: What luck, I saved myself a good bit of cash).

During the wait to get in, people were telling jokes. There was one that was pretty funny. It had to do with a large palm leaves that fell down near our outdoor line. A young guy who was there “working” (either trying to sell his body or simply hustling) yelled at the doorman: “Hey, they don’t pay me for occupational hazards.”

After about 45 minutes of waiting we were the first to get in the door. I should explain that to get a good table you still have to go through another line. “You know, our culture doesn’t run on time,” I said to myself.

Everything was relaxed and easy-going for the first 50 minutes of entertainment. There was good music with all the partyers and non-partyers enjoying themselves, at least until the “El Divino” show began. It was performed excellently, with touches of good humor, by the actress and drag queen Estrellita, along with the singer Yeni Sotolongo along with another transvestite, Chantal.

I should point out that the audio system didn’t help Yeni out very much. For my tastes (or, better said, for my ears) it wasn’t a pleasant experience at all. The tone of her voice was way too screechy, giving me no other option than to discreetly put in some earplugs.

The performance by Chantal almost ended in disaster when her dress got caught on a nail or something when she was leaving the stage (things that happen to the best of stars).

In any case, up until then everything had transpired with everyone enjoying themselves and having fun. I took several photos with a co-worker from the Radio and Television Institute and with Estrellita.

When the show ended, the time came for everyone to be entertained by the models who danced for the public. The models were doing something new: the more money you tucked into their swim suits, the more movement they would give you with their bodies. That was the idea: You give me an incentive and I’ll work you; while no incentive means you get nothing.

In general, my visit to “El Divino” wasn’t so bad, but — from what I experienced — I won’t be going back. Let’s see, how I can describe it:

Although it’s a closed and unventilated club, lots of people were in there smoking, to the point that everyone there was breathing in smoke – even me, though I have allergies and am “smokephobic.”

I commented about this to my friends, asking, “So where were the staff who should have made sure nothing like that happened?” One of the people at our table that night had even told me: “Baby, in all night clubs, the only thing they care about is making money. They couldn’t care less about the health of the customers. Don’t let it get to you, the non-LGBT places are just the same…or worse.”

“Christ!” I responded to him, shocked. I told myself that it’s a shame that the people in charge of some clubs think and act that way. I for one will refuse to put my feet in that place or any other place that’s closed off while there are people inside polluting everybody else’s air in such an irresponsible manner. I think that we human beings have the right to breathe without there being cigarette smoke or whatever kind of smoke.

Lastly, the bathroom was horrendous. It was like one in an inter-provincial bus terminal, something that the management of the National Theater should be ashamed of – especially if we keep in mind the amount of money — in CUCs! — it costs to get into the Café Cantante club.

In short, “El Divino” is divine…for those people who smoke. But for me it was another story.