escaleras al cielo
Cuba may not be a queer destination yet but it is certainly a lot more tolerant than most other Latin American destinations. In some ways this is unexpected since Cuba is such a macho place to which political correctness has yet to arrive. And yet my impression always is that while on the outside Cubans may make jokes that would make a Republican blush they simply don’t mean it.
Scratch beneath the veneer and there is much more of a live and let live attitude. Maybe this is the solidarity and acceptance from living in close quarters with three generations and accepting that things are never quite as perfect as they appear or simply a sexual openness but despite the bravado no one ever seems to really care.
The hit movie, Fresa y Chocolate in 1994 certainly sparked a national dialogue about homosexuality but it is much more than that especially in the last couple of years where numerous clubs have opened nights for a predominantly gay clientele. Several of these places are quiet simply the most happening in Havana. Perhaps we simply know how to have more fun!
So my favourite place at present is Friday night at Ecaleras al Cielo ‘Stairway to Heaven’ nightclub. This is not easy to find first time round but then perhaps Heaven shouldn’t be too easy to get into. Just shy of the train station is about my best advice. The place itself is up 4 flights of stairs and especially given the look from outside is spectacular in its design, sound system and lighting. Images of the immortals; Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Madonna and Freddy Mercury give a funky 70’s vibe. A non-smoking policy makes the place taste that. Friday night is the most heaving, hot and hectic and 90% men.
Ecaleras al Cielo
658 Zulueta Street, between Gloria and Apodaca
Old Havana T: (537)863 3009
CUC 5 entrance for couple VERIFICAR
Other good places include at the moment include Café Cantante Mi Habana, a few meters from the iconic and combative Plaza de la Revolución, the ‘Piano Bar Habaneciendo,’ which on Mondays is the happening place and the cabaret at Las Vegas Nightclub. And don’t get me started on how much fun the beach at MiCayito is at the weekend!
Café Cantante Mi Habana
Teatro Nacional de Cuba, Avenida Paseo, esquina 39,
Plaza de la Revolución
878 4273-5 VEDADO
5-15 CUC50-100 CUP matinees Performances 5pm-midnight Mon-Fri, Sun; 4-8pm, 5pm-midnight Sat. Matinées phone for details
What Café Cantante lacks in comfort and service (especially from the doormen) it more than makes up for in the quality of the artists which play there and the busy atmosphere. Afternoon shows feature hip hop, salsa, rock, pop and traditional Afro-Cuban music. For the nighttime shows the very best big name salsa groups play until 3am. It is housed in the basement of the National Theater. I have never really been a fan of the place mostly for the lack of creature comforts, when it gets busy it gets busy. Friday night has recently become predominantly LGBT night and is more packed still. Can’t deny the great bands. The stage is very low, which is annoying if you’re up the back (cause you can’t see anything) but great if you’re down the front, as it makes you feel like you’re right in there with the band. There is always lots of audience participation