May 15, 2017 at 11:28 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
The VIP treatment at Havana’s most popular gay party
Havana, Cuba, gay news, Washington Blade

The Havana skyline from the Morro Castle that overlooks the entrance to the city’s harbor. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

HAVANA — The ability of Cubans to find a way to work things out, which translates as “resolver” in Cuban Spanish, truly defies explanation. It proved particularly useful on Saturday night at Havana’s most popular gay party.

Café Cantante is a nightclub near Plaza de la Revolución that hosts Proyecto Divino, a party that features cabaret singers and other performers. It takes place every Saturday.

The line to get into Café Cantante on Saturday night is frequently blocks long with patrons waiting up to an hour to enter. The party on Saturday was expected to be particularly popular because the National Center for Sexual Education, which Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, directs, sponsored it as part of its International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia commemorations.

Washington Blade Photo Editor Michael Key and I and our group of four Cuban and American friends arrived at Café Cantante shortly after 11 p.m. There were already dozens of people in line waiting to get inside.

Samuel, my Cuban friend who I met in Havana last year, told us to wait on the sidewalk as he went to talk to his friend who works at the club about allowing us to enter without waiting in the line. Samuel returned a couple of minutes later and told us we could enter through what amounted to a VIP entrance in exchange for giving the security guard 10 CUC ($10).

Self-righteousness is a quaint concept in Cuba, especially when the average Cuban makes less than $30 a month at their government job. And with that in mind our group entered Café Cantante, paid a 10 CUC cover that was 3 CUC ($3) for our Cuban friends and were brought to a table near the stage with bottle service.

Bottle service in Cuba consists of a bottle of ron añejo (aged rum) — which costs less than 6 CUC ($6) at government-run stores — a liter of Cuba soda that roughly resembles Coke, ice and small plastic cups. It cost 60 CUC ($60) and an additional 5 CUC ($5) tip to Samuel’s friend who was able to get us into the club without waiting in the line that was growing steadily longer. It was still more than 100 people deep when Michael and I left and returned to our apartment in Vedado shortly after 2 a.m. on Sunday.

Every Cuban who was involved in this overtly capitalistic enterprise made some money. Watching it take place against the backdrop of the paradoxes upon which Cuba in 2017 is built was priceless.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • Rick Garcia

    You have captured completely the experience that I and a group of people from Chicago had at Cafe Cantante Saturday night. Our Cuban friends and their friends all made money Que Viva! We wanted for nothing becauseCuban friends had friends who could hook us up with whatever we needed.

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2017. All rights reserved.
Blade Blast

Get the latest LGBTQ news to your inbox every Thursday!