Friday, June 26, 2009

Matinee Clubbing

After a long hiatus from the post-socialist world of eastern Germany, I have decided to return to my blog and to talk about my renewed interest in countries that Ronald Reagan hated.

Last week I went to Cuba. It was a big year for the Revolution. It has been 50 years since the Romeo y Julieta cigar factory was nationalized, and the State's propaganda was eager to remind its citizens of the fact. 50 Años de la Revolución was not only painted on walls (the closest thing Cuba has to graffiti), it also had a more permanent version in steel as this picture shows.

The highlight of my trip wasn't anti-capitalist rhetoric nor pictures of Che Guevara. Instead it was going to the matinee session of a salsa club.

There are probably many ways we could link this matinee experience to socialism. Entrance was half the price of the evening show (still $12 CAD - $8 for Cubans) and the bottles of rum were at supermarket prices ($8 CAD for 700 ml) rather than marked up to $20 for the evening show. It also encourages good workers to get drunk early and then get to bed by 11:30 so as to go to work in the workers' republic the next morning.

But moving beyond the reasons some Cuban bureaucrat came up with the idea, I just want to describe how cool it is to go to a matinee salsa club.

After a pleasant morning and afternoon of tourism in Havana, we got to the disco at about 4:30. It was air conditioned and as I mentioned, the self-mixed Cuba Libres (rum and coke) cost about 60 cents per class. The idea of an afternoon salsa club (live band) is really quite brilliant. After a hard day of walking (or working if you aren't a tourist), you get to go straight to a Cuban version of happy hour. The band started at about 7 pm, we were drunk by about 6:30. Then at 9:30, we went home and were in bed at a very reasonable time.

The alternative to the matinee disco was getting to the bar early at 11 pm only to wait 30 minutes before they opened. The band doesn't start playing until 1 am, and you are in no shape to see Havana the next day.

A revolutionary idea.