Escaleras al Cielo (Stairway to Heaven)

“Para subir al cielo se necesita una escalera grande y otra chiquita” (To get up to Heaven, you need a big stairway and another small one). So says a traditional ditty sung by Cuban children. And José Feliciano included it in his version of “La Bamba.” Well, let me invite you to go up these stairways. One big one going from number 600 on Zulueta Street to the first floor, the location of El Guajirito Restaurant and the El Tablao de Pancho Pizzeria. Don’t stop there. It is worth it, but some other time we’ll dine there. Now we are going to take a smaller stairway up to the next floor. At the top there is a musical universe bordering on the frenetic, Escaleras al Cielo—described as the craziest disco in Havana.

From the moment you enter, the décor blasts out its rock-disco origins, a bit on the retro side, which has played host to various musical groups in Cuba. At the door, a winged monster and inside, Madonna, Freddy Mercury, John Lennon and other rock stars who accompany you on the walls, beckoning you to have a great evening. The dark atmosphere, broken only by the smart lighting, provides cover for the sensuous dancing, the sweet kisses and the furtive conquests.

Homosexuals, heterosexuals and bisexuals share the space with a naturalness that is not too common in Cuba where Spanish machismo and Catholicism have left deep imprints only recently beginning to disappear. All sorts of couples, groups of friends, men and women in search of company go there. Every Friday night, Miriela, the singer-songwriter and leader of the Aceituna sin Hueso Band, waits for you with their songs that are as popular in Cuba as they are abroad and with different guests that make it a unique and changeable show. It is a show geared to kick start the night to follow when, after the concert, the scantily dressed Havana Toys dancers get erotically busy on tiny stages with their vertical poles.

It’s a good time to proceed to the bar to choose any one of the cocktails, wines, rums or liqueurs that are on the menu, served by lovely smiling girls. Close to the bar is a small reserved area with tables for clients who want to watch the goings-on from a slightly elevated perspective.

But don’t just watch from afar tonight. Bring along your drink, mingle…and let yourself go. Against a column, two girls are kissing. Over there by the restrooms, two gorgeous men are slow-dancing, surprisingly so. In spite of the apparent craziness, the ambience feels safe, even somewhat respectful. Live and let live—that seems to be the unspoken motto of the habitués. And the party goes on until four in the morning. Then the music stops and the lights go on. Time to go down the stairways. One small one and one big one. Kids have to grow up to find out about them. But don’t forget: next Friday, if you want to come back, they’ll be waiting for you, waiting to take you up to Heaven again.

Zulueta #660 entre Apodaca y Gloria, La Habana Vieja
Tel: (+53) 7-861-7761

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