Illustration: Mayo Bous / Magazine AM: PM.
Illustration: Mayo Bous / Magazine AM: PM.

The empires that reign in Las Vegas

6 minutos / Susana Hernández Martín

09.01.2019 / Reportages

While the stage lights up with a whitish light that bounces on the red backdrop of the background, the sound of the tables diminishes and a familiar music announces that there are only a few seconds left before the show begins.

From the shadows emerges a robust female figure, imposing in her blue dress, covered with sequins and provocatively discovered on the breasts. The long tail advances after the cadence of its passage like the waves of a sea of luminous tulle.

The black and abundant hair covers her back over the width, falls in curls on the broad hips of the artist, who let's see for a moment her firm legs of a mature woman, supported by high silver heels encrusted with stones of all colors while climbing with sensuality the stairs of the stage.

The euphoric applause of the public accompanies her during the ascent. She corresponds with pleased eyes and a superb smile. She knows that she is sovereign in her land.

She also knows that when her lips play to sing and her body is delivered to the theatrical routines of transformism, everybody will chant the songs, that after represent them in this same place for so many times, are more hers than the very Rocío Jurado: "When I knew the whole truth Madam, it was too late to back away, ma'am, I was part of his life, and he was my shadow. "

From Monday to Sunday, the site is filled with people arriving in Las Vegas, the most iconic gay cabaret in Havana, looking for a piece of this empire, which many ignore but several years ago has been the heart of the shows and the point of best-known encounter of an audience subtly excluded from other nocturnal environments of the city.  

Cuban men and foreigners of several generations, with diverse sexual orientations, trans women and occasional or habitual curious people, populate by majority the nights of La Vegas.

They arrive seduced by what announces the facade of the place, covered with posters with the faces of popular stars like Imperio, the trans icon of Cuba, and Margot, the owner of the word, but above all, for what these faces represent. Transformism has become the hallmark and unequivocal of safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer) in Havana.

Perhaps this explains the peculiar relationship that exists between the public and the artists -interpreted almost always by gay men who find in this artistic expression a way of expressing themselves-, marked by respect for the role played by the latter in these spaces, even when the subjects that they include in their repertoires are not always well known, not even current, among the younger generations.

Las Vegas, however, is possibly the place where the difference between what the public prefers and what the transformists dub is less radical, thanks to the confluence of several generations and the attendance of men over fifty.  

In fact, the musical selection of each artist varies according to different factors among which stand out their own age, the audience that follows them, the conditions of the space, the possibilities offered by the themes for their interpretation and, of course, the characterization that each one makes of the woman who projects on stage, even though it could be said that there is a style of capital transformism.

While Empire moves with elegance between the return of Dulce and the songs of Juan Gabriel, and Chantal surrenders to the poignant intensity of La Tormenta or La mala costumbre in the voice of the Spanish Pastora Soler, other artists such as Angela Nefer bring to the scene more recent icons such as the Puerto Rican Kany García with her theme Alguien or Americans like Tina Turner and Whitney Houston.

There are figures that never fail and songs that have become tremendously popular in the nights of Las Vegas: Te regalo mi vida, by the Spanish Malú, No querías lastimarme, by the Mexican Gloria Trevi and songs such as Te equivocaste and Los amigos no, by the also Mexican Yuridia, that seems to have been written to shine on the lips of the transformists of all ages and styles.

Each of these interpretations awakens different reactions in the audience, which has its own routine to thank the histrionics of the mistresses of the night: the tip, a kind of performance itself in which admirers go on stage, kiss the diva of their preference and slip some cash into the neckline of the dress, as many times as their enthusiasm -or the desire to show in front of the lights- send them. The compliments are not lacking either and in the moments of more intensity, it is common to hear from every corner of the room whistles of approval and cries of "Hard", "Queen", "Diva" and other more colorful and spicy variations that the context stimulates.   

Since the show begins, late midnight, the music in Las Vegas becomes as varied as it is unpredictable for those who do not know the routines of the place, although, after a couple of visits, it is not too difficult to guess the outline of what will happen. In the small stage through which will parade, for about an hour and a half, characters of the most diverse types.

Choreographies of urban or folkloric style, with backgrounds ranging from Beyonce to Van Van, live performers who easily move between the Latin power of Ricky Martin or the passion of Ivette Cepeda and the always dramatic performance of the transformists, combine to offer what is undoubtedly one of the best shows of its kind in the city.

When the show ends and the lights go out, sometimes between the requests of "another song!", the place is transfigured once again. A different empire is expanding in Las Vegas, which has been dormant since the beginning of the night, hidden in the glances that cross from one table to another, or in the accidental friction of the bodies that are among the crowd.

This empire is fiery, indomitable, almost animal. It will extend its domains until the deepest hours of the morning, when the DJ turns off his console, from where the most popular songs of the moment came out, repetitive and predictable, so different from the heartrending emotion that the hands and the lips of the wide woman on the blue dress and sparkling eyes will sow in the hearts of his audience when she emerged from the shadows for the first time.

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Susana Hernández Martín

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