Just When You Think You Know Cubans

Loud, machista, brand-loco, bossy, gold medal (but loose and slippery) lovers: one – or several – of these stereotypes applies to most of the Cubans I know. Judging by the search terms used to land here (‘why are Cubans so rude’; ‘Cuban men are controlling/known for being cheaters’; ‘STD from resort staff in Cuba’), many readers can relate.

It’s true Cubans tend to be noisy, romp with aplomb, and sow their oats with gusto and few regrets. They are also big talkers – waxing eloquent on topics about which they’re clueless or avoiding silence at all costs; I know a lot of women here, for instance, who never, and I mean ever, shut their mouths, talking about whatever minor thought skips across their brains (I always send a silent shot of strength to the spouse when I meet a woman like this). Then there’s the Cuban classic, which I call ‘blah, blah, blah’: giving a long, considered response – to an entirely different question than the one asked. Actions belying words also falls into this “classic” category.

These are all generalizations of course – but that doesn’t obviate their veracity. Indeed, stereotypes exist because they apply to huge swaths of a population. And if you know Cubans, you know that these generalizations are true for many or even most. Which is why I’ve become fascinated with stereotype-defying folks here. People who break the mold anywhere have always intrigued me, but Cuba has traditionally emphasized unity over individuality, is small and (relatively) isolated, meaning there are fewer mold-breakers.

These are what I call, for lack of a better term, ‘not-very-Cuban’ Cubans. Each one was born and raised here, lives on the island still, went to all the same schools, political rallies and lame concerts (Air Supply, ahem) as the rest, but exhibit few typically Cuban traits. Sure, they’re missing teeth, can be unreliable, and are prone to slack; in the end, they’re a product of their context and yet…not.

I’ve met a couple of their kind over the years, but recently I’ve come to know several fairly well – they intrigue and puzzle me in equal measure. For instance, not one of them has been off-island and each works for the state (as well as ‘por la izquierda’ because that’s how survival rolls here). Age might be a factor – the folks I write about are between 25 and 40 – but I’ll have to think more on that since I don’t have the analytical energy just now. By chance (or not), each person described below is also male, but again, my analytical reserves fail me.

What I’m coming to realize as I write this is that place – la siempre fidelíssima Isla de Cuba – has much to do with their character (each is proud to be Cuban), but little to do with their mold breaking: these people would be, and will be, who they are, no matter where they are.

The Musician: I’m not sure I’ve met a Cuban as callado as this guy in the nearly dozen years I’ve lived here. He’s so quiet he makes me nervous. Have I insulted him? Is he bored? Does he simply have nothing to say? This last I discount not only because he has that ‘still waters run deep’ thing going on, but also because when he’s on stage playing his cutting-edge compositions, he speaks volumes.

When I asked a mutual friend: ‘what gives with Daniel? I’ve known my share of strong, silent types, but he kind of takes it to the extreme, doesn’t he?’ She laughed. ‘Yeah, I’ve known him my whole life and I’d swear he was born in Europe instead of La Ceiba.’ Quiet, measured, urbane, and bling-free: he actually reminds me of some New Yorkers I know, this ‘not very Cuban’ Cuban.

The Born Again: One of Cuba’s new frontiers is being mapped out by pews and altars, chapels and collection plates (big, deep ones). As an agnostic skeptical of all organized religion and someone who has seen both the good and bad wrought by evangelical churches throughout Latin America, I have to say all the conversion going on around here has me concerned. The phenomenon is replicating itself from Sandino to Baracoa, with record numbers of converts packing pews most nights and some days too, as they attend bible study, Sunday school and other church-y activities (see note 1). The people I know in Havana who have been sucked in belong to these churches are usually either not too bright or dealing with some social issue – alcoholism or delinquency, for instance.

But not my ‘not very Cuban’ Cuban friend, who breaks even this mold: he’s smart, has a good job, a wife, his own transport, a nice place to live and two happy, well-adjusted children. Furthermore, he was always more of a rebel than a joiner, rejecting the mob mentality. Flash forward to any recent Sunday, however and he’s wholly subsumed by one of these churches – to the tune of several times a week for 8 hours at a clip. And the proselytizing has begun, with non-responders feeling the freeze-out.

The Gamer: Hyper observant and curious, this ‘not very Cuban’ Cuban takes people to task for littering and ‘envidia’ (see note 2), has lovely manners, smells naturally great in the heart of summer (see note 3), and pardons himself when he (infrequently) interrupts. He’s also vehemently anti-gossip and comfortable being alone – criteria enough to make him a peculiar Cuban. Surely this aversion to the maddening crowd is the gamer in him – he admits to shutting himself in for 8 hours or more when he’s mastering a new game – but I thought everyone here was hard-wired for social gad flying. To an extent, anyway. This guy, however, would hole up on a mountaintop with just the bare necessities given the chance, which sounds extreme even to me, a solitary mountain girl at heart.

In another inversion of a Cuban stereotype, he’s not afraid to ask questions, learn about what he doesn’t know, and pursue new experiences – including hard work. He’s got a hunger for knowledge and the confidence to seek it out I don’t see that often in Cuba’s 20-somethings. It’s refreshing and hopeful, especially because it comes from the next generation, too much of which has lost hope here.

Notes

1. Let me emphasize that I’m referring to anti-scientific, charismatic churches (what’s sometimes referred to as neo-charismatic or neo-Pentecostal), not the traditional kind where you go on Sunday to pray and catch up with the congregation. The kind that freak me out are the ones where the pastor fairly preys on his flock, encouraging adoration of him and distance from non-believing friends and family.

2. This is a very negative, very Cuban concept which literally translates as ‘envy’ but runs much deeper, to the roots of want, need, greed, and paranoia.

3. I’m currently preparing a post on Cubans and their cologne/perfume habits; gas mask anyone?

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58 Comments

Filed under Americans in cuba, Cuban customs, Cuban idiosyncracies, Expat life, Travel to Cuba

58 responses to “Just When You Think You Know Cubans

  1. Ole

    A spot on effort, Conner.

    Ole

  2. maudiaz

    I look forward to your post on Cuban (women) and their preference for any male cologne over anything “girly”.

  3. Luna

    I’m sorry Conner,

    I hate to say it, but I believe there are reasons this last post has not recieved many comments. It was offensive. It was almost as offensive as when you dedicated a whole post to making fun of how awful Cubans dress.

    When you start a post discussing the value and truth of most stereotypes you know you are in trouble. Intelligent people do not indulge in stereotypes. You are better than that.

    And the post had elements of sexism too. I’m sorry to hear that you find that so many Cuban women just don’t know when to shut up and talk so much nonesense and that you are so sympathetic to their poor Cuban husbands that have to put up with them. I’m also sorry to hear your disappointment over not finding as many “Not very Cuban” Cuban women, as “Not very Cuban” Cuban men” – apparently from your post, your favorite type of Cuban is a “not very Cuban” Cuban.

    I’m surprised you have lived so many years in Cuba since you don’t seem to like Cubans very much- at least from this last post. It appears that you are more attracted to their style of goverment then the actual people.

    It appears from footnote 3 that in your next post you will be making fun of Cubans and their use of colgne/perfume. I can’t say I’m looking forward to reading it.

    I have enjoyed reading many of your posts, but this one was off.

    • Hola Luna

      You’ll see that there have been several comments to this post (and only yours opined offense), so I’ll move right to the other points you make.

      Stereotypes are a fact of life no matter where you are, I’m just writing about that fact. Is that me indulging in these stereotypes? I don’t think so. Also, I point out that there’s truth to stereotypes, I never said anything about their value – an important distinction.

      So, fact: there are some non stop talkers here and they tend to be women. Also, you say there are elements of sexism in the post, so I’ll level the same at you saying your comment contains elements of homophobia: I said I send strength to the “spouse” – that could be a woman and I purposely phrased it that way bc I know a couple of jabbering lesbians. You automatically assumed a husband.

      Doesn’t appear I like Cubans much? Four years of posts about my admiration, respect and empathy with Cubans and I write about some bad fashion choices and attraction to knock out scents and you’re taking me to task? No jodas!

      (And make no mistake: I do not confuse politics with people.)

      I hope you keep reading, despite your disappointment with this post – the next may be more to your liking, depending on if I write about Life According to Carmita (my 86 year old friend) or Eros vs Dionysus: No Contest in Cuba.

      • Luna

        Hey Conner,

        That you didn’t delete my comment says a lot about you.

        Keep writing!

        Your observations about Cuba and Cubans always make me think- even if I may not always agree.

      • Can I just say how much I appreciate you guys – my “readership”? I may not have the biggest or bawdiest blog out there, I can’t get the resources together to have it translated into Spanish, and I haven’t changed the header picture in months because it’s just way too frustrating on dial up, but the dialogue here, the conversation – it’s informed, informative, curious, and respectful, while representing a diversity of opinions. There just aren’t that many Cuba blogs out there that can say that.

        I salute you my cyber readers!

    • Jacobo

      Luna,

      There is difference between servile stereotypes and caricature. I think here we are working with the latter. All cultures have their “idiosincrasias” and if we eliminated intelligent people from describing them, we would do away with most literature from Don Quixote to Tres Triste Tigres.

      “A caricature is putting the face of a joke on the body of a truth.”
      (Joseph Conrad)

  4. Anya

    Hi Conner,
    I stumbled upon your blog by accident, and read all four years of posts in a matter of days. Very captivating and intriguing. Some of the aspects of Cuban life that you write about remind me a great deal of a life in Soviet Union (came to US 13 yrs ago). Could you please confirm your PO Box address? I would love to send you a letter, a card or maybe some recipes. Thank you

    • Hey Anya

      Thanks, glad to have you aboard!

      Yup, my po box remains the same. Bring on the recipes (but keep in mind our ingredient scarcity/unreliabity).

      Cheers

  5. I just stumbled across your blog. So far, so good. I used to live in Cuba for nearly three years until a few years ago. I married a Cuban woman and now we have two half-Cuban/half-American kiddies. Anyway, another frequently occurring trait shared by a ‘large swath’ of Cubans is their incapacity to accept blame for anything that goes wrong. From the sublime to the significant, if anything goes wrong, you can forget about a Cuban saying “Fue mi culpa”. Instead, they are masters at projecting the blame on someone else. Everything from who put the empty milk carton back in the ‘fridge to the embargo, it is always someone else’s fault. My wife has reluctantly acknowledged this may be more than just my personal anecdotal experience and instead be based in the fact that for three generations now, Cubans have learned that it is safer to blame someone else since the consequences can be severe. Anyway, anyone else agree/disagree?

    • Funny, this precise point came up in our workplace today. A young (25) Cuban, said he’s sick of people laying off blame. You screw up and there’s no excuse: you screwed up, was his opinion.

      I think this is changing, especially with so many people working in the private sector. You can’t be late for work and blame it on the bus, have a couple of pounds of meat go missing and blame it on the camionero, or blame something on an absent gerente.

  6. Jacobo

    My favorite is when a Cubana “corrected” me for calling them out for interrupting my conversation because they were speaking to another person in our group of four. In other words, it is not impolite to speak when some one else is speaking as long as it is not directed to the person speaking. Got that?

    Another thing I have noticed about university age students who are very bright but do not read at all. Only what is absolutely necessary to make the grades. Also, this thing about being alone. I thought the Mexicans were the world champions but Cuba is a close second. It is as if you are dead if you are alone. And, here we are talking ten minutes, not years on a mountain top.

    For a country that literally has no brands, the brand thing is also a major psycho issue. Madison Ave. would go broke in Cuba because there is no need to advertize. Just put the brand out there and its gone.

    Oh yes, and the searing, laser analytical mind that gets straight to the heart of the question asked. Are you kidding me? I have to ask a question at least three times to get an answer. And, forget about directions. Cubans have no sense of spacial relationships it terms of distance or location. Must be because of the map shortage. This is a concept that must be taught. It is not innate.

    All that aside, I love Cubans and live with three of them. Their other positive attributes far outweigh their shortcomings. I have lived all over the world and the weirdest place I ever set foot was London. Afters years, I still never had the faintest idea of what the hell people were feeling inside. Among Cubans, its like a billboard.

    • I know a lot of young people who read, thankfully, but I also seek them out. I even know one cat who has left the last 20 pages of 100 Years of Solitude unread because he didn’t want it to end!

      I love how Cubans give directions. I want to make a short documentary, just carry a camera into the backroads of Mayabeque and ask whatever people I come along how to get somewhere. It would be hilarious and show the great attributes (willing to help, kindness to strangers, openess and ultimately that it’s the journey that counts, not the destination – unless it’s ‘a fuera’, hahaha) that I also love about Cubans; those positive attributes as you say.

      Me? I’ll take Lawton over London any day…

  7. Caney

    God bless political incorrectness! Great post, Conner.

  8. Caney

    A-men! (BTW, I offer for translation… )

    • Yesterday was a banner day for several reasons, but 2 stand out: first, a socio of mine from Habana Bici Polo gave me two steel pegs to attach to the back part of the frame so I can “montar gente” (don’t know what these are called in yuma bici speak but they’re pegs that a passenger can stand on) and second, a translation offer from someone who knows the talk, walks the walk.

      [As an aside, I’ve been on an enormous learning curve these past two weeks here in Havana – details coming soon! – and have collected material for a handful of posts, including a follow up to Lost in Cuban Translation.]

      Gracias a todos!

  9. LuisC

    I really like your observations because I don’t live in Cuba, and where I live there are very few Cubans, so few I never run into any, except those I’ve known for years, including family members. But Cuban-Americans or those who’ve lived most of their life outside Cuba are another world, not necessarily better though. Looking forward to reading your post on cologne/perfume etc. I know my mother is one who likes to exaggerate the amount she sprays on. “Oh, smells so good..” she says as justification. And she’s old, 88.

    • Gotta love abue enjoying the smell of something good! Ive recently had to show a 12 year old friend of mine how to judiciously apply perfume, so I think we can conclude it’s not an age thing!

  10. Laraine O'Neill

    I’ve been reading you for several years and have always been taken by your obvious love for Cuba and Cubans. People need to lighten up here. A little quality irreverence is coming down. Thats’s all. Very a lo cubano, actually. That’s why we love you. You’re the best, Conner.

  11. cubanito407

    HI,
    I recently asked a Cuban tour guide I met, “What religion, if any. do Cubans believe in?”
    She responded that probably about half don’t believe on anything, 30% may be Santeros, then Catholics and the rest.
    What would you say if I asked you the same question???

    • Im not sure – it’s all speculation really. I think this is changing fast (Afro Cuban religions are ALL the rage right now for instance and with these new mega churches, it’s hard to gauge). Maybe a better question would be how many Cubans have faith (in something), rather than religion per se?

  12. I hear you on the born-agains, Conner. I’ve had a few Cuban friends take it up big time and that’s now pretty well all they and their families do. One said that attending church was the only thing that soothed his constant anxiety. He gets some work and a window on the rest of the world through his church connections so there are practical benefits. Do you ever visit Santiago de Cuba? I really prefer that part of the country.

    • Yup, you’re spot on: many practical benefits but at some cost, in my opinion. I have to admit Im not a huge Santiago fan, though I was in III Frente a couple of years ago and really loved it. The city itself? not so much. Thanks for writing in

  13. Pedro

    Male and Cuban myself I agree with most stereotypes. Now, I am curious about the level of education from the population sample. I am from Cayo Hueso, a marginal neighborhood in Habana, the stereotype does fit my neighborhood very well, but when it comes to my Familia en las Villas y en Oriente, the stereotype is not longer a good fit. They talk slowly, few words, they mean what they say and are quick to pull the machete if they feel offended enough. They meet all the criteria of the population sample with one exception (geographical area)
    Hey, I think there is a different angle to some of the Cuban stereotypes. Cubans are always looking over their shoulder (la dictadura) is responsible for some of the paranoia, prone to slack, well, the youth loves the leisure and many are alcoholics and criminals, but man, there is not much to do in the island. I remember waking the streets of Habana (endlessly) this is a new social phenomenon, (Zombie youth)

    • Hola and thanks for writing in. I know Cayo Hueso well (and La Timba, El Fanguito, etc). There are few parts of Havana with which Im not familiar, but the provinces? That’s a different story. I always emphasize in my writing that what Im writing about is Havana-specific: like many people here, I don’t get out of the city often for lack of funds, transport, time, etc. Your perspective about life in the provinces is very welcome!

      But Havana I know pretty well, after being here for 12 years and can’t agree that many of today’s youth are “alcoholics and criminals”. Ive been working closely with young cubans on a new project (Cuba Libro – check it out!), have several friends in the 13-25 age range in our bike polo club, and have recently gotten into the electronica scene am seeing more energy and hope in young Cubans than I have in a long time (perhaps ever). This has a lot to do with the new economic opportunities here – no matter how small, no matter how limited, new small businesses are providing a chance to work and earn as never before and young people are all up on it.

      I think boredom drives more of the phenomenon you’re talking about than paranoia or love of leisure.

      • Pedro

        First time visitor to your blog. I like your writing style, which I can describe as interesting, intriguing and bold. Reading your posts I can feel your curiosity and ability to blend inside the culture. When it comes to the whole island, it is well documented that unemployment is high, specially among the youth. I guess you are trying to tell me that things are changing in Castro land. Ojala!
        I enjoy reading your blog!

  14. Caney

    All the best in your new enterprise Cuba Libro!! (pictures, please!)

    • Thanks Caney

      We’re working on photos – the opening party was so packed, with so many fun, vibrant people and things, that we completely forgot to take photos. Talk about learning as you go! Luckily, there were several professional photogs there (and a videographer, although the slow connection won’t let us upload video) so we should have some images soon.

      Please let your people know when they head over here that Cuba Libro is always looking for donations of (good, well-written) books. Cheers.

  15. Cubanita

    haha Cubans are lazy and don’t get anything done? Then why are Cuban Americans some of the most successful when they reach the US? We have higher rates of attaining Bachelor’s degrees than non Hispanic Whites, we make more money than non Hispanic whites, and we are more successful than most, if not all other, immigrant groups in the US. We kind of have our shit together.

    http://www.cabaonline.com/page/us-census-bureau-facts-about-cuban-americans

    Oh, and keep your racist white lady opinions to yourself. If you don’t like it, get the fuck out of Cuba and stop leeching off the government there. Move to Europe where there are more white people to your liking. I heard Scandinavians are quiet.

    • Everyone gets that Cubanita’s nerve is hit, right?

      To your argument, Cubanita: it’s not the mean-spirited/slanderous nature that discredits it (though hardly helpful) as much as the fact that your argument is baseless – you’re talking about Cuban Americans and I’m talking about Cubans on the island. While they obviously share some traits and idiosyncrasies (eg the loud, sexy part mentioned in the post), they’re different cohorts and different cohorts behave differently.

      Drilling down farther, you specifically refer to the work ethic, striving to achieve, and earn trait of Cuban Americans, but that’s a trait shared by almost all immigrants, everywhere, no? It’s true, Cuban Americans are the most successful latino immigrant group by far, but it’s for many different reasons – it can’t just be boiled down to immigrant pluck or cultural/Cuban idiosyncrasies.

      Some things, however, can be pegged to idiosyncrasy and, like the loud, sexy ones already mentioned, I’d add the tendency for fiery, unequivocal reactions like yours, mi amiga.

    • izvee

      I totally agree, Cubanita. I’ve researched those stats myself and I feel pretty much the same way you do. Cubans are definitely not lazy by nature, somos bien echao pa lante y trabajadores, always looking for opportunities to get ahead in life. The Cubans in Cuba are lazy because the system crushed their dreams of success, of owning businesses and property, of being entrepreneurs, of actually making decent amounts of money to live and afford things, of striving to improve their lives, etc.

  16. Pingback: Havana Mantras | Here is Havana

  17. izvee

    For someone who’s well traveled and who’s lived in Cuba a good amount of years you really seem to criticize us for habits and tendencies that people all over the world have. En Cuba, como en todas partes, hay gente de todos tipos. My father is from Camaguey and he and his family are not as loud as my Mother and her family who are from Habana.

    From what I’ve read of your blog so far, I keep encountering an undertone to your writing that I can’t quite put my finger on yet but it irks me. Your comments that we are know it alls, that we’re arrogant, lazy, that we’re all loud and according to you can basically *never* quiet, the men are machistas, etc etc sound to me the way I hear other Hispanics speak of us, such as the Puerto Ricans who are usually throwing pullas at us left and right and always trying to compete with us for everything. You seem to be annoyed or frustrated with Cubans in general and the fact that you cannot be fully accepted as a Cuban and that you yourself are a tremendous know it all. Like I said, I’m not exactly sure what it is about how you say these things that’s very off putting to me.

    • Sorry you find me off putting. Im not everyone’s cup of tea; Cuba isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but Ive never purported to know what it all means. Rather, this blog serves as a support for my mental health (not always successfully!) and the only thing I would point out is that if you read the blog as a body of work and not just dip into the posts where Ive got my cathartic thing going on (something many people on the island share), you’ll see that I a) admire and adore Cubans and Cuban Culture (C en mayuscula con proposito) and b) I always point out when Im writng about stereotypes/generalizations and take pains to underscore the fact that this doesn’t apply to ALL cubans (ie your father) and that I write about habaneros. I have no idea what goes on in the provinces.

      I appreciate you reading and commentin in such a measured. thoughtful way.

  18. Manuel

    Conner, your blog is just great. As I presume you speak Spanish fluently, you will enjoy this description of our idiosyncrasy:
    Preguntósele una vez al profeta: – ¿Maestro, qué cree Ud. de los cubanos?.
    Recogió el Patriarca en un puño su inmaculada túnica, frunció el ceño y con voz trémula dijo:
    -Los cubanos están entre vosotros pero no os pertenecen, pues no son de vosotros. Los cubanos beben en una misma copa la alegría y la amargura. Hacen música de su llanto y ríen de su música; toman en serio los chistes y hacen de todo lo serio un chiste; creen en Dios, en Changó, en la Ouija, en la Charada y en el Horóscopo al mismo tiempo. Creen en todo y no creen en nada.
    -¡No oséis discutir con ellos jamás! Los cubanos nacen con la sabiduría propia y no necesitan leer, todo lo saben. No necesitan viajar, todo lo han visto. Los cubanos son el Pueblo Elegido… por ellos mismos. Se caracterizan individualmente por su simpatía e inteligencia, y en grupos por su escandalera y apasionamiento. Cada uno de ellos lleva en si, la chispa del genio… y ya se sabe que los genios no se llevan bien entre sí; de ahí que reunir a los cubanos es muy fácil, pero unirlos es imposible.
    Jamás habléis de lógica con los cubanos, pues ésta implica razonamiento y mesura, y ellos, son hiperbólicos y desmesurados. Si os invitan a comer, no es “al mejor restaurante del pueblo”, sino “al mejor restaurante del mundo”. Cuando discuten, jamás dicen: “No estoy de acuerdo con Ud.”, sino “Está Ud. completamente equivocado”.
    Poseen marcadas tendencias antropofágicas, pues decir: “Se la comió”, es signo de admiración. “Comerse un cable o comer soga”, es señal de situación crítica y llamar a cualquier persona “Comemierda”, es su más usual y lacerante insulto. Los cubanos son tan amantes de las contradicciones que llaman “monstruos” a las mujeres hermosas y “bárbaros” a los eruditos.
    Son capaces de ofrecer soluciones antes de conocer los problemas, por eso acuñan la frase de: “No hay problema (aunque se estén muriendo de hambre). Cuando visité su Isla me admiró el hecho de que cualquier cubano sabía cómo encauzar económicamente América Latina, como eliminar el hambre de los pueblos africanos, como liquidar el comunismo y como enseñar a los rusos y a los americanos a ser potencia mundial. Cuando quise predicar mis ideas, comenzaron por indicarme, pletóricos de bondad, como debía comportarme para ser un buen predicador y de qué forma debía expresar mis ideas para hacerme más asequible…
    Después se quejan, se asombran, se molestan y se insultan porque nadie (excepto ellos mismos) comprenden cuan simples y evidentes son sus fórmulas… así viven en cualquier parte del planeta, sin acertar a entender por qué la gente no habla ni entiende su puñetero español.

  19. De que mierda hablas?

    Oye mira vieja comemierda, comunista, pordiosera, hablas mucha requete mucha mierda y no sabes ni donde estas parada. Tu blog esta lleno de comentarios negativos de los Cubanos y si asi piensas de nosotro que cojones haces viviendo en Cuba? Tu sabes lo que pensamos de los gringos que se mudan pa cuba? Que son unos muertos de hambre y que son tremendos estupidos o son unos tremendos hijos de puta comunistas. Vete pa tu singao nueva york y empieza otro blog de la mierda que son muchos Americanos. Hay muchosimos que son trescientos mil millones de veces mas cochinos, puercos, sucios, sin educacion ninguna, gritones, imbeciles y de contra se casan con sus primos. Si no te han caido a patadas todavia es por que no saben toda la mierda que escribes. Vete a cagar a otro lao, y no estes hablando mierda de los Cubanos que con todo el trabajo que pasamos pa sobrevivir no necesitamos una estupida gringa hablando mierda de nuestra cultura. De verdad que no entiendes ni cojones de nuestra cultura. Y pa dejartelo claro, nunca te van aceptar como Cubana ni na de eso, no te hagas ilusiones, y menos con toda la mierda que hablas de nostoros. Como te dije, vete pa nueva york que ahi te esperan los gringos maravillosos y tu cultura maravillosa que de esa si no hablas mal.

  20. Brenda

    Hi there:) Just come across your blog and wanted to say that I really enjoy your writing. I have been to Cuba once and loved it (Jibacoa along with a tour of Havana). Unfortunately, I cannot talk my boyfriend into going back again; it was the food that put him off:( Anyway, my favourite part of the trip, besides the people, was the pure joy of playing, swimming and snorkeling in your beautiful pure and warm water!! Am still hoping to come back one day. Would love to visit your CubaLibro;) Take care and please keep writing when you can – very enjoyable reading:) Hasta Luego, Brenda M.

  21. Sher

    This post made me smile and giggle over and over while reading it. My fiance is cubano from miami. His parents came to the US in the late 70’s. And though he was born in miami, the traits you describe are definitely there. Loud, brash, passionate, possessive, jealous, quick/hot temper, blame shifting, all of it really lol.

    We are an odd pairing he and I. I’m celtic ethnicity (irish mothers side, scottish fathers side). He gets a kick out of poking fun at my ethnic quirks as much as I do his. Cuban/celtic is not what I would call a tame combination.

    For the people that have read or will read this post and find it “offensive”, lighten up and realize that what makes a lot of cubans quirky is also what makes them endearing. With that quick temper comes fierce love. The loud, brash speech is typically intelligent. The possessive jealousy walks hand in hand with a protective nature and loyalty to loved ones.

    I wouldn’t change a thing.

  22. Pepe

    Coni, I am an American of puerto rican descent. I have been married to a Cubana for 15 years, here in the US. . I have been to Cuba at least 10 times and have had a wide range of experiences with la otra ala del mismo pajaro. My first impression of Havana in 1998 was absolute love at first sight. As a student of history (good and bad), I was thrilled with her stories and the sinister secrets Havana has witnessed. The Habanero was recovering from the Special Period and the daily struggle was for food and security for their children. The hustle and el invento was in full force in monumental proportions from the jineteras to the bureaucrats. Oriente was even worse. Which brings me to my point.

    Once I got to the provinces, the suffering was great but the attitude was different. There was a “We’re all in this together ” environment that I noticed Havana didnt have. Although I am accustomed to living comfortably in a big city, the lure of Havana waned as I lived and visited with the people of Oriente. Many of the idiosyncrasies you so perfectly describe of the Cuban, maybe more accurate in describing the Habanero.

    Yes Coni, there are some things that don’t change regardless of geography and never will. The machismo , the burning desire to be right all the time, the “sociolismo” and chismes, the envidia and above all things, the contradictions you so accurately write of.

    But in order to accurately capture the idiosyncrasies of the “Cuban” i humbly suggest you leave Havana and spend meaningful time in the province and I mean “el campo”. Where you ask “What can I bring you when I return?” and they say ” eh? Nada compay. Nadamas regresa pronto” I would challenge you to ask that of an Habanero. You can dedicate an entire blog entry on the shopping list they ask for. And it won’t be for food. I can’t trust a guajiro to show up on time, to leave at decent hour or hold his liquor. Their words are few but the ones they say they mean them. They’ll give you what they dont have and expect nothing in return. The women are strong physically and mentally and are not easily shaken like the finicky habanera. Their children are not bratty and spoiled rotten like in the city and you will have 4 generations of family members loudly to take up your cause whatever, and I mean whatever it may be.

    I, like perhaps you, have scratched my head over and over during my extended stays in Cuba. The bribing of doctors to tend to a sick child or elder in a timely manner when they are sending doctors pa’l casa del carajo or the closing of a government office to fumigate, when the whole time you are standing there in line waiting and no one shows up to fumigate.

    But I understand the allure of living there. I feel I have a home and family there, unconditonally. But as magical as Havana may seem, I wouldn’t give trade you one Oriente for ten Havanas. And even then……..just to visit.

    I enjoy your blog, disregard the naysayers in and out of Cuba and try not to drink the water.

    • Gracias mil for your comment, Carl. It comes at a time when people are cyber attacking me, slandering me and telling me, essentially “yanqui go home.” (some people are simply so unhappy its sad). And I agree with you completely: the campo is a different world from the city and is something I learned to appreciate traveling all around doing the Lonely Planet guide, later camping from Guanahacabibes to Baracoa, and still later reporting from III Frente.

      IVe always admired “guajiros/as” – on the whole they are a tough, strong and resourceful lot; can put food on their own table; know their way around animals, the land, the weather; are honest and hardworking; and enjoy the simple joys of life.

      I must never tire of pointing out 3 aspects of my blog writing (too many seem to miss this point, not you, sir, but for others who may be reading this): First, What I write about pertains only to Havana, I do not get to the provinces often enough these days, when things are changing faster than ever, to be able to write insightfully about things outside the
      ‘capital de todos los cubanos’; Second, I write from direct personal experience and observation only (have to do everything possible to cut through the chisme and rumor mill here); and Last, what I write is generally applicable to the majority, or large swaths of the population – not every last Cuban.

      Cheers. thanks for writing in and the naysayers and haters? ABAJO, comemierdas!

      • esin

        I love reading your post Pepe:) Conergo, you got your observations ,ok but respect to the people of this lovely country should be first and priority on top of it all.Am not Cuban ,not American but I think I have an established understanding of well educated ,travelling Americans(!) and a wide liking and understanding of Cubans,therefore speaking of political correctness , I very well know is never a issue for Cubans but Americans dwell on it blindly and it is absurd.So don’t be politically correct please but respect a nation even when generalizing it .We must consider all conditions well always !
        We live in such a time that we all think we’re entitled to say so much ,negative or positive regardless of really weighing how much good or bad is coming out of it.To conclude,I like your blog but it pains me that the first thing that welcomed me here is this ‘entrada’.all the best to yo
        u and all.

  23. Pingback: Havana Changes for the Good | Here is Havana

  24. Betto Fernand

    Hi. I don’t live there since 2007 and actually -as a musician and a professor- I traveled abroad a lot during the 42 years that I lived in the island, spent 95-96 working in a University in Wolverhampton, England and for some years I’ve been living in Canada. Many people look at me kind of weird when I say that I’m ashamed, embarrassed, hate to say I was born in “Animal Farm”, but just please try not to be offensive, or sound like a despotic tyrant who censors as if having the absolute truth breathing through your senses… And on the other hand keep in mind Cubans are not all the same, especially if you always looked around and realized you definitely did not fit in the social culture and idiosyncrasy… and you thank God and your family for having given you a different education and being good role models. My family was very very poor but they were rich inside and I happen to know a good bunch of us in my generation that have absolutely nothing to do with the Cuban’s you describe. All that being said though, your description is 99.9% accurate, don’t take me wrong but there are two sides in every coin, and one of them doesn’t coincide. I personally don’t feel offended but work with the exceptions as well, meet people from all walks of life, different educational levels, meet a man with a career, hopes and dreams, soundly ambitious, with mountains of dignity and still humble, honest and modest. Good luck and hope you understand me correctly. Suerte!!!

    • 99.9% accurate according to this Cuban reader. Maybe I should suavizar my disclaimer about my generalizations?! (Read: what I write about, as Ive pointed out continually over the years, does NOT apply to every last Cuban on the island. But it does capture certain stereotypical idiosyncracies).

  25. LOL!!!

    OMG you’re totally, utterly, and completely bat-shit crazy!!! LOL.

    That would be your category/type/label. xD WOW.

    I don’t know how you haven’t been kicked out of Cuba yet. LOL. Oh, must be because you love that communist pinga. xD LMAO.

    Lol, do you really think anyone cares what you think about Cubans? Do you really think you know what you’re talking about?

    Your blog is like the rantings of a mad woman who’s been driven crazy by an entire culture. Pathetic, LOL. It’s like catching a glimpse in the mind of a delusional lunatic with an inflated ego. LMAO! Holy crap. LOL!

    The worst part is you think you’re some kind of authority on Cubans. That notion itself is crazy enough. LOL. Like, really? LOL! Me muero de la risa!

    Ay mi madre, necesitaba reirme and I found the perfect shit to laugh at!!! xD

    • “Do I really think anyone cares what I think about Cubans?”

      Nope, but ironically, by writing in to a stranger’s blog, you’ve proven that some people do care.

      • Trajano

        Well said Conni! I was thinking exactly that… By the way, after the second “LOL” the “unstable” flag went up.

        I’m Brazilian and immigrated to Canada 25 years ago. I’m completely understand your statements abound generalizations and cultural traits.

        Every culture has them – I LOVE Canada! But for an example (in general) here it will take a few years before a co-worker invites you for dinner at this house, while in Brazil it will happen multiple times in the first week at work.

        But in Brazil there are also some nasty traits that are pervasive and accepted as normal. For another example, at school you could never leave a nice pen or calculator sitting at your desk – There was a very good chance that it would disappear. This would be in a group that you grew up with, all great guys…

        It’s funny how so many people are very ready to receive all the positive generalizations without blinking, but freak out when a few negative ones are pointed out.

        I understand that you are simply talking about such cultural traits and as you said MULTIPLE times, generalizations… it does not apply to every one, or maybe not even to the majority, but enough to stand out as a cultural trait.

        The other thing is that cultural traits are learned behaviours and can be changed – There was a very interesting campaign done in Southern Brazil to keep the streets clean. It was directed to children and literally changed the “culture”. Curitiba is nowadays one of the cleanest cities in Brazil thanks to a consistent government campaign that ran during my childhood.

        On another note, labelling, stereotyping and generalizations are inherent parts of human intelligence. We could not have survived as a species if we went to sniff the big animal with the pointy teeth back in the cave days…

        The same applies nowadays – When you get into a potentially dangerous situation “red flags” will go up. Like a very creepy taxi driver in the middle of the night, or walking by a group of rough looking teenagers in a derelict neighbourhood.

        The difference is that we have the awareness to understand ourselves and were these stereotypes come from, so we can deal fairly with the individuals.

        Lastly, I love your blog and understand that it’s just reflections of your personal experiences.

        Self awareness is a rare gift.

        Thanks for sharing!!!

      • Hola. Thanks for the insightful comment – much food for thought. And gracias de nuevo for being a careful reader (ie: these are generalizations people, and generalizations/stereotypes CAN be useful for untangling the human condition). I have a post coming out in the next few days (yes!! yes!!) designed especially for readers like you. Enjoy cold Canada. jajajaja!

  26. Clara

    The Musician type. You just perfectly descibed one that I know well in Cuba haha. When you talk to him, he always speaks very little and sometimes you don’t even notice him but when he plays his music on stage, he speaks volumes. Nice blog.

  27. Hi Conner.

    @
    A bit of introducing myself, I AM Cuban, actually living in Cuba with no plans to move. Maybe according to your posts a “not-very-cuban” cuban. First of all, i’ll tell you that i’ve enjoyed very much your posts, after discovering them, i’ve tried to read them all or most of them. You know, internet issues…. Why a “not-very-cuban” cuban, because i don’t like loud music, i talk slow-ish,unless i had a couple of drinks, and do my best on not to argue on foolish matters. Your posts in general do reflect our ways and i say this with all the certainty that loving something is not being blind to its flaws. I’ve read some so-called cubans getting upset because of your critics and telling you that if you “hate all that so much, why don’t you leave?” well, same for them, if they loved Cuba so much why do they left??? I consider that having somebody else to point our issues is, although annoying sometimes, is the most normal thing in the world, why else do we humans buy mirrors or have friends…. The big mistake is on not doing anything about it.
    I would like to quote so many of your posts and some other people replies but is not possible, however, i can say for sure after working five years in a tourist area and having my big share of foreigners not liking something they see, that for every cuban male “bien machista” that outsiders met, there’s a strong willed cubana not allowing “ninguna mierda de nadie” (for the non spanish is “no shit of nobody”), then, question is for those who visit us and come back or not, what do you want? Weak men and sheep women, and i said sheep not cheap!
    Anyway, i’ve had a lot of fun reading all this including the not so happy people. Ive become a bit fan of related with Cuba blogs since we, me and my beau, are working on something serious after over two years of relationship and im trying to walk on his shoes regarding other peoples opinions about cubans. Oh, yes, he’s not cuban, is another of those so many in love with the country, doing his best to know it and almost ready to move here :). We are spending New Years Eve in Habana, in Vedado to be precise, with my sister and another friend and i would love to pass by Cuba Libro, that i checked online, maybe meeting you, maybe you can recommend somewhere nice for dinner, para la cena del 31.
    So long, for now. Y gracias por hacer que a otras personas le importe. They all just keep coming back for more.

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