Yumatude

It took me a while and a lot of trial and error to feel out the dynamics between Cubans and Cuban-Americans, and between Cubans and visitors to Cuba in general.  My father was born and raised in Cuba and with a Cuban look and name myself, I thought I could sneak under the radar. Not so. During my third time living over there on a family visa, when I lived in Santiago de Cuba for 3 months, not only did I confuse the heck out of people like “how is that yuma speaking Spanish with a Cuban accent?????!,” but I experienced a lot of “separation-ism” which I’ll explain. There is a widespread (albeit not universal) but extremely widespread attitude of us vs. them, or, Cubans vs. Foreigners. Like baseball teams… no. Just kidding. Anyway, this attitude emerges in ugly forms like every other person asking whoever I’m with, mostly always Noel, “does she speak Spanish?” after I had already been speaking it. This used to bother me so much that I used to just leave the room. I’ve gotten used to it now. This type of question reflects the attitude of many Cubans that all foreigners are essentially ignorant, illiterate tourists. The rationalization for this attitude that I have heard is that “most tourists to Cuba are Europeans who come for sex-tourism.” I find this excuse a little weak. Is it really that hard to imagine a diverse world beyond Cuba that is full of people, only of which a tiny percentage are European sex-tourists? Anyway, there is also the dual-currency system designed to suck hard currency from foreign visitors (and Cubans with a casa particular or thriving jinetero lifestyle), I believe this bolsters the “separationism” as well, not to mention that inundation of television propaganda. During the anti-embargo week in October (2016) when the U.N. was making its vote, it was all over the TV and I was constantly nauseous. TV is very influential to Cubans. My sister-in-law is a telenovela actress and people on the street have thought that she was in fact a doctor, which she played as one of her roles. To be blunt, they thought the telenovela was real life. Yes… To conclude, once people are forced to get to know me because Noel refuses to talk for me or whatever, they like that I have Cuban roots, bilingual, and intelligent (philosophy major with honors, yo.) However, to those who don’t know me, in Santiago de Cuba, the most uncultured province that I’ve encountered, I am just a tall, white (for Santiago,) bonita, chica, mami, “whistle whistle (maybe calling to the other jineteros [street hustlers]… TAXI???! Unfortunately, this is my reality in the street which is why I often prefer to stay home, and if I have to leave, I hold Noel’s hand very tightly. UPDATE: Now that Trump has been elected I am very concerned not only about my ability to travel back on a family visa but also how I will be treated there as an American even though I am extremely pro-Cuba/U.S. relations, huge Obama fan, and voted for Clinton.

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