Fulano, the Miami Cubanaso, has all the know-how you second-generation Cubericans need to visit the motherland without (hopefully) getting disowned by your exiled grandparents or by your Bay of Pigs veteran old man. Here's Part Three: How to Get Around.
Bro, so in our last bit of advice about paladares, there were a few comments saying apparently there was some confusion about stuff. By popular demand, we'll try to not say bro so much, but dog, it's like we don't know when we're saying it, so we'll try to write slower and pay attention.
So, before getting started, we wanna answer a few questions in a segment we'd like to call Fulano's Fan Mail:
This one was from my own personal mini-me, Fulanito:
"Quite informal... Treating this topic as a joke, while mentioning "rag meat" and over quoting the word bro...Please use your Cuban elders as an example of what it means to be proud of heritage, rather than taking it as a joke... Bro
Br... Err, sir, we appreciate your looking out for the integrity of the Cuban people. We've got nothing but love and respect for our elders and background, and it was actually our family that first warned us about the rag meat. That's no disrespect, and really, it seemed so ridiculous, that's why we asked people to send a photo if they find it, because dog, that would be mad crazy if it's really out there.
And you won't hear "bro" much in Cuba, but you will hear a lot of it in Miami, and that's where we come from.
This next one came from a guy or girl named iAF, which we think he or she must be Russian or something cause isn't that like a sub-machine gun from the Eastern Bloc?:
"I was sort of enjoying the whole Cuban slang that was going on till I came across the word "puelco" which means pork... which in actuality it is "puerco"... "puelco" is a Puerto Rican" pronunciation, not Cuban. Highly annoying, get the slang straight, broder.
We're glad you brought this up cause a couple years back we had this same discussion with our kid sister. She kept doing that l-instead-of-r thing when she was trying to do a Cuban accent, and we were like, bro, that's a Puerto Rican thing, but she was all like, no way, the ladies at my nail place are Cuban and they talk like that.
We kept arguing with her, but when we got to Cuba, there it was, so we asked a couple people about it, both from Havana. One told us that in Havana, you'll hear like 53% of people talk like that. The other explained it's more of a Havana thing, and you won't hear it so much in like Oriente and stuff. But honestly, we heard a bit of it in Matanzas and other spots, too. So iAF, we hear you on that, it's not a traditional Cuban accent, but times are changing, and so is the island.
And finally, this came from Um, hmm:
"what was this about exactly??"
Whoa, easy with that second question mark. It was about where to eat in Cuba so that a good chunk of the money goes straight to the person serving it--that being the paladares.
So, when you go to Cuba to finally see where your pops and abuelos were born, stay at a casa particular and eat at paladares, here's how to get around:
La Máquina: it means "the machine" if you translate it directly, but these are the private taxis you can catch. Br... Err, do... Look, it might seem sketchy, but basically, just stand by the edge of the street and put your hand out. If a car stops and doesn't have taxi markings, it's a máquina. Let 'em know where you're going and ask how much it costs (and remember, in Cuba, there's always a Cuban price and a tourist price, and just cause your family is Cuban doesn't mean you're gonna get the Cuban price). Sounds shady, right? Course, it helps to know Spanish.
That works fine in the city, but if you gotta hit up another province all together, you can always try this:
Coger la Botella (Catch the Bottle): This is what they call hitchhiking there, and it's mad organized. Hitchhiking in Cuba is a way of life, and the government even sets up hitching stops, like bus stops, along many of the highways. These stops are known for el hombre en amarillo (the man in yellow) because there's this government dude dressed in yellow that stops traffic, and if the truck or whatever has room, he calls out where it's going and how many passengers it can fit. You get crazy trucks and buses stopping at these that are mad ghetto, like old military transport trucks. They usually cost like three to five pesos nacionales (like, a couple American cents).
Spots to catch the bottle are usually on the outskirts of town. Of course, this is like, travel at your own risk kinda stuff. But seriously, we've had people take us all the way across town to find the next stop we needed to hit. Bro, while hitchhiking, we were watching our stuff all the time, but when you're traveling like that, it doesn't matter if you are Cuban, Cuban-American, or a yuma (basically, the Cuban word for gringo), everyone just needs to get to where they're going, and people become mad empathetic if you're stuck. And it's wild stuff traveling from town to town in the back of a dump truck, but keep in mind, for you it's an adventure, but for them, it's what they gotta do to get by.
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And again, it can be risky, but it also might be the best chance you get to know the Cuban pueblo and what it's like to be part of it. After all, that's what it's all about: people getting to know each other. Because with all these people stuck on one side of the straits and cut off from their roots on the other, the more we can interact without politics and hype getting in the way, the better things will get for everyone.
See Fulano's video of hitchhiking 55 miles across Cuba here.