"Miami Cubonics": A Ten-Word Guide, According to Palo!'s Steve Roitstein

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Te gusta Papa Yon?

On August 16, Miami's favorite Afro-Cuban funk band, Palo!, will be throwing a free party at PAX celebrating their 10th anniversary with tons of free giveaways from Car2Go, Azucar Ice Cream, El Rey de las Fritas food truck, and all kinds of other stuff. The concert will be filmed and recorded for a live album and live DVD, as well as a PBS documentary by Emmy-winning filmmaker Joe Cardona.

Of course, though, it's also gonna be a celebration of Cubanismo en general. Because, as band founder Steve Roitstein says: "The thing I enjoy most about Cuban culture is that they know how to have fun, they know how to party, they appreciate flavor and sabór. That is a good way to live."

And as evidence of the Cuban people's verve and influence, just consider the long list of Miami Cubonics that have been adopted by the entirety of Dade County. Here are Steve's ten favorites.

See also:

-Palo!'s Steve Roitstein Talks "Working on a New Album" and His Band's Tenth Anniversary

10. Bibaporrú: Vicks VapoRub

"I was married to a Cuban girl in my mid 20s," Steve tells us. "And one week, I got a really bad cold. And she told me, 'What you need is Bibaporrú.' I was like, 'Is that some African thing?' So we go to the store and she picks up the Vicks VapoRub, and I'm like, 'Of course! Bibaporrú!' And that's when I started to really appreciate the Cuban use of English words."

9. Papa Yon: Papa John's

"That one is especially funny, because it's kinda like ... Well, for a lot of people, papaya is a bad word. In Havana, that word means the female sexual organ, and papayon means a very big papaya. That's why they call the papaya la fruta bomba in Cuba. So when people go to get pizza here, they might say, 'Vamos a comer Papa Yon,' and it's really funny."

8. Esláy: Slice

"There are very few, if any, words in Spanish that begin with the letter S. It's usually preceded by an E or another vowel. A lot of Cubans will call me 'Estee.' Once, I went to a Starbucks and they wrote my name as 'Estif' on the cup. It's really not only Cubans that do it either. But that's how you get esláy from slice."

7. Transpoteíchon: Cheap Car (as in, Transportation)

"A real common Cuban thing is when they first get here from Cuba, they'll get like a junked out car that's only good for getting to work. It's nothing you would take someone on a date in. A lot of Cuban families, when they get a better car, they hold on to the old one. And when their sister or aunt gets to this country, they hand it down to them. They don't sell it 'cause you can't get much. It's worth more to keep it as transpoteíchon."

6. Lató: Laptop (computer)

"A lot of Cubonics," Steve points out, "are just pronunciations of English words with a heavy Cuban accent. Like, copiúti is computer. And guasápeninmeng is what's happening, man. And guarejao is warehouse. And jonlé is homeless."

5. Cora Geibo: Coral Gables

"There's so many of these for places in Miami that I just kind of lose track. It's just like, that's what people understand and that's why they use it. Like Coco No Grow is Coconut Grove and Tirate al Mar is Miracle Mile. A lot of these are universal here among Spanish speakers. It's not just Cubans."

4. La Casina: Lacquer Thinner

"I have a friend who was getting some work done on her house and the contractor was like, 'Me voy a Home Depot para comprar la casina.' And she was like, 'La casina? Que es eso?' And he holds up the empty can of lacquer thinner and was like, 'La casina,' and she just started laughing."

3. Da sol: That's all

"A lot of times, you hear people learning to speak English. And hey, you gotta give 'em credit for trying. Like, my friend had a buddy who just came from Cuba and he wanted to learn English. So they were speaking English together. And when he goes to leave, he tells him, 'OK, day care,' as in, 'OK, take care,' telling him have a good one, y'know. That's the same way you get da sol from that's all."

2. El Colí: The College

"Instead of replacing a word with una palabra castellana, a proper Spanish word like universidad, people will appropriate an English word, but give it their own accent. So Miami Dade College is Mayamidei Colí."

1. Estick: Steve

"This is the true story of how the band Palo! got our name. In Spanish, palo means stick, but it has deeper meanings because there's a religion called Palo. So people assume it has that significance to us. The true story is that early in my career, I was playing keyboard in a nightclub, and as I'm walking in, this viejito, an older Cuban gentleman asks me, 'Como tu te llama?' I tell him, 'My name is Steve,' and he makes a face like he don't understand. I clearly repeat, 'Steve,' and he tilts his head sideways. So then I say, 'Como Esteban, pero en inglés,' and he goes 'Estick!' as if he's correcting me, and I laughed. Ever since then, I called the band Palo! Now when I'm walking in Little Havana and I hear 'Oye, Palo!' from the other side of the street, I just think it's so cool."

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