Cuba's Jackie Mason

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"Italy! Why go to Italy, chico. You're leaving Miami to travel to Italy, to spend money for nothing, pa que chico."

"It's not for nothing, hermano. I've spent my life planning for this trip, and I have much desire to see Italy. Don't try to talk me out of it."

"And what about Italy has caught your attention?" the barber asks.

"Mainly the Vatican, because I'm very religious. First I want to visit the Vatican. Then I want to see the Sistine Chapel. And finally I want to pay a visit to the pope."

"I've been to Italy, hermano, and I tell you that the women are ugly, the men are rude, you're not going to see the pope. You think you're going to see him, you're not, and the Sistine Chapel is never open. I tell you this because I've been there."

"Bueno, mi hermano, let me be, I've spent a lot of time planning this. I've always wanted to go to Italy so don't try to ruin my trip. Shut up and cut my hair."

"Bueno, I'll cut your hair but I warn you, you're not going to have a good time."

The guy goes to Italy, and two months later he walks into the barbershop. The same barber starts cutting his hair and recognizes the man. "How was your trip?" he asks.

"Marvelous. You told me the women were ugly, the men were rude, that I wasn't going to meet the pope, that the Sistine Chapel would be closed. I found that to the contrary the women were beautiful, the men were caballeros. I went to the Vatican, and I met the pope. I kneeled before him, kissed the ring on his finger, and bowed my head. Do you know what he asked me?"

"What did he ask you?"

"He asked, “Who's the son of a bitch from Miami who cut your hair?'"

Alvarez Guedes has made an art out of using "bad" words. He's even sold beer using a mala palabra. He brought cojones, once a forbidden word in the Cuban lexicon, back into popular use among his countrymen. He figured if former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright could use it in a speech addressing the United Nations, then the time had come to insert it into the Cuban mainstream. (In 1997, about a year after the Cuban government ordered the shootdown of two Florida-based Brothers to the Rescue planes, Albright denounced Fidel Castro for displaying "cowardice, not cojones.")

And when Alvarez Guedes chopped coño in half, making it ño, he gave it more strength than ever before.

When the mysterious chupacabra --goatsucker -- hit Miami in 1996, as reported by El Nuevo Herald, Alvarez Guedes seized the opportunity to make fun of las cubanitas from Hialeah and Westchester who were calling Miami-Dade County police to report sightings of the creature. ("Eyewitnesses" have described el chupacabra as an exotic mix, something between an alien and a reptile. It's said to have claws, elongated red eyes, a pointy tongue, and spikes running down its back. And it allegedly has sucked the blood from hundreds of animals, leaving their carcasses dry. The Chimera's vampirelike exploits have reached mythic proportions in Puerto Rico, where it first made headlines in 1995, and it has since been causing a buzz in Latin communities across the United States.) Alvarez Guedes caught the wave and composed a merengue song in honor of el chupacabra. It became a local hit.

His love for the absurd even branched into astrology. In 1998 he hosted a radio show in the style of Walter Mercado, except that Alvarez Guedes's advice and predictions were meant to be laughed at. On Alvarez Guedes 27 he lists a collection of the best advice he has given on the air. Some of his astrological readings include: "Aries of Eighth Street: Don't be a comemierda [shit eater] and get your ass to work. Taurus of Westchester: Stop jodiendo [jerking off] and buy your own astrology book. Gemini of Hialeah: Siempre la cagas [you always fuck up] and that's what you get for being foolish. Cancer of Miami Beach: Don't marry again because eres muy puta [you're too much of a slut]. Leo of West Kendall: The best cure for diarrhea is eating boiled plantains. Pisces of Biscayne Boulevard: There is no cure for your hemorrhoids, so consider getting an ass transplant."

My first memory of Alvarez Guedes is a bit blurry. I saw him on a video doing stand-up in some cabaret. It was during one of many family trips to Miami during the early Eighties. Usually we came during Noche Buena, Christmas Eve, and visited my aunt and uncle and two cousins who were the same ages as my brother and I. (We gave thanks for the pork instead of the turkey.) Alvarez Guedes almost always closed the evenings for us on a lighter note after the magnificent feasts, the thick Cuban coffee, and the political mumbo jumbo.

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Lissette Corsa