Monday, August 01, 2005

Cuba likes the "Yuma"

A Cuban Police officer warns an innebriated young man in the center of Havana

The Following article was published by the Spanish Newspaper, ABC on 7/30/05

Text and photo by Estaban Villarejo.
Translation by yours truly.

Cuba likes the "Yuma"
To the rhythm of reggaeton, a song prohibited by the regime has become the symbol of the revolt of a youth that wants to know little or nothing of "fatherland or death, or we shall overcome"; its lyrics are heard on all corners of the island.

HAVANA. "Ayyy, I like the yumas". Cuba also moves to beat of reggaeton. But to the lusty waddle of "Gasolina" or "Perrea Mami!” a tough competitor has arisen in the nights of Havana’s ocean front boulevard, testing the limits of Castroite political correctness.

It is the "Yuma" - tourist in Cuban slang - a song with Caribbean rhythm that is performed by the group Calle 35 - and prohibited ipso facto by the regime – that dramatizes the anxieties of freedom and changes of a generation that wants to know little or nothing of the slogans "fatherland or death, we shall overcome".

The song is about a girl, a jinetera (prostitute) that chases "yumas" daily because they will change her life giving her "fulas (dollars) and, more importantly can take her away from Cuba. Marriage of convenience ala carte. The chorus goes "Yunai, Yunai, Yunai of Las Tunas (an Eastern province)... You like yumas ". And she in a half orgasmic howl, half youthful moan responds the repetitive and contagious refrain: "Ayyy, I like yumas".

The name of Yunai has it’s bit of meaning because it’s the way with that the Cubans who don’t not know English pronounce United, in reference to the eternal enemy, and neighbor, the United States. Everything genuinely a Cuban double meaning.

Gladys Rodriguez is one of those Yunai young people. Every night she swarms over and scrutinizes the tourists sitting in the terrace of the Hotel Inglaterra, in the Cuban capital, situated across from the central park that pays tribute to Jose Martí.

"I prostitute myself, yes. But what I would really like it is to marry a tourist and to leave this country". She’s 22 years old, brown complexion, wavy hair, black eyes. Very beautiful. "I do it to make easy money, but with that final goal: of leaving Cuba. Like so many others", She tries to excuse herself.

"Forty convertible pesos for me and 20 for the owner of the room that is around the corner from the hotel Telégrafo. That is the deal that I make when I like the person.” More or less 55 euros for the service. She’s a jinetera. It is necessary to consider that the average wage of a doctor is about 25 euros a month.

Also on television

But to notice the success of everything that comes from outside it is not necessary to resort to easy money. It is only necessary to glance at the programming on television. When Fidel, Hugo Chávez or the war in Iraq do not dominate "prime time", a series of Spanish adolescents who dream about being dance stars maintain the dreams of a great number of Cuban youth. It is "Upa Dance".

"It’s one of the most common adventures in Cuba", comments clear-eyed Lisvette, from Pinar del Rio, about the investigation of the latest new features from Bisbal, of American music, the latest release of Harry Potter... And as it could not be otherwise: the recording of “Yuma" on a pirate CD.

"In Viñales they prohibited reggaeton because of this song, but since it’s liked by the tourists they had to allow it again. Of course, the song of the Yuma cannot be listened to in any bar ", she clarifies. The Comandante was even thinking about prohibiting it as counterrevolutionary.

Lisvette was a year old when the Wall of Berlin fell. "About him [Castro], I prefer not to speak. I do not know another thing". She avoids the question fearfully.

More and more, and little by little, the American flag is sneaking into the clothes of the rebellious Cuban young people. Caps adorned with "Born in the USA" and handkerchiefs with the stars and bars begin to compete with the t-shirts of Ché, normally worn by foreigners who come to the island looking for the romantic image of the Revolution or sold as a Caribbean souvenirs in the many-colored swap-meets or paradisiacal resorts.

The story of Eddy, security guard in a centrically located Havana hotel, represents the frustration of one who had an opportunity and it did not take advantage of it. It was in 1994 when a new crisis of rafters exploded in which 35,000 Cubans fought to cross the Straights of Florida. "In the end I did not have the necessary courage, I had just had a son and I did not want to leave him", he says.

Eddy recognizes that at least he feels like a privileged person since his work allows him to be in contact with tourists. "If not for that reason, my family would starve. Where can you go in the Cuba of today with 20 dollars a month?". His meager wage complemented with the gratuities of the tourists and "the payments that they make when I turn a blind eye so that some yuma can take a girl to his room in the hotel", an illegal but allowed practice in most of the hotels of the capital.

Eddy, 32 years old, is an expert in martial arts. "My dream would be to start my own gym. A school for Cuban kids. In my country.”

Dreams that collide with the reality of a political system, the Cuban one, whose survival - in spite of economic blockades, the fall of the USSR, the visit by the Pope and political pressures - is intimately bound to that of its leader. What will happen when Fidel, "the Horse" as he is known on the island because of his fierceness dies?

"This will be finished”

"I imagine that this will be finished. Some people will be out in the street. I hope nothing grave happens. I hope that our living conditions get better,” argues Daisy, a young person of 22 years of age, and a waiter in a hotel and resident of Guanabacoa.

In spite of hurricanes, "yumas" continue arriving at the Jose Martí airport in Havana. Varadero, Cayo Coco, María la Gorda and the capital are some of their tourist destinations.

After the payment of 25 convertible pesos –paid as an exit tax- and a delay of an hour and a half at immigration control the "yuma" abandons the Caribbean island, not without first encountering a group of Cubans who say goodbye to their hero: "He is my friend Mario. He’s going to Amsterdam. He met a woman and has married her.”

With a “son” of rum and “los vítores”, Mario – an athletic and imposing Cuban measuring one meter and ninetysome centimeters is bid farewell by his people.

One of his friends approaches the "yuma". "Spaniard? Only one thing: stick me in your suitcase and take me to Spain, this is a dictatorship ". "Ayyy...!".


Songuacassal said...

Yeah, I heard something about this awhile back. Of course the minister of culture claimed to go after Regueton because it was seen as "obscene." wink wink... as if prostitutes with educations aren't obscene enough.

I think the editorial made one little error: "yuma" is modern Cuban slang for the USA as a whole. For instance in Cuba, Cafe with espumita is called Cafe a la Yuma (Cuban Coffee American style), because that aspect of making Cafe Cubano with espumita was preserved in Miami and in NY. While it has long since faded on the island -I'm sure the mixing of Chickpeas and used coffee grounds might have had something to do with it's demise.

Now, if I'm not mistaken the word Yuma actually did originate with American tourists calling out: "Hey You Man" to the Cuban people. "You Man" thus became "yuma"(oye, ahi viene la "yuma": hey here comes the "you man.")But as a whole, it normally means all of America. (interesting fact: the word "Bolo" is another modern Cuban slang for the Russians that live on the island.)

Tremenda Trigueña said...

What a great recount of Cuban life. I would love to visit one day, but feel conflicted about the embargo. I have several Cuban friends here, almost all were born under Castro's regime. I have been to Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo, but I would love my next stop to be La Havana...I think the Cuban people have suffered a horrible breakdown of their family unit being torn between two worlds. I truly long for the day when they can be reunited without fear.

El Guapo said...

Very cool article. I think too many people are attracted by the island's allure, and far too few pay attention to the tragic parts. I've been there, and I saw one too many old European dudes with beautiful young Cubana "girlfriends." Who can blame those poor girls--you see the same thing in the Philippines and in (so I'm told) Thailand.