30 Jun

May 13, 2012

For never was there a tale of more woe,

Than a pair separated by the embargo


Two countries,both alike in dignity

In fair Havana, where we lay our scene

From ancient grudge entrenched in policy,

Creates for this pair some difficulty

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes,

A pair of star-crossed lovers met by fate,

But now are separated by an embargo,

Which makes it hard to go on a date.

The international relations make talking tough,

Though Cuba is just off U.S. coast,

The going for them is going to be rough,

But that’s not the traffic of this post.

This post, if you with patient eyes will read,

Is a self-indulgent nod to someone very special to me.

All Shakespeare-inspired drama aside, I’m dedicating this post to a special University of Havana philosophy student who, with his crew of hipster friends, introduced me to some of my favorite places in Havana, shared some of the best music in the world with me, and, most importantly, taught me to swear like a sailor in Cuban slang. Meet Camilo Miranda, one of the good few men in Cuba not sporting a jonky (though he did once have an emo haircut. If that had lasted past 12th grade, he wouldn’t have had an ice cube’s chance in hell with me).

Despite his excellent mastery of the English language, almost fanatical loyalty to Converse sneakers and high consumption of American pop culture, Cami is Cuban cien por ciento (100 %).

When I asked him what qualities about himself he thought were most Cuban, he only had to pause for a second before responding. Cami, like most Cubans, prides himself on his resourcefulness and creativity. He brags that he can go out with three bucks in his pocket and make a night of it (true story, I’ve seen it in action. He knows places you can get it for less than most happy-hour drink specials in the U.S.). He’s definitely a product of a country where the only thing you’re allowed to waste is time (if you don’t reuse a plastic bag as many times as possible in Cuba, you’re looking at potential exile).


This was fun. And free. We sat on a little piece of coast and watched the sun set over our little slice of Havana.

He also says the way he interacts with other people is one of his very Cuban characteristics. Maybe since the buses are more crowded than a Best Buy on Black Friday, Cubans don’t really have a concept of awkwardness. Everyone is friends, happy to offer a lighter or directions. If a hustler tried to offer us a taxi, Camilo always politely declined with a “No gracias hermano.” Because of the above-mentioned lack of rigidity regarding personal space, Cubans are very touchy-feely. Usually if my significant other kissed another guy, I would be concerned, but Camilo kisses and hugs his guy friends and it’s not weird at all.

Camilo is named for one of the heroes of the Cuban Revolution, Camilo Cienfuegos. Obviously, Cami didn’t choose his name, but he shares the same pride in Cuba as his namesake. Though Camilo wants to travel the world, he doesn’t ever want to give up his country. Most Cubans are intensely patriotic, and Camilo is no exception. He has a Che poster hanging over his bed and laments friends who have left the country for good.

In Revolutionary Square, an image of Cami’s namesake, Camilo Cienfuegos

    Desmeserado is a Spanish word that means “excessive” and I’ve heard it used to describe many Cubans, as they trend towards being over-the-top at times. Camilo is no different, with a definite flair for the dramatic and a tendency to, like me, speak exclusively in hyperboles. That Qva Libre concert we went to? The best concert…EVER. That Bucanero we had after our weekly pilgrimage to hear Frank Delgado play? The coldest beer…EVER. That performance of the Ballet Nacional doing a mixed rep program? The most amazing ballet performance….EVER. You get where I’m going with this.

Our cultural exchange has been a little imbalanced. He showed me around his beautiful city, shared the best of Cuban music with me, helped me with my Spanish, expanded my world view about politics and philosophy and lent me an incredible book of Argentine poetry and prose. I taught him the meaning of buying tickets to the gun show, why weave needs to be patted and certain less-than-polite monickers for some cultural groups. Clearly I got the short end of the stick.

I’m not going to say Camilo is a typical Cuban just like I wouldn’t say I’m a typical American. I can’t make sweeping generalizations about a people based on my experiences with just one, but I think that really getting to know and care for a person who comes from a completely different background than me has been eye-opening and well, fun. Though Skype doesn’t work to call Cuba, Camilo and his family only get 40 hours of internet a month and the cheapest phone calls to Cuba are 80 cents a minute, we’ll be able to keep in touch (I’m thinking of training a fleet of carrier pigeons or maybe going old school and doing a message in a bottle). Dale.


4 Responses to “em-BARD-0”

  1. danielsmaldonado June 5, 2015 at 11:38 am #

    Hey I was friends with Camilo too! He was in my filosofia class I just got back from there a couple weeks ago loved it. small world

    • gschrubbe June 5, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

      That is so funny! Small world 🙂 what program did you go thru? I was there in April, I probably was there when you were!

      • Daniel Maldonado June 12, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

        I went through API and lived in calle E. You went back this April?? To do what? I really want to go back in the next year

      • Daniel Maldonado June 12, 2015 at 9:29 pm #

        I went through API. What did you return for? I really want to go back in the next year. Such a real place with very real people

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