Babalú PSA: How to not be a douchebag to Cuban Americans

It is unreasonable to expect non-Cubans to know Cuban history or understand Cuban culture. But if you’re ignorant of both, perhaps it’s best refraining from making blanket generalizations or definitive statements about a people and culture you know nothing about.

Here is some good guidance for our non-Cuban friends.on how to not be douchebags to Cuban Americans.

Andrew Otazo at The Miami Creation Myth:

How to Not be a Douchebag to Cuban-Americans

As greater cultural awareness has spread among the U.S. population, many previously acceptable comments have become faux pas. They have been recognized as the sort of deeds that, upon even cursory examination, are often perceived as insulting, demeaning, or just generally ass-backwards. These actions include, but certainly are not limited to:

  • Don’t touch a black woman’s hair.
  • Don’t refer to Asians as “Orientals.”
  • Don’t assume that all black people were raised by single parents or have been in jail.
  • Don’t ask who in a gay couple is the top.
  • Don’t ask a lesbian couple who the “man” is in the relationship
  • Don’t refuse to call a trans person by his/her preferred pronoun or name.
  • Don’t assume that all people from the Middle East are Arabs (see: Persians, Turks, Pashtuns, Kurds, etc.).
  • Don’t assume that all people from Asia are Chinese (see: Koreans, Filipinos, Thai, Mongolians, etc.).
  • Don’t assume that all people from Latin America are Mexican (see: Dominicans, Colombians, Paraguayans, Costa Ricans, etc.).

These very basic rules, though often ignored, are at least in the zeitgeist of many who profess not to be culturally myopic. Unfortunately, it has been my experience, and that of many of my Cuban-American peers, that no such basic set of principles is honored when we interact with individuals from other ethnic groups. I cannot necessarily place all the blame on those people, however. Cuban-Americans are a very geographically concentrated group, and if you live in locales where you do not interact with them regularly, then you will probably never understand the comments and topics that they consider to be in bad taste. As such, I have decided to compile a (by no means exhaustive) list of things I believe strangers who do not have “confianza” with a particular Cuban-American should not mention unless you wish to come off as paradigmatic douchebags.Do not go into a diatribe about how you need to see the “real” Cuba before the U.S. goes in and “ruins everything.” Most things are already ruined. The houses and streets are falling apart, the electricity routinely goes out, food is scarce, and almost no one can afford to buy that smartphone/nice pair of jeans/or basically anything else that you are currently carrying on your person because the average salary is $25 a month. Cuba is not a zoo exhibit you can leisurely walk up to and tap on the glass. The Cuban people have the right to buy and use anything they want. A corner Starbucks does not equate to Mickey Mouse taking his costume off before you, no matter how much it might ruin your fantasy of a communist Disney World.

1. Stop talking to me about how much you want to lie on a Cuban beach. I don’t want to join you. I don’t care about your impending sunburn. I care about my family still on the island. If I go, I will not be lying next to you, sipping a daiquiri. I will visit my aunts, uncles, and family graves. There are more important things on that island than your ideal vacation.

2. On a related note, stop insisting it isn’t fair that you can’t visit Cuban beaches. Cuban citizens were denied access to tourist beaches for 47 years. The vast majority of the population cannot afford to spend a single night in a Cuban hotel. You can wait.

3. Do not tell me how much you love Fidel or Che. Many of our family members were murdered by those two. My uncle was jailed and tortured for years. Have you ever considered walking up to a Cambodian and extolling the virtues of Pol Pot? No? What gives you the right to do the same to a Cuban-American? 

4. Not all of us came to the U.S. on a raft. Both my parents arrived on planes. Many others traveled to third countries, crossed the Mexican border, won a lottery, were reunited with family members, or were born in the U.S. If the Cuban-American before you did travel to South Florida in a raft, he or she risked dehydration, exposure, drowning, illness, and starvation to make it to this country, and might not want to relive the experience with you.

5. Stop with the swimming/rowing/paddling jokes. Do you have family members who drowned in the Florida Straits? Many Cuban-American families do. Tens of thousands lost their lives trying to make that crossing just for the chance of greater economic and political freedom. See #5 if you’ve already forgotten how they died.

6. Do not ask a Cuban-American if he/she has been to Cuba. Many of us have. Many more have not. The topic of whether one should visit the island can be very contentious. The Cuban-American before you would probably rather have a nice, social night out rather than describe the complicated and painful rifts in his/her community to a stranger. Furthermore, visiting or abstaining from the island does not make anyone more or less “Cuban.” They have their reasons. They don’t need to explain them to you.

7. Stop going on about the cars from the 1950s. Yes, they are beautiful. No, the Cuban people do not drive them out of nostalgia. They drive them because they have no other cars, spare parts, or choice. See #1 about your desire to experience a Cuban fantasyland.

Continue reading HERE.

5 thoughts on “Babalú PSA: How to not be a douchebag to Cuban Americans”

  1. Wow, that was the best lists, I’ve seen thus far! Regarding the “Latin” and “Latino” thing, yes, as Asombra says, absolutely, do not call me “Latin” or “Latino.”

    Also, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES suggest that I am a traitor to “my people” for supporting Trump. No, “Latinos for Trump are no like Roaches for Raid,” and I am not a “malinchista” either. There are over 23 different Latin American countries out there and since I am Cuban and not Mexican, Central or South American, immigration is not the center of my life, freedom for Cuba rates pretty high though, and my politics are pretty much determined by who I feel will help in that goal. In this case Trump was the best choice, so I support him. Get it? Not hard to understand, right?

  2. A Cuban cannot be a “traitor to his people” if that means “Latins” because they are NOT our people.

  3. If “Latins” had only been indifferent to Cuba’s tragedy and just ignored it, I could be far more tolerant, since Lord knows they have LOTS of problems of their own to deal with (except they don’t, but I digress). However, they’ve been much worse than indifferent–they’ve been backstabbing hypocrites complicit with the Castro tyranny, and if they wanted forgiveness for that (and they don’t), they’d have to beg for it.

  4. Ironically, Cubans (who have no significant indigenous ancestry) are more Latin, as in European, and Afro than the likes of Mexicans, Ecuadorians, Bolivians, Salvadorians, etc., whose true “latin” ancestry is, not exclusive to, but concentrated in a ruling class whose racial composition doesn’t even represent 15% of the population.

    But, I get it, it’s not about the actual definition of the term, nor about heritage or idiosyncrasy, but what the term has come to represent (at least in the western side of the Atlantic).

    In the end, the lack of compatibility isn’t so much racial or cultural but rather political and educational. Cubans come from a different experience, lost more, left for a different reason, and hold different sociopolitical values. Simply put, Cubans do not run for a welfare check nor resentfully march to the beat of identity politics or social warfare.

    Then again, how many Cubans haven’t been complicit in the unpardonable destruction of their own nation?

    I am fully aware of the international complicity and betrayal (more so than most) but the responsibility ultimately falls on Cubans and, in that regard, I can only express disgust.

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