Woman sitting at the Malecón in Havana
Cuba, Stories

International Women´s Day in Cuba

First of all, Happy International Women´s Day to all the females out there!

I am the first one wishing you that today? Well, if so; that can have several reasons, but I am sure one of them is, that you are not in Cuba at the moment. Because on this island congratulations are flying around on the 8th of March and Women get small presents from their partners, family members, and coworkers. Some are taken out for nice dinners and a night out in the town.

The day seems like a mix of Mothers Day and Valentines Day with a little hint to female rights and equality.

The day is meant to congratulate women on being a woman, that is strong and manages her life, her job, and her family. In Cuba, the day has turned into a day to show appreciation for the Women in society and say thank you for their hard work. There are signs everywhere, and the Socialist Government pushes the day on TV and other Mediums.

Other than in other countries around the world women are guaranteed rights and equality, but as everywhere stereotypes and old-fashioned family views are present here as well. But that might be a topic for another post.

Back to the 8th of March!

So there are definitely worst places to be during International Women’s Day than Cuba!

I discovered that over the years! I remember my very first 8th of March in Havana, many years ago. I was not prepared to be congratulated for the fact that I was born with female attributes and identify as women. To be honest, I have never put much thought into that since I believe that we should all be equal but different. For that reason, I do not really engage in debates related to these topics. I  was brought up to show appreciation to women, and for me, strong females were and are normal. My mum worked full time, while my dad worked from home so someone could assist me with homework and take me to dance classes. Also, my grandparents were always there to help and guess what, all of them were working full time and managing the household no matter which gender they have. So in my little universe, we are and were all equal but different.

So the fact that someone congratulates me because of something I took no part in creating was strange. From my personal point of view, it feels odd to be praised for something that nature decided just like that. Like this Cuban Journalist in her thoughts about the day.

But I got used to it, and over the years I understood it more and more and will never forget to send a message of appreciation to all of the strong women in my life, especially to the Cuban ones! And I have to admit, I like the fact that people congratulate me just like that. Furthermore, I notice that on this day I felt like a connection to my fellow females, maybe due to this awkwardness of being celebrated one day a year for something you just are your whole life.

Over Generations, Women had to fight for their rights and still do, not only in Cuba. So why not take this day and accept a gift or some nice words on behalf of them.

Let’s not forget that it does not replace women’s rights and the fact that it should not matter that much which gender we are!




Woman walking in the streets of Havana

Havana, the malecon at sundown

Talk Cuban to Me

Six Expressions that will make you rule Havana.
Havana, Vinales, Trinidad, Maria la Gorda and the rest of Cuba is beautiful, and that is why many tourists are flying to Cuba every year. They want to get to know the island, the culture the people, the beaches, the drinks or whatever may fascinate one about the country.
Many of them have great experiences and enjoy themselves, but most of them never get under the touristic surface.
It is a bit tricky to discover Cuba like a local and sync with culture.

The first step to getting closer is the language. Yes in Cuba they speak Spanish, and you will survive with your knowledge and even English. But some expressions will get your language game up and make you rule Havana, or at least they will help you to make the locals smile.
They will also teach you something about the culture and the way Cubans role.
So let´s learn some Cuban:

Asere, Qué Bolá?

That’s Cuban for “Dude, what’s up?” It cannot get more casual and Cuban. But it is also slang so you should not say acere o asere to old ladies and people you do not know and what to address politely.
But when you are close to people and just want to greet them and know what’s up with them, you can use que bola and also
“que bolero”, “que vuelta” (more slang).
Oh and by the way Asere is very useful when you want some to get off your back. Just say: “Asere, Ya! Gracias.”

A qué hora sale la Guagua?

In Cuba we do not take busses, we take guaguas. So a “que hora sale la guagua?” means “when does the bus leave?” I tricked you there, you will not really need this sentences. But in Havana you should know how to queue for the guagua and wait or run after it because the bus never comes when expected. Just if you take the Viazúl buses from one Cuban city to another, you will need to remember when your bus leaves and be on time.
For the rest of the buses: show up on the bus stop, shout the number of the bus you want to take and get in line after the last person.
Also be prepared to get physically very close to strangers, because the guaguas fill so much, that the driver sometimes shouts out: “Dale, quierense!” Get closer: love each other.

Ahí, en la lucha!

I am here in the fight, is what this frequently used sentence means. “La lucha” is the everyday struggle in Cuba. It often is also used as la “luchita”, like a cute form of the fight. It is very common since everyday life can be a big fight in Cuba. However, the humor on the island is just exceptional and Cubans know how to make fun of every problematic situation. So it is important to know what “la lucha” is, but you might better not use it yourself because your struggle might not be comparable to your conversation partner, unless you live and work here.

Como está la cosa?

La Cosa is similar, it is translated as “the thing”, but in Cuba it is everything. The general situation of your life, the country and the universe. “la cosa está mala”, means that the situation is terrible. It can be that the tourism has a low season, that somebody is a bad economic situation, that somebody has a health issue, that there is no toilet paper in stores or that the global warming is affecting the planet. You choose, it depends on the context. So if you want to hear about somebody´s life, do not hesitate to ask how the “cosa” is.
Also you can use “cosa” for an unknown word.

Do not order that Jugo de Papaya unless…

Vaya! be careful with that papaya juice. Believe me; no one will tell you this; it is just too funny hearing how people order papayas and papa juice. But the actual fruit in Cuba is called Fruta Bomba. Papaya is something else. It means vagina in Cuban.

Get why the papaya juice is funny now? So unless you want the locals there

No te hagas el Yuma

Yuma is a foreigner. But it also implements someone who is unfamiliar with Cuba and behaves weird. Or weird as it seems to the locals. But Yuma is also a nickname for the USA. It is based on an old black and white film, where are train went to the US city Yuma. Some people want to look Yuma, which means to have a unique style that seems from outside of the island. The word can be positively and negatively connotated. But it is good to know what it means so you feel a little less Yuma.

Chao Pescao!

Literally translated it means like bye-bye fish. It is a cute way to say goodbye in Cuba, and the BnB owners will love if you say that

Please do not try to make those expressions your own and pretend you know everything about the Cuban Language now. Because there is a lot more… There are many things I did not tell you, but I might someday. So start with those expressions and stay alert for new ones to follow.

Ya sabes, no sabes nada… (you know… you do not know a thing)