Atlanta to Havana

I didn’t have Cuba withdraw until I saw this video at home on BBC World News :(


It has been comical to hear people sprinkle in english words Costa Rica and Cuba.

No es easy. — It’s not easy

Que Cute —- How cute

ILY Tu Bubu —- I love you from Your Boo Boo


My friends and I even started using Spanglish. At Los Nardos, an amazing restaurant in Central Habana, my friend ordered a pork dish.

Rae: Coño, that cerdo (pork) was amazing. —- Damn that pork was amazing.

Me: Y, con that cebolla. —- And with those onions.


Friend Rae paid me back at Pollo Campero (Country Fried Chicken) in Costa Rica with Dollars and CUC (a form on Cuban currency equal to dollars. When I started laughing at her, she responded Plata is Plata or Money is Money.



Ordering Food

Ordering Food in Cuba is not easy. Upon arrival, I fell in love with a cuban dish called Ropa Vieja, or shredded jerk beef. 

However, I soon learned that I could not eat this meal whenever I wanted. In government owned restaurants, they get their food stuffs from the government every week. When they run out of something they are out of it for the remainder of the week. One night when walking back to our hotel after dancing, we stopped by a restaurant for a snack. The restaurant was a sit down places so we assumed they would have a menu. Nope, we assumed wrong. The waiter proceeded to ask us if we wanted sandwiches. We said no, do you have papas fritas (french fries). He responded no and tried to offer us a sandwich again. We declined then asked for ice cream. Again, he responded no and tried to sell us a sandwich. So I asked him what type of sandwiches do you sell. He responded, Ham and Cheese. We looked at him expecting him to continue listing options, then we realized this large restaurant only had ham and cheese sandwiches.

So to help you out when you travel to Cuba lol, I am going to teach you what you Spanish teacher didn’t teach you. 

Quieres vs. Tienes —- In most countries when you order food you use the verb querer which means to want; however, in Cuba, you use tener, which means to have. Instead of saying what you want you ask if they have.

Sometimes waiter will be nice enough to tell you your limited options before you get your hopes up. For example,

Waiter: “Today we have pork”

Your: “Oh is that a special”

Waiter: “No its the only meat we have”

Se acabo or No hay: Se acabo is used often in Cuba to describe a lack of a certain such as chicken, plantains or even electricity.

Hamburger might mean pattie made of pork not beef. I learned this on the fourth of July when I was presented a hamburger not only made of pork but also with a slice of jam.

Always carry small change when dining with others. Even when you ask for cuentas separados (separate checks), you will most likely end up with one.

Always count your change! While Cuban are nice, Habanero waiters (waiters in habana) can be a little sneaky when it comes to giving correct change to americanos. Hate to stereotype but its true!

Check for the snap. When buying bottled water make sure the seal snaps. Some places will refill water bottles. Forgetting to check for a snap could have you on the toilet for days.

Tipping is customary. Unlike many other countries, you have to tip! Didn’t learn this til the end of my trip. Oops!

Don’t be boujie! Sometime the fanciest places are horrible. I have had the best food from places where only habaneros eat. While they often don’t have seating or lack ambiance, the food is often good and cheap. I had the most flavorful chicken from a place filled with only cubans in the outskirts of Cuba. I also had the best coffee from fly infested hole in the wall for 4 cents. Yes, only four. 


I was misguided into thinking that Cuban speak spanish. No they speak Cubañol. Cubans speak spanish so fast that native spanish speakers often can’t understand them. In the process of rapidization, s at the end of words are omitted. For example, entonces become entonce. D when next to an A is also omitted (I speculate that this deletion is an influence of portuguese). So estado becomes estao and even sometimes etao.

My friends and I ask almost every Cuban we meet for slang words. I have made a little list of the most popular/funny slang words.

¡Que bola! —- What’s Up, I never heard anyone say ¡Que Pasa!

Acere —- Dude, Bruh, Homie, you will hear little boys use this word more than a narcissist says I.

Socio —- A less street version of acere

¡Esta Inflando! —- You are full of it. If a market seller gives you a ridiculous price, this phrase is a perfect response.

En llamas —- When something is horrible, tacky or cheap such as this Cubaton Video

Quieres jamón —- Do you want ham? Not ham as in meat, ham as in sex. Learned that one from a prostitute, long story. Speaking of prostitutes, look at the next word

Luchista —- directly translates to struggler but really means prostitute




Orlando & Elena

Orlando and Elena have been amazing. We met Orlando through one of our Cuban professors. He and his wife Elena have been amazing friends to us! We have gone to the Circus, festivals and various areas of Cuba. And they always get us in as Cubans! (Price for events are cheaper for Cubans than for foreigners)

Descemer Bueno, famous cuban singer who I accidentally saw in concert for $10!! Good Seats too!


This past weekend, I visited Matanzas, a city 1.5 hrs drive from Havana.

A friend who has visited Cuba before knew an artist who lives there. Dunieski, the artist, let us stay the night in his house and showed us the city. We even got custom art made!

The painting Dunieski made for Ife.

The Condition of Afrocubanas

Before I traveled, I knew a little about the prejudice towards black women in Cuba. In 1959, Fidel said, “One of the most just battles that must be fought, a battle that must be emphasized more and more, which I might call the fourth battle—the battle to end racial discrimination at work centers. I repeat: the battle to end racial discrimination at work centers. Of all the forms of racial discrimination the worst is the one that limits the colored Cuban’s access to jobs” However, 2 years later he declared racism nonexistent in Cuba. While racism was in fact live and well, the topic of race became taboo due to fear of prosecution. In recent years steps have been made to improve the situation for blacks. However, there is still a long way to go.


Due to my dark skin and features, people have often confused me for an afrocubana (if they don’t hear me speak spanish of course). I have been stopped while going into tourist places, I have received inequal service and treatment, and I have even been asked “how much” (yes, I have been confused for a prostitute). When people see my nice clothes, they never think I am american or a foreigner (because all Americans are white?), they assume I must be a prostitute or engaged in illegal activities. Instead of being discouraged, I look at the positives. I see blacks associating with whites and vis versa more than I have seen in any other place in the world. While at the University of Habana the other day, I saw a number of blacks graduating from Medical School. And through art and expression, the issue of race is being confronted.



Negra pero no esclava. Black woman but not a slave.

Regla, Habana, Cuba