The difference between a friend and a *Cuban* friend

When I first traveled to Cuba in 2000, I thought I was fairly well-prepared for the culture. After all, I was a fluent Spanish-speaker and had been married to a wonderful Mexican lady for 13 years. I had spent substantial time with her family in different parts of that country and felt pretty much “at home” in that culture — how different could Cuba be?

VERY different, as it turns out.

Cubans are very intense. Their conversations are intense, their sports are intense (as are their arguments about sports) and their relationships are intense. Have you ever received a hug from a Cuban? Then you know what I mean.

In Mexico they maintain a concept of “personal space” that is different than what we experience in the States, but at least there is a certain buffer of privacy. In Cuba there is no such thing as a personal bubble. People connect with you in an intense way that at first can seem invasive but after a while just seems normal and loving.

As an example, I will mention that on my first trip I got car sick traveling through the winding mountains between Santiago and Baracoa. I asked the driver to pull over so I could vomit and as soon as he did I darted at least twenty feet from the car, turned my back to the road, and began throwing up. In America, people would wait until you were well enough to walk back to the car, and then once you were seated they would inquire about your well-being.

In Cuba, though, they would not think of leaving you at the side of the road if you are feeling ill. So, to my surprise and to my chagrin, I heard all the other car doors open, as the driver and two passengers began walking toward me. Then, as I was throwing up one of my friends put his hand on my shoulder. The driver showed his concern by saying, “Oh, I see you had eggs for breakfast.” They all stood by me until I was done and then we walked back to the car together.

That is Cuba. You have little privacy, but then again you never have to suffer alone.

Following is a translation (thanks to Rob Dods) of an email that was circulating around some months ago. It does a good job of summarizing the differences between a friend and a Cuban friend. Hope you enjoy it:

A friend is someone who never asks you for food…
A Cuban friend is the reason why you put on a meal.

A friend asks how you are…
A Cuban friend tells you that you look well, then gives you a hug and a kiss.

A friend calls your parents Mr. And Mrs…
A Cuban friend calls your parents “Mom and Dad”

A friend may have never seen you cry…
A Cuban friend has cried with you, about anything and everything.

A friend sends you flowers and a card when you are in the hospital…
A Cuban friend spends the night in a chair by your side.

A friend borrows something from you and returns it two days later…
A Cuban friend borrows something from you and after a week forgets that it is not theirs.

A friend offers you a couch to sleep on…
A Cuban friend gives you their bed to sleep in, lies down on the floor beside you…and keeps you up the whole night talking to you.

A friend knows a little about you…
A Cuban friend could write a book with everything you have told them about yourself.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

2 thoughts on “The difference between a friend and a *Cuban* friend

  1. Great insight. I started thinking about the inner city spanish speaking church I worked in Dallas, many members from Mexcio, a few from Central America, And and even less from cuba. But as I thought about it, the intensity level in my experience was as you say. Thanks.

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