In recent years, international events have made Cuba the topic of conversation around the world – but ironically the country remains one of the most misunderstood from a political, social and economic perspective. Here are five of the most common Cuban myths.
All Cubans can dance: This is probably the most famous myth about Cubans. In fact, many of the stereotypes surrounding Cubans are related to the country’s reputation for music and dance, although only a small number of Cubans can actually dance. Curiously enough, there is a nickname for Cubans who can’t dance – they are called “Swedes.” The origin of this term is not racist – it comes from a story that the Swedish used to have a law that banned any spontaneous dancing, which of course is a common Cuban pastime!
All Cubans are jineteros: It is true that in Havana, as in other large cities, you will run into prostitutes and jineteros “working” several corners of the city, particularly late at night, or in some nightclubs or canvasing rich tourists along the Malecón during the evening. However, it is important to note that prostitution is officially illegal in Cuba and is viewed as a very serious crime by authorities. Whilst there have been times in Cuban history (particularly before the 1959 Revolution) when prostitution has been common, more recently a number of bars have been closed down due to their links with prostitution and drugs. It is simply incorrect to think that every Cuban who speaks to you or tries to be friendly will want you to pay for sexual favors. Cubans are inherently curious about the world outside their Island, which is why they love meeting and getting to know people from countries that they have only read about. Perhaps, it is the same desire of getting to know others what motivated you to organize a trip to Cuba in the first place!
All Cubans want to leave Cuba: Although the departure of Cubans to other countries (particularly the US) has been massive, there are just as many people who have stayed and show true love for their country. In fact, if you ask the Cubans who have left the country the reasons for their departure, they will surely tell you that they have done so primarily due to economic reasons and that given the opportunity today, many would return to Cuba. There are many who claim that living in Cuba, with money, would be preferable to any sort of “American dream.”
All Cubans are black: The truth is that only a small percentage of the Cuban population is black. Although you can find pure white people, most Cubans are of mixed race or mestizo. In Cuba, it is said, “Aquí, el que no tiene de congo, tiene de carabalí,” which essentially means everybody is a mix of something. If you are looking for purebreds, you won’t find many in Cuba!
All Cubans drink rum and coffee: Whilst these famous drinks are closely associated with the Cuban identity, the reality is far more nuanced and the Cuban palate is getting more and more sophisticated. Although rum and coffee, and the sensations associated with them, are inherently Cuban, they have just as many lovers as detractors. Do not be surprised if you invite a Cuban to have some coffee, or a drink of rum and instead he or she prefers to have a tea at 3:00 in the afternoon or a good summer red wine.