To say marrying into a Cuban family was a culture shock would be an understatement.
I’m not making a blanket statement about all Cubans, just sharing what I’ve learned about MY Cubans.
Prepare yourself to be offended. Most topics that white people would consider gauche are not only acceptable topics for My Cubans, they are the preferred ones.
I was encouraged to breast feed in front of the family. “It’s natural,” they said. Maybe in Africa, the remote parts where they don’t have DOORS.
The other day during lunch at Chili’s, the first hot topic was foreskin. My poor teenage nephew looked like he was going to shrivel up and die in the pan of queso.
The second hot topic came about because I was being harassed again for refusing to eat Bacalao. (See previous post.) This led to an anecdotal reference to a Cuban song about a guy who smells something delicious cooking in the kitchen, which turns out to be women boiling their underwear.
My mother-in-law randomly told us the other day exactly how many times she had diarrhea. When you look at her in shock, she says, “What??”
Oversharing is considered casual conversation, which means I probably seem like a stick in the mud. In reality, us white folk are probably too hung up on what other people think about us. My Cubans are right. This is the real and quite literal crap that happens to all of us.
Now, let’s talk about kissing. I remember when I met my mother’s British friend in Miami at an outdoor market, and he leaned in to give me the customary South Florida kiss on the cheek. I stretched backwards like Keanu in the Matrix.
I have a very definite body buffer zone. Burst it and you shall die. What I didn’t know when I met my husband was that it’s actually a required kiss on the cheek every single time you meet and again when you say goodbye. Cuban families are not generally small and they tend to move in clusters. It’s a lot of kissing.
Which brings me to goodbyes. The world’s longest, most drawn-out goodbyes. Over the phone, in person … doesn’t matter. Goodbye will lead to discussion about the next time you’ll see them, what currently ails them, what the week will hold and how’s the weather.
I’ve learned that when my Cuban family yells, they’re just “passionate.”
When my children are behaving like brats, they just have “strong personalities.”
My Cubans will never let something go, like forcing a daughter-in-law to eat stinky fish.
But, they don’t hold grudges. Family is family forever, no matter how often they screw you over. They have what most consider an “indomitable spirit.” (Which has to come from living in a country where survival is dependent on being resourceful and resilient)
My mother-in-law told me about how the government only issues you one bucket in order to wash your newborn baby. One bucket per family. When they fled Cuba, they gave their bucket to a neighbor and the government took it back within days.
One thing you will never be in a Cuban family is bored. (Unless you’re my 15-year-old nephew, who thinks that almost everything is boring.) Or hungry. You’ll definitely never be hungry.