There seems to be a sizable Cuban population in Madrid, and as a result, there are a fair number of Cuban restaurants scattered around the city. Last week I went to check out a Cuban place called La NegraTomasa . When I heard Juanes playing on their sound system as I sat down, I knew I was in for a good time. I had wonderfully marinated pork with black beans and rice, and – I kid you not – the best maduros I’ve ever had in my life (they were perfectly crispy on the outside and just sweet enough inside). Sadly, Materva was not available, so I opted for beer instead.
(On a side-note: If you live in the Boston area, do yourself a favor and visit Oriental de Cuba. I had never had Cuban food before Agent Sanz took me here and my life changed for the better that day. I had discovered the culinary wonder that is the Cuban sandwich, and there was no going back.)
After eating, I was finishing up my beer when a few girls who’d been drinking together at a table across the way started talking to me. It was a little cumbersome to have conversation across the room, so they invited me over to their table. It was a group of psychology students who’d gone out drinking (mojitos) together after class. It was quite an international group: Cuba, Argentina, Columbia, Spain were all represented. As we were chatting, they complemented me on my Spanish, and I had the feeling of, ¨wow, I’m really doing it… I’m having a sustained conversation with native Spanish speakers outside of class.¨
But I must admit it was mentally exhausting… even though they were affable and engaging, I knew I couldn’t keep it up. They invited me to come out salsa dancing with them, but I politely declined. The thought of a white guy trying to keep up with a bunch of Latin Americans on the dance floor seemed absurd. But I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and we exchanged information.
One conversation point that I though was particularly funny was when they were asking me if I dance. I told them, ¨No, I don’t dance… I can’t¨. They asked, ¨Why don’t you dance? For religious reasons?¨ I said, ¨no, religion has nothing to do with it. It’s just that I’m white.¨ They didn’t pick up on my sarcasm (sarcasm seems much less utilized in Spanish), and thought I misunderstood what they were asking. It took me a few minutes to straighten out the conversation and get my actual meaning across: to me, being white is a perfectly good reason for not being able to dance… but they didn’t buy it. It took several minutes of convincing to assure them that I was telling the truth: I cannot dance; I was simply not born with the ability. Even then, they seemed a little skeptical.
¡Abajo Castro, y libertad para Cuba!