005. cuban parties - transcript

traditional cuban music plays

[00:00:00]Carmen: ¡Acere, que bola?!

[00:00:13] Fryda: ¡Acere, que bola! Do you know that song? Hey Carmen,

Carmen: No

Fryda: Hey Carmen

Carmen: Hey Fryda

Fryda: Happy new year

Carmen: Happy new year

Fryda: What are we getting into today?

Carmen: We’re getting into Cuban parties, because if you have ever been to a Cuban party and you will know that this is a whole ordeal

Fryda: it starts with the process of getting ready to go to the party

Carmen: Yeah.

Fryda: So do you show up in your sweatpants or even do show up in like some nice jeans and a shirt? Like, cause you, you know, that sounds acceptable to me.

Carmen: No, no, absolutely not Fryda, like

Fryda: You're desprestigiada

Carmen: No you are. Yeah. You can't do that. If you're a woman, you can't be showing up and no party with any messed up nails because. What kind of a disgrace are you? Come on, and you also have to have your hair done basic minimum at the very least those two things,

Fryda: Full disclosure. I am *whispers* una desprestigiada

[00:01:00] Carmen: Fryda’s una despretigiada, no, for real. Yeah.

Fryda: I’m pretty much considered a disgrace at Cuban parties, but I still managed to wear those heels throughout my childhood.

Carmen: I know... you'd be like looking at 15 year olds wearing like, you know, five inch stilettos and it's totally normal. Like I can't even...

Fryda: Yeah, no, it's not like your parents are like “take off those stilettos,” rather than being like “Oh, that's too sexual,” my mom would ask me, “What are you doing? Wearing your sneakers. You've got some high heels,”

Carmen: I know… when you're like, you know, 14. So you're getting ready and you are doing your nails and you're doing your hair. What else must you do? Fryda.

Fryda: When you take a shower, you have to smell really, really good.

So the first thing you do is obviously you apply a layer of talcum powder. Like you have to cover yourself up like a little... like a powdered doughnut. So what, what I imagine that the whole talcum situation comes from is that if you are in a place without air conditioning, A.K.A. Cuba, after you shower, if you don't apply talcum powder, you're going to sweat again, and you're going to get nasty.

[00:02:00] For a good amount of years after coming to this country, my mom would coat me in talcum powder everywhere, and she would do the same herself. So after you've powdered yourself, even though the talcum powder usually has perfume in it, it's not enough.

Carmen: No.

Fryda: Okay. When you're a child, you will be drenched in Aguas de Violetas.

Carmen: Aguas de Violetas is essentially perfume that smells like violets

Fryda: It is also called Royal Violets. At least the brand that's especially prominent in Miami or Hialeah. And a little bit of history about Aguas de Violeta's- the original Augustine Reyes started a perfume line in Havana, Cuba in 1927. So, año de la corneta, of course. And after the revolution, like in 1960, the Cuban government seized their operations and the Reyes family moved to Miami.

And so they managed to smuggle out all the ingredients they needed to make the perfume. They settled in South Florida.

[00:03:00] And the main plant for this perfume is still in Hialeah.

Carmen: Agua, fango y factoria.

Fryda: Which means. Water, mud and factory.

*plays Block Party by DJ Laz*

Carmen: Hialeah is called agua, fango y factoria because all of the Cubans moved their factories there and that's where they would go find work.

Fryda: And bueno, that's how we have Aguas de Violetta. And so it's an iconic smell. It's something that I would recognize anywhere. It would bring me back.

Carmen: You know, what? Mark Jacobs makes a perfume that smells a lot like this, the Daisy perfume, the bottle has a really pretty white flower on top.

It's enormous. It's the same version of that, but it's purple and it's literally, Agua de Violetas for like an adult and also an arm and a leg.

Fryda: Yeah. Cause you can get for very little.

[00:04:00] Carmen: You can find Aguas de Violetas at any Navarro or any drug store or any mom-and-pop type of stores in Miami. And actually outside of Miami, I've had trouble finding it because you know that Carmen has tried to find Aguas de Violetas outside of Miami, guilty as charged. The closest I've gotten is Mark Jacobs.

Fryda: Yeah. So as a woman, you wear earrings, you wear heels, you wear a dress or something, pretty elaborate.

Carmen: So you're dressed to the nines and you might be told that you look like you're going to go cantar en palmas y caña. I don't know if I've ever heard that Fryda.

Fryda: I have *laughs*, so we've gotten into what it's like to get ready for a party, or literally any family gathering as a woman, but let's not exclude the men. Right. Let's talk about the outfit. If you're over 30 or you're under 10, someone's going to dress you up in una guayabera

[00:05:02]Carmen: Absolutlely, una guayabera a nice pair of pants.

You don't really want to do jeans, but I think men can get away with jeans a little bit more. And your shoe is definitely a loafer of some kind or a nice dressy issue.

Fryda: Guayabera is a men's shirt that is made of linen. So it's really comfortable in the Caribbean to be wearing this. I just want to say that I've worn a halter top guayabera before

Carmen: Oh my God. Of course,

A little aside on the is something that was mostly worn in the countryside in Cuba. This is why exactly it’s linen, because you want to stay cool. I have heard that the pockets were developed in order to be able to hold guayabas. This is what I've grown up hearing, and that the lines down the front through the middle of the pockets are there to help reinforce weight for the pockets.

Fryda: Well, that would make some sense. So just for our English-speaking listeners, Guayaba is guava.

[00:06:00] And guayabera sounds a lot like guayaba. The guayabera also might look a little bit like Spanish military uniform. So this was possibly worn by soldiers during the Cuban war of independence. And today you will find it on your uncle Pipo.

Carmen: So men are wearing guayabera, and they're wearing dressy shoes and a hat. And now you are properly dressed to go to this party.

Fryda: You drive over there to the party and the entire family, like all generations of the family are going. It's very rare that you find a Cuban party that's like just for a certain age group, everyone goes. And then once you get there, Carmen, how many people do you say hi to?

Carmen: Every single person.

And what does it mean to say hi, Fryda?

Fryda: It means you kiss everyone on the cheek. And in Miami, a kiss on the cheek is one kiss on one side of the cheat. So it's not like the double kisses from Spain or From France, it's a single kiss.

Carmen: And this is one of those things that as soon as I left Miami and I started interacting in communities that were not Cuban,

[00:07:00] I realized how weird this is to everybody else.

Fryda: In Miami, you meet people for the first time, you give them a kiss on the cheek. So just to specify - the kissing on the cheek happens from women to women, from women to men, but men to men usually do not kiss on the cheek. Men to men might like give themselves a pat-hug or a handshake. I went to college away from Miami. That was the first time I ever saw people my age shaking hands.

And I was thinking, “wow, these people are like businessmen, you know, really professional people.” I didn't understand because when I grew up in Miami, I thought that only in business people show hands. Do you remember kissing literally your entire middle school? Every single morning?

Carmen: Oh my god, yeah!

Fryda: Like I would get to school early in order to kiss everyone.

Carmen: The worst part is is that if you walk into a party and you forget to kiss one person, you are never going to hear the end of it. You must say hi to everybody and you must kiss every single freaking person there.

[00:08:00] Fryda: So now that you've done your duty...

Carmen: Yeah now that you've gone around made your rounds, kissed everybody - even the people you don't like.

Fryda: Maybe some people you ended up kissing them twice, whatever...

Carmen: Maybe you're like just for good measure. Just so that you don't get it twisted that I didn't do it. Yeah yeah yeah.

Fryda: Yeah. So now we're at the party. We are here, Carmen!

Carmen:We are here baby.

Fryda: What's going on around us?

Carmen: Well, fulano, mengano, Pepe, Juana, y Cuco who all brought some kind of instrument and they're setting up shop and it's about to get fun.

Fryda: Yeah. So you might bring some maracas, a guiro, las claves, bongos and all of these instruments that are pretty portable. You can bring them to the parties and either use them to play along with existing music, like, you know, salsa, merenge et cetera, or you might have basically a band going on.

If you can improvise some verses of Guantanamera, you're able to do that the whole long.

Guantanamera plays

[00:05:53 ]Carmen: Everything is built upon a really simple meter and a really simple melody that you can then morph as the night goes on. I think the only people that really need to have any kind of skill is if you're bringing in a type of horn, like a trumpet.

Fryda: Or a guitar. Or a piano.

Carmen: Yeah. But that's way more involved. Yeah. Yeah.

Fryda: And of course the drunker you get, this is when the people who were quiet the entire party come out and then suddenly take a mic and start singing.

Carmen: Yeah. Yeah.

Fryda: Some typical drinks alcoholic drinks available at a Cuban party are

Carmen: Ron

Fryda: Ron. Definitely. Which is rum. And you gotta be proud. Rum is is very Cuban.

Carmen: Whiskey.

Fryda: Whiskey. I would say whiskey is definitely a little more in the U.S.

Carmen: If you’re in Cuba it’s straight up chizpetren. How many chizpetren jokes can we make? I can't...take a shot every time on of us says chizpetren. And in terms of beer, we're not seeing any double IPAs.

We're not seeing anything too fancy. We are seeing Heineken. We're seeing Corona, if you're soft, and we're seeing, Presidente.

[00:09:58] Fryda: So let's get into some more food and some more non-alcoholic drinks.

Carmen: Oof. I really want a Jupiña. Yeah. Like I just want to pop open a really cold can of Jupiña.

Fryda: Jupiña is so, so good. So Piña means pineapple, “ju” is a start of jugo.

Carmen: Which is juice.

Fryda: So it's a soda that tastes like pineapple and it's so, so good. It was founded in Pinar Del Rio in Cuba in 1905. It is definitely like one of the sweetest sodas in the world. Let's put out some other drinks

Carmen: Materva.

Fryda: Materva.

Carmen: I don't like Materva.

Fryda: I like Materva, not as much as Jupiña cause Jupiña is so fruity and nice. Materva is made of Yerba Mate. It’s an herb that is found in the Andes. I don’t even know, but...

Carmen: How did Cuba even get that anyway?

Fryda: I'm not sure, but Materva is a caffeinated drink originally produced and popularized in Cuba before the Cuban revolution. And it's been produced in Miami since after the Cuban revolution.

[00:10:58] So the previous owners were also bottling this drink around the 1920s.

Carmen: Ironbeer. Another favorite of mine. Iron beer.

If you go up to your mom and you're like, “mami, yo quiero un Iron Beer”. She's going to look at you. Like you're crazy.

Fryda: Ironbeer is just one word. Ironbeer is a soft drink that originated in Cuba in 1917.

And it has an image of a really, really ripped man. Iron beer, is basically. Ironbeer, me van a matar. If you do translate it into iron beer and you have a very buff man, you can see the connection. So what does it even… what does Ironbeer even taste like?

Carmen: It tastes kind of like...

Fryda: It like Dr. Pepper isn’t it?

Carmen: Dr. Pepper. I would say it's closer to Dr. Pepper.

Fryda: It's delicious..

Carmen: It is.

Fryda: So folks there's a lot going on

Carmen: in just the drinks.

And of course you have your classic Cuba Libres happening. You have your mojitos happening. I've even seen like daiquiris, which by the way, daiquiri, as I then learned, when I moved to New York and got into cocktail culture is not the same diet that I know from Miami.

[00:12:04]Fryda: Cuban drinking.

Everyone's usually getting drunk and there are a couple of different activities you can do while you're tipsy, you know, or while you're enjoying a party, you can dance. And my God, if you are Cuban, you were raised dancing. So it's something that you learn to do from a very young age.

Carmen: I swear to you, I think we were probably popped out of the womb dancing already.

Like, I don't remember a time when I couldn't dance.

Fryda: Most Cubans have a fundamental understanding of salsa moves and some sort of Rueda de Casino. So you can show up to a party and you don't have to think to yourself, “Oh God, I don't have anything in common with this person. I don't know what I'm going to talk about with them.”

You're just gonna dance you. You probably don't even have to have much of a conversation. If you don't want to, you can get up, you can start dancing. More people will dance afterwards. You'll switch partners around and you'll spend the night dancing.

[00:12:57] Carmen: With everyone. It's like. Women are dancing with women.

Women are dancing with other men. You're dancing with your cousin, your uncle, your brother, your dad. None of it is weird. Little kids dancing with older people. You're abuelito is dancing with your teenage cousin. That is the universal Cuban language - dancing and music. So what's another activity that you can do?

Fryda: El domino

Carmen: El domino… Vamos a hechar un jueguito de fichas,

What did I just say?

Fryda: “Let's play a game of dominoes.” Dominoes are such an integral part of Cuban culture, Cuban parties, and there's always a domino table. And generally a couple of men sitting around on the domino table playing really loudly.

Carmen: Dominoes is really not so much about winning or losing. It's about bringing your ego to the table.

So you don't just put a piece down. If you slam it, you are commanding that table. It doesn't matter if it's even a good play.

[00:13:58]Fryda: Getting invited to play dominoes is also a rite of passage.

Carmen: It is!

Fryda: Carmen and I will both probably remember how old we were when we were first invited to play dominoes and what it feels like to be respected for the moves that you made.

I think a big part of dominoes is having a psychological component of trying to game other people. And so that's why it's so intense.

Carmen: I feel like you also learn a lot about how to communicate non-verbally. Coming from a culture that is so loud, we haven't even gotten into exactly what a dominoes game really looks like, but you have a table and this table is not just any table.

What does a Domino's table look like?

Fryda: Dominoes tables can actually be pretty intensely adorned. I would say on the really ornamented side, some of the fancier domino tables I've seen have a Cuban flag, a map of Cuba, like something really elaborate, also drawn on it. And then it has a slick laminated top.

[00:15:00] It'll also have edges built into the table so that you can place your dominoes on them. Some people only buy a tabletop so that they can put this wood on top of any table. There's also some plastic domino tables you can buy. And I had that at my house for some time, but you definitely need to have a separate table or some arrangement ready for when you got to play dominoes.

Carmen: It's a table with four sides and it accommodates four players and you play in teams And your team member is across the table from you and you need to look at them and pick up on what they're putting down. Literally watch their plays, see what they're missing, how you can help them and how you can screw your opponent who's going right after you. So a lot of this is done non-verbally.

One phrase that I've heard a lot when you're invited to this domino table and you're kind of a noob and you're being too vocal about what's going on in the game is.

“El domino lo inventó un mudo,” which is domino was invented by a mute.

Who knows if that's true, but that's what you're told when you're being chastised for talking too much and giving away too much of your strategy.

[00:16:02]Fryda: There's an entire language around dominoes. There are names for every domino piece.

There are terms that you use at different points in the domino game. There will be like an eruption of noise suddenly coming from one side of the party and you know, something's happening at the domino table.

Carmen: Oh absolutely.

It'll be somebody probably screaming like “Me pegue!” which is like, they played their last piece thereby ending the game and they won.

Fryda: Yeah. I've seen some versions of domino being played where every single time someone makes a play they'll say something fancy.

Carmen: Oh yeah. There are so many phrases. And my favorite is “hechale agua!” which means when you're shuffling throw water into it to kind of shuffle. And I just think that's so cute.

Fryda: When you shuffle dominoes, it sounds like a creek or a waterfall.

Carmen: It’s true. Yeah. All that ruckus. Yeah.

Fryda: I think that's at least the association I made any time I heard “hechale agua”

[00:16:56]Carmen: My other favorite one is when you've picked up all of your pieces at the beginning of the game. And they only have low numbers you say “ño, estoy en la playa,” which is

Fryda: ño, like “Shoot, I'm at the beach”

Carmen: Yeah, because you only have low numbers.

I have really fond memories of playing dominoes. There is an entire domino park in Miami where all of the old Cuban men go to play dominoes and bitch about the revolution. It's a really quintessential part of the Cuban identity, dominoes. And so it makes sense that at every single party you’ve got to have a Domino's game.

Fryda: So that's happening in one corner. It's pretty loud. So where are the kids?

Carmen: Where are the kids? The kids are running around, the kids are beating each other up, the kids - if you're in Miami and you are fancy, you probably have a bouncy house for the kids, and they're probably killing themselves in there.

Fryda: Or the kids are having a pool party. You never know...

Carmen: They're in a pool party somewhere. They're killing themselves somewhere. But the point is that you're not worried about them. You're not “vigilando” your kids.

Fryda: Yeah, it was one of the few times like that I felt like I could really just have fun.

Carmen: Yeah. yeah yeah.

[00:17:59] Fryda: Without my parents watching, watching me at all times, because like I'm an only child.

Okay. It was hard to get a moment to myself. So they were finally preoccupied by other adults and I can go and like do stuff with the kids.

Carmen: We'd be running around playing “El Chucho escondido” and all of this in a full on little, like little kid bata. The kids aren't showing up in their play clothes, because they're going to kill each other for three hours while you're getting drunk.

The kids are also dressed in their absolute best.

Fryda: Yes. I will probably find photos of myself, both in Cuba and in Miami wearing an elaborate poofy dress to these parties where I'm like running around and throwing like a tomato at someone. So like, yeah.

Carmen: And then of course, when you get it dirty or you get it ripped or something, your mom is like, “¡No no vaya, contigo no se puede!”

And you’re like “I'm a kid. What are you expecting?”

Fryda: Yeah. And you're wearing esos zapaticos a little shoes that have the buckle

Carmen: the little tiny socks

Fryda: And the ruffly socks.