Friday, July 24, 2015

Why I want to go to Cuba

If you watch baseball games, or listen on the radio, you surely know that there a lot of ballplayers from Cuba and other Latino nations.  They are good at playing baseball, because the climate is favorable for playing ball all year long, and because getting to the American Major Leagues means a whole new prosperous life for the player and his family.  Many a man who now earns the price of a new baseball, glove and bat for about 1.4 seconds of time on the field grew up playing barehanded, using sticks for bats and rocks for baseballs.   It's the dream, and we welcome those with the talent and drive to live it.

But the names have changed over the years, especially for Cuban émigrés and, for that matter, for Cubans still in Cuba.  In my long-ago childhood, the names Pedro Ramos, Manuel "Potato" Cueto, and Camilo Pascual were heard on the radio as often as those of Fidel Castro and Fulgencio Batista.  Those first names were standard in Cuba back in the day.

And sometime during the 1970s and 1980s, a new name trend began in "the island nation 90 miles from Florida," as Cuba is always called in the news.  It was called "Generation Y," a nod to Generation X, the people born here after the post-WWII baby boom, the people born between 1961 and 1981 who flock to Quentin Tarantino movies on their way to, and home from, Starbucks, the chain that convinced people that coffee was more.

The new name trend in Cuban Generation Y saw many of the children born there with newly-invented names inspired by Cold War Russian first names such as Yevgeny, Yuri or Yulia. One of them is a blogger and dissident writer named Yoani Sanchez; she chose "Generation Y" as the title of her blog.   

Part of the reason away from traditional saint's names was that post-Revolution Cuba was officially atheist.  Los Angeles Dodgers fans have occasionally considered nominating Cuban defector outfielder Yasiel Puig for sainthood, but that is strictly unofficial.

However, just like the weather, wait a while, and things will change.  Cuba and the US are re-establishing diplomatic relations, travel from here to there is within reach, and soon, I'm sure, the lovely Havana nights will be illuminated by golden McArches and red Red Robins.  When you take that trip to Cuba, they say the trend is that you'll meet more people with traditional Spanish names such as Juan and Juanita and Maria and Alejandro, and fewer who answer to Yoleissi, Yuniesky, Yadinnis, Yilka, Yiliannes, Yonersi, Yusleibis, Yolady, Yudeisi or Yamilka.  There were many kids christened Yotuel, a blend of the Spanish pronouns "yo," ''tu" and "el," ("I," ''you" and "he" in English.)

I really want to go to Cuba to see all these cool 50's cars, held together by ingenuity and homemade parts
Fashions, fads and fancies come and go, says Carlos Paz Perez, a professor at Miami Dade College and an expert in Cuban linguistics. "The Y thing was like a fever, a boom. It was (about) doing something different from the monotony of the Pedros and the Rauls," he said. "But now that has passed and there is a tendency to recover traditional names."

Which will be good for those who remember the dialogues they had to perform with another student in Spanish I.
Raúl: ¡Hola! Me llamo Raúl. ¿Cómo te llamas?
Sofía: Hola, Raúl. Me llamo Sofía. ¿Cómo se escribe Raúl?
Raúl: Se escribe R-A-Ú-L. ¿Qué tal?
Sofía: Bien. ¿Y tú?
Raúl: Fenomenal, gracias.
Sofía: ¡Qué fantástico! Adiós, Raúl.
Raúl: ¡Hasta luego!

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