26.12.06

This Other America: Part I, E.E.U.U

The title of this post is inspired by a Cuban I met during my two weeks trip to this country. To a question I asked regarding the abbreviation of 'Estados Unidos' as 'E.E.U.U.' in Cuba he offered a half an hour answer. I was with my husband near a poster showing rates for foreign money in Convertible Cuban Pesos, not far from Hemingway's sanctuary in old Havana, the hotel Ambos Mundos, in the middle of the pedestrian Obispo street. Omar said proudly that 'E.E.U.U.' was a convention to designate the United states by what they really are and not by what they pretend to be.
They really are the Estados Unidos of the Estados Unidos. They are not the Estados Unidos of America because America is something Else, America is more than that. They are not America because if they were then Canada would also qualify for this title (he knew we were Canadians) and so would Bolivia, Cuba, venezuela, Uruguway, Argentina or any other part of the American continent.

Our trip was nearing its end and many unanswered questions were boiling in my mind about Cuba. I have already made an opinion for myself about the country whose history and present economic and political situation could be well defined only from the point of view of the US's hegemonic politics towards Cuba and towards other countries of the American continent. I liked Omar's answer because it seemed to give a strong meaning to the nuanced image I had of Cuba; I felt this country as deeply American and yet this is another kind of America. An America that crossed the races separation lines, an America that is preoccupied by social justice, an America that fought colonialism and still fighting neocolonialism with all its races, and an educated, literate and proud America that is attached to a political conception of the country based more on the Homeland than on the Nation in the sense that it conceives the country as one space made for all races and classes living in it and not some sort of homogenous ethnic entity which is what the word 'Nation' is increasingly meaning nowadays. The conception of the meltdown of pure races in Cuba was evident in the Arts where one can find works from contemporary Cuban artists depicting Gitano gipsy women. As Gitans do not exist as a race in itself in Cuba, the only explanation is that the representation of gipsies are testimonies to a racial social ideal made of the mix of all races pervading the consciousness of the Cuban society.

We had toured the old book sellers around Plaza De Armas for the last two days and many writings on the Americas were highly represented in their collections. Among them: José Marti's 'Writings on the Americas' and Carlos Octavio Bunge's 'Nuestra America'...

We chatted with Omar pressing him on domestic questions; Housing, transportation, daily life and he was frank and straightforward. There was no attempt made by him to hide Cuba's present difficult economic situation which I will describe in the coming posts. Omar is a taxi driver who had traveled previously to Canada, New Foundland and Montreal and kept a sweet souvenir of his stay in our country. He also had this Joke from his stay in Montreal: everytime he would say that he is Cuban people would ask him 'are you a Fidel Cuban or a Miami Cuban ?'

We thanked Omar and asked him to come to our hotel the next day to drive us to the airport. We also left with some advice from him on what to eat at 'La Bodeguita del Medio' this night, another Hemingway sanctuary in Old Havana. Without hesitation he recommended Frijoles negros dormidas, Arroz blanco and Ropa Vieja. The dinner did meet our expectations at la Bodeguita but not the Mojito. Hemingway's Mojito at La Bodeguita is so popular among tourists that it became the victim of its own success, a dull and tasteless mojito. Everything else, including the local music band, was superb...

P.S. Read here the real answer for the double E and U in the abbreviation of Estados Unidos.

5 comments:

Behemoth101 said...

And so the Tocquevillian tradition of exploration continues... I should hope the next time in Coahuila y Tejas, compadre.

3li- said...

Sophia-

I was similarily rebuked during a trip to Mexico.

When asked where I came from, I thought the easiest answer was to say "America," as we in lebannon unthinkingly refer to it. They were delighted to address my ignorance.

A revealing post. I look forward to the rest.

Welcome back.

Sophia said...

3li,

It is as if this other America does not exist as such in the consciousness of many including non US citizens. I understood, while visiting Cuba, that the only America that still correspond to the european coloniser idealised imagination of the faraway conquered land is White America, the America of the separation of races, the US. This is why it is easily accepted that the US monopolize the name for itself...

Elizabeth said...

I saw "E.E.U.U." in Costa Rica too.

Sophia said...

Elizabeth,

Yes, I know it is not something exclusive to Cuba but I liked the explanation Omar gave me about this particular abbreviation...I visited your blog earlier today but did not have much time to read your posts on Costa Rica.

 
Since March 29th 2006