Author Archives: Melissa Mendes

“You guys have it easy”

According to my source, in the marine core, whenever the senior group is about to graduate, they tell the new recruits who’ve just come in that they are having a much easier time than the ones graduating. Depending on who’s in charge and the current politics, it actually does fluctuate in difficulty, but the graduating class always tells the newer recruits this even if it’s slightly untrue. Regardless, there’s no such thing as easy marine core boot camp. According to my source, it’s so difficult that half the guys don’t make it to graduation.

My source heard this when he was beginning his training when he was in his 20s, and says that the men who do it do so to make themselves feel better and make the new group feel like they’re not as tough as older ones are. He claims that it’s human nature to want to think that you’re better and stronger than the next guy coming through. It may also be that intimidating the new trainees into wanting to be better and stronger than the group before them is both a sort of initiation ritual and a way to sort of inspire the new recruits.

I’ve personally seen this sort of thing in junior high and high school regarding certain classes and P.E., so it’s definitely seen outside of this setting and can apply towards different situations.

I care three cucumbers

“Me importa tres pepinos”


I care three cucumbers.

This is another saying with agricultural reference in cuban foklore, the meaning of which is that the speaker simply doesn’t care. A similar American saying would be “I don’t give a shit,” or I don’t give a rat’s ass,” only less vulgar. My informant tells me that cucumbers were generally very inexpensive when she was living in cuba when she was growing up there.


They got their money’s worth

“Me sacaron el kilo”


They took the penny out of me.

This saying is akin to the American saying “They worked me to the bone.” It’s more or less saying that the employers got their money’s worth out of the employee and that the employee is exhausted. My informant is a cuban resident who has lived in the U.S. since she was a baby, but has many family members from whom she has picked up sayings such as these from. As the majority of her relatives all have backgrounds as field workers and maids, it makes sense that this saying has been passed down in the family.


Gift Horse

“A caballo “regalao” no se le mira el colmillo”


Don’t look at the fang of the horse that’s free.

This cuban proverb is very similar to the American saying “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” It’s very likely that it made its way over to cuba and got muddled along in translation. My informant is a cuban resident who has lived in the U.S. since she was a baby, but has many family members from whom she has picked up sayings such as these from. As the majority of her relatives all have backgrounds as field workers and maids, she informs me that she grew up fairly poor and was taught more or less not to question it when good things came her way lest they be taken away. It was considered bad luck and bad manners to be skeptical of gifts freely given.

I don’t believe it

“A otro perro con ese hueso”


To another dog, with that bone

This cuban saying is inferring that the speaker doesn’t believe whatever the listener has said. It’s more or less saying that the listener ought to try telling their story or lie to someone else more likely to believe it. My informant heard this when she was younger and got in trouble for lying about going somewhere. Her mother, a cuban immigrant, replied with this metaphor.


Want and Communism

“Al que quiere azul celeste, que le cueste.”


To the one who wants sky blue, let it cost them- If you want something specific in life, its going to cost you.

This metaphor has deep ties to the communist idea of not wanting more than everybody else. The idea in communist culture that someone may want more or something special or different is, of course, not uncommon, but this saying is a sort of caution about the price of desiring better than what others settle for. My informant, having grown up in a family full of cuban refugees, heard this metaphor from two of her elder cousins regarding higher education. In this context, it was more or less a warning as to the amount of time, money, and effort it takes for one to get a higher education, though it was not neccessarily a dissaproval.

This metaphor seems to stem from the dying of clothing in Cuba, and how certain shades had to be mixed carefully and took considerable time,money, and effort to create instead of simple, naturally occuring shades that most citizens wear.

Aim High

“Tu no vas a cojer mangos bajito”


You will not grab the mangos when you’re down low.

This metaphor is basically telling the listener that they must aim high in order to reap the benefits of labor. As my informant was a cuban immigrant who was raised by other cuban immigrants from whom she heard this saying from, this metaphor is appropriate in that not only does it make an agricultural reference when the majority of her family were once field workers, but also refers to the ideal that hard work leads to wonderful rewards. According to my informant, this ideal is one of the main reasons they risked life and limb to come to America in the first place.

Prince Charles and Princess Di

Q:Why does Prince Charles have a coloured knob?

A: He kept sticking it in Di.

My informant, who grew up in the 80s, was lucky enough to be around when Prince Charles and Princess Di were still alive and well. Thus, when this joke began to circulate, one could guess that even though it’s fairly tasteless, it was still somewhat acceptable. Now it has become even more tasteless and bordering on insulting since the princess’s death. That doesn’t stop anyone from laughing at it though. These Princesss Di jokes have definitely died down in the past few years, with much of the new generation not even sure who Princess Di was. Thus, this joke is generally only used when in a specific age range.

Mechanicaly speaking, the metaphor is a simple play on words with Di replacing dye.


Hanged Man on Halloween

When my informant was younger, she was told a story by her brother that he had apparently heard in school. It was an urban legend about a young man who had hung himself a night before Halloween in a tree in a nearby neighborhood. Apparently, since it was Halloween nobody took the body seriously, believing to be just another gruesome prop. A few days later people realized it wasn’t a prop thanks to both the smell and the birds coming to eat away at his body.

This legend is fairly disconcerting to my informant, who believes this legend to be real. When she had asked her father if it was real, he had replied in the positive, citing his cousin as a source. Apparently the boy it had happened to was the son of a distant relative. This story may or may not be true.

This story seems like a warning against complacency for a holiday that has become a mockery of what it used to be and still is for some people. The fear that some props used on this night may actually be flesh and blood instead of plastic and paint is deep seated in superstition, and that is why so many people really do get a good fright from haunted houses and the like.

It could also be seen as a warning against suicide, as the boy didn’t recieve a particularly pleasant death and his body was desecrated by the local wildlife and exposed to the elements for quite some time.

This story seems to hold a particular significance for my informant, who has told me previously that her best friend attempted to commit suicide when they were much younger, and that to this day he lies in a coma as a result.

El Mamey

“Iva por un caminito y me encontre un barilito, le meti el dedito y me salio coloradito. Que es?”


I was going down a road & I found a small little barrel, I stuck my finger in it and it came out red. What is it?

Answer: El Mamey ( A fruit with a brown rind and an orange-red center)

This cuban riddle (dichos) is one based on agriculture, as much of their folklore is. Their culture is very much crop-based, so this is logical. My informant, having been raised as a field worker in cuba, knows many of these riddles and sayings.