Adiós muchachos, “compañeros” of my life…

There are words that have their moment, while others manage to survive the fads to remain in our everyday lives.  The disproportionate presence of certain words contrasts with those that have been condemned to oblivion, to be mentioned only to evoke the past.  All these processes of rejection or approximation that occur in our heads are evident in our speech.  Hence, the public death of a politician starts when people cease to create nicknames; the crisis of an ideal shows when few make reference to it, and the ideological propaganda falter when no one repeats their Manichean slogans.  Language can validate or bury any utopia.

Among the linguistic evidence of our current lack of appetite is the gradual disappearance of the term “compañero.”  This formula is used less and less to refer to a lifelong friend or someone we meet for the first time.  Having banished—for their petit bourgeoisie inferences—the titles “señor,” “señora” and “señorita,” others came along in order to demonstrate a greater familiarity among Cubans, such as the imported “comrade.”  They were used even in tragicomic cases, for example when a person called a bureaucrat, who made them wait six hours for a paper, “compañero,” even though in reality they wanted to insult him.

For years if you addressed someone differently from the “Aye aye, Mate” promulgated by the Party, it could be taken as a deviant ideology.  We were all “equal” and even the use of the formal form of “you” disappeared in this false familiarity that often degenerates into disrespect.  On opening the island to tourism, one of the first lessons the employees of the hotels learned was to return to the stigmatized “señor’ when dealing with guests.  Little by little the titles of the recent past were reduced to the vocabulary of the most loyal, the oldest.  So, among the thousands of salutations you hear today on our streets—brother, pal, partner, buddy, friend, mate, pure and simple “pssst”— the sonorous syllables of “compañero” appear less and less.


11 thoughts on “Adiós muchachos, “compañeros” of my life…

  1. I’m here in Dominican Republic. What I cannot understand to my amazement is how many of my compatriots admire and morally support the Nazi-like Castro dictatorship. It seems as if my people’s inferiority complex over the superiority of the United States as a nation drives us to blindness and ignorance. But while we in Santo Domingo can breathe the air of freedom, the most prized value of humanity, it would not have been possible if ironically, freedom had not been imposed to us by our friends, the Yankees. What ingrates we are. I hate to ait it, but we Dominicans do not appreciate our real friends. And how strange? Freedom imposed! I love it. It is as if God imposed heaven to sinners! Look, I live in a free country. I enjoy the freedom I inherited thru Uncle Tom and Lyndon Johnson(thank God the U.S. Marines saved us from Fidel in 1965) but unfortunately we have a “fake” democracy. We still have not learned to accept and believe in freedom. Dominicans, like Cubans still cannot believe freedom really exists. We believe it is too good to be true. So what do we do? We condition freedom. We have so-called free elections. But our politicians and institutions are so corrupt that they make a mockery of democracy and distort freedom itself. Our vote is worthless because we vote for a patronage system very close to Feudalism. Our president Leonel Fernandez is no less of a dictator than Fidel Castro and just a bad and corrupt as Chavez. What keeps him and his one-party system(yes it feels like that)from turning us into another Cuba or Venezuela is the watchful eye of “the empire”. Yes, thank God for the empire, so despised by the mafiosi Chavez. I did not want to bring this point. But the greatest fear I have for my acquired freedom is that my fellow Dominicans start believing in Chavez’ ridiculous Nazi ideology disguized under this Bolivarian utopia. Can anyone really believe Latin America can have a Bolivarian Union when even the europeans can’t still agree what the European Union really is? We live in a failed democracy. We dominicans live in a failed state. We have no electricity, little water, more taxes than any nation in the world, but no government services. But yes, we have too much government, the antithesis of democracy, but only to do us harm. We suffer like the Cubans to a lesser extent. But again, the only thing they have not yet taken away from us is our freedom. And again, thanks America. Keep an eye on us. I can live without electricity, without potable water, and widespread corruption, crime, and poverty. But please do not take away my freedom. Yoani I know how you feel. Keep your chin up and fight back. Castro and Chavez are just there to test our will. We will defeat these monters. Time is on our side.

  2. I wope up this morning, another beautiful sunny day In Miami Florida and found the newspaper (Miami Herald)nesttled under my lawn chair waiting for me like an old friend.
    First storyI read, CUBA/INTERNET Speaking out no matter the cost Blogger Yoani Sanchez is part of a growing youth oriented Cuban counterculture tired of keeping quiet- despite the obstacles! Oh my God! am I dreaming? It even gave web site to the blog. I am a cuban born woman 46 who left Cuba @ the age of 6 (una gusana) running for my life in the freedom flights.
    To find this kind of information that my beautiful Cuba is speaking out, Yoani, God bless you, give you strength and know that you have a new friend here in Miami visiting your blog DAILY. ANYTHING, ANYTHING I can help you with MI HERMANA CIBERNETICA, feel free to post or email me at the above e-mail address.
    I challange the Cuban community here in Florida and in the USA to post in Yoanis blog let our voices be heard.

  3. Aap is a respectful term in Urdu for you.Yaar is term used between friend’s,a sort of slang meaning friend.The point,just like Compañero is disappearing,& hence in some way’s taking away the essence of Cuba & it’s language,Urdu is disappearing too; small slang’s are either fitted into english sentence’s,urdu is written in english in ad’s & chat’s,or young kid’s of my around my age group have started speaking English.
    A language who’s name literally mean’s clash,& is a clash,now face’s being forgotten; not everyone know’s how to read it,not even myself,atleast not that well. Our language is being lost & fading just like Compañero unfortunately

  4. The word compañero has (or had,,,I don’t know “yet”:) several meanings, which could be different depending of several factors, including the tone and emphasis with which it is said, for example:

    Compañero puede venir aquí un momento?
    Compañero, can you come over here ? (This is just a nice way to call somebody)

    Compañero usted no está registrado en est lista?
    Compañero, you are not registered in this list? (This is somebody claiming that you are not registered in some list (to buy bread, or soap, anything), then, you can’t buy what you were waiting to buy.

    El Compañero es alguien muy bien conocido, PERO,,,,!!!!!
    El compañero is someone well known, BUT,,,,,, (After the BUT, anything can happen,,,,could be:

    BUT, he deserves a wrist watch after working 100000000000000 voluntary hours!!!!!.

    BUT, still he needs some improve, to be able to apply for that especial week of vacations in ,,,,,(the middle of nowhere!!!).

    BUT, his friends have contradictions and expressions against the Revolution, then, that kind of friendship is not good, then, he must avoid those friends and we will check this out next year when we get this evaluation again!!!!!.

    BUT, some others saw him miss the CDR guard therefore he is a dishonor and,,,,,,!!!!!.

    And like that, we can get millions of uses of that word, where you can receive since a good news until that you will be shot to death in 5 minutes !!!!!.

    That word, wherever she came from, the way that it was/or it is used, is just one more evidence of the cruelty, repression , and vandalism that the Revolution had imposed in Cuba, where using that sophisticated manner was able to put in the mouth of every Cuban the damn word voluntarily by express mandate of the murderer in chief, Fidel Castro!!!!!!!!!


  5. Hi John,
    I went over to Miriam’s blog to see what was going on and “released” your comment. There’s all sorts of warning messages on the site it saying the spam-catcher is not working properly, so perhaps it’s just holding up all the comments right now. I will report it to the powers-that-be… that blog is still on the old software which was getting more and more problematic so I guess this is an instance of that.
    I’m not translating that blog any more (it got to be too much… I’m still doing 4 others), but a wonderful competent Cuban-American is on it and I’ll let her know to check what’s going on with the comments and keep an eye on that.
    Your friendly English Translator

  6. Sorry to post this here, but there appears to be a problem with posting comments on the Miriam Celeya/Sin Evasion blog. I posted a comment there over 24 hours ago which is still “awaiting moderation.”

  7. Well, when my pals and I were called companeros, we used to said… .Companeros are..”the steers”, we call each other “acere”, “monina”(cuban slangs for friend).
    So, for those like Michael who like to visit Cuba, and felt scammed by cab drivers. A lesson in cuban slang … If you go to Havana again (which I doubt)When approaching a taxi in “malecon”…,smile and say something like this to the driver …..Que bola acere!?. He will smiled back to you and… said …Que bola consorte!? and then you would said :Me pue’ tira’ ata Playa? I’m sure sure he will said,..montate!(get inside)…and gladly he will charge you the fair price , perhaps he will get you there for free….another LOSS to “HIM”. A BIG gain for both of you…..with no monetary value … a friendship

  8. My Great Grandfather who was almost 100 when Castro took over was called Compañero by the people who wanted to take his land Away the INRA, when they called him compañero he said don’t ever call me that again, you didn’t fight along with me against the Spaniards and copañeros are two oxen when they are tied together by a yoke. LOL

  9. Actually I remember that when we were getting the papers (The permit to exit Cuba) from Cuban state security for emigration to the USA all of the sudden we were not “compañeros” we all of the sudden metamorphosed into citizens!

    I was glad now I was consider for the first time a citizen (ciudadano) I am not sure what I was before but I am sure I did not wanted to be a compañero! That was bestow on me without my approval!

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