April 8, 2014, by Guest blog

Connecting with the Cuban locals

In order to make strong and personal connections it is important to feel confident in the language used to communicate – and this is how I felt when I first arrived in Cuba. I was told by just about every one to be weary when speaking to Cubans because all they want is your money. This meant that I felt fairly uncomfortable to open up to the Cubans in the beginning, which meant that in the first 2 weeks I spent most of my time with my fellow students from England. However, I knew that if I was ever going to improve my Spanish I would have to make a conscious effort and start trusting the Cubans. Therefore I started to take German lessons, where I would be the only native English speaker and that would force me to communicate more in Spanish. The Cubans I met in my German class were very interested in getting to know me and my background and this led to me getting involved in more activities with Cubans. I started doing tandem exchanges with Cuban students from my class and I started proofreading their English work. Not only was the cultural and language exchange extremely useful, but I also started to make genuine friends in and outside of the classroom.

With the dissertation coming up next year I also wanted to try and make connections with some of the locals so that I could gain some vital primary research, which would make my dissertation stand out. Therefore I started going to Callejón de hamel every Sunday to watch the African dancers do an eclectic mix of rumba, danzon and salsa accompanied by the haunting beats of the African drums. Although I have still not mustered up the courage to go up on the stage and dance with them, I have had the opportunity to speak with some of them to ask their opinion on what makes Cuban culture, and more specifically, Cuban dancing stand out. I also found out from them what defines Cuban culture for them. Through making connections with the locals I will be able to incorporate their opinions into any future studies I do on Cuba.

The photo above is of me with one of the Cubans I have made friends with – a connection that I hope will last!

Posted in Making connections