Castrogonia’s Culture: When Vulgarity Becomes the Norm

Naah! I’ve stuck these in my ears to protect me from the large number of bad words that one hears on the street.

Miriam Celaya has posted an excellent essay on CubaNet, entitled “La chusmería: hija bastarda de la revolución” (Vulgartiy: bastard child of the revolution).

The Real Diccionario de la Lengua Española defines the Cuban meaning of “chusma” as: “persona de modales groseros y comportamiento vulgar” (someone with rude manners and vulgar behavior).

There is really no adequate translation for “chusma” in English.  Yes, a “chusma” is a vulgar person, and often rude one too, and that gets close to the meaning.   But it really misses the mark.

In the country formerly known as Cuba,  the term “chusma” had a depth of meaning as untranslatable as any slang word.  It implied a way of life devoid of grace, and also a questionable set of ethics.

“Chusma” language was loud, coarse, blunt, rude, and full of profanity.  It had its poetic side, as all slang does, but it had a vicious edge, a tendency to assault the ear with gross references to sex and scatology.

“Chusma”  ethics centered on self-seeking, self-aggrandizement, vengeance, and the constant use of violence.   Envy was its chief virtue, callousness its most prized attitude.  In brief, it was the culture of the Castro clan, which they promoted through their so-called Revolution.  It is the ethic of the rapid response brigades and of their acts of repudiation.

“Chusma” aesthetics before the so-called Revolution prized cheesy excess and kitsch.  After the so-called Revolution, when everything turned to crap, and even kitsch became a luxury, it’s hard to pinpoint or summarize what happened to the  chusma aesthetic.  But it is safe to say that its chief icon remained the “chancleta”(the flip-flop) and the lifestyle associated with it.   

Here is where experts might disagree: Is a “chancletera” the same as a “chusma”?

Chancleteras on parade
Chancleteras on parade

Of course, all of this has to do with class, income, race, education, and all the inequalities found in every society.   Everything “chusma” was low class.  But this did not mean that all poor people were “chusma”.  Far from it.  In many ways, to be  “chusma”  involved choice to some extent.  One could always opt out, grow out of it, choose to abandon “chusmería.”

The point of Miriam Celaya’s article is that “chusmería” has become the norm in Castrogonia.  It is the ultimate cultural heritage bequeathed to the Cuban people by the Castro dynasty and its so-called Revolution.  In other words, Cuban culture is as ruined as the buildings and the infrastructure, and there is no turning back the clock.  It is what it is.  And it is way too damaged to fix: it is a homemade chancleta beyond repair.

The article can be found HERE, in Spanish.   It poses challenges even to the best of translators, but it should be translated into English.  Anyone out there?  Please?



3 thoughts on “Castrogonia’s Culture: When Vulgarity Becomes the Norm

  1. Prof. Eire, you really hit the nail on the head with your definition of “chusmeria!” That is the best description ever! Why you don’t even have to go to a solar and observe a chusma in action, your description is better!

    That said, yes, tragically, along with the slums and fallen buildings, that is castro’s other legacy, turning Cuba into one vast solar full of chusmas. But what can we expect of castro? I know someone who went to school with him and she said that he would take off his shoes and play with his filthy smelly feet in class. As every one knows, he was called “bola de churre,” and his family life was bizarre and unconventional, with a rifle totting mother and a father who used to kill Haitian workers. The family was wealthy, but had no class whosoever, sort of like the Beverly Hill Billies with the exception that the Beverly Hills Billies were salt of the earth, while castro’s family were genuinely evil. What family produces two full-fledged clinical psychopaths [fidel and raul] in the same brood?

    castro always hated the Cuban people and he didn’t stop until he destroyed them. Consumed by envy, he hated the Cuban middle class and wanted to humiliate them and bring them down. He did just that. Tragically, the world loves castro, because to them, this is the way that Cubans are supposed to be. It makes the tourists feel good to go to a country with such “earthy” and quaint folks.

  2. The Castro family was very rich by Cuban standards, even if the crooked and brutish old patriarch, a Spanish ex-soldier who’d fought against Cuba’s independence, was not into ostentation and cared much more about amassing money than about social standing. He may also have realized that he would never be accepted as “high society,” because he had a very unsavory reputation in both business and personal terms, and looked and acted like the crude peasant stock he came from. In any case, the Castros had plenty of money but no class, and they were bound to resent those who had it or valued it. That’s one of the reasons Fidel set out to destroy traditional Cuban society and culture, not because he wanted something better, but because he wanted to bring it all down to his level, and because he wanted revenge for having been found wanting. If there’s one thing a megalomaniac cannot stand is being rejected or slighted for not being good enough.

  3. Oh, and the Imperial Commission for Linguistic Purity will consider issuing a translation of Celaya’s essay. I suppose Alberto could try it, but of course his translation would never be pure enough.

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