Cuba, An Island of Euphemisms
March 30, 2012
People who were the "maggots," "worms," "traitors" and "scum" are now
called "community members" or "Cuban-Americans" or "those living outside
HAVANA TIMES, March 30 — Euphemisms (which are of course words and
expressions used for replacing other ones that are considered bad
sounding, distasteful or inappropriate), are commonly used in Cuba,
especially by those seeking to avoid "annoying interpretations."
An annoying interpretation, in turn, can be a word that describes a
possible reprimand from a superior, boss or colleague who thinks your
term is inappropriate. Let me give you some examples:
The words "maid," "housekeeper," "servant" and "service employee"
disappeared from the national lexicon as they were considered bourgeois
expressions, and all vestiges of the bourgeoisie needed to be eliminated
from the lives of Cubans.
With the passage of time and the incontrovertible existence of class
differences in the country, these types of words have reappeared among
those who need to pay other people for domestic services and those who
need to get paid for those services.
The circumstances have returned, but with new designations. Now these
people are called "the woman who does the cleaning" or "the man who runs
errands"; or — more amicably — they might be referred to as "the person
who helps us at home," thus creating some degree of ambiguity. One might
even get the impression that this person is not bound by money in
providing this "aid or assistance."
People who were the "maggots," "worms," "traitors" and "scum" of the
mass exoduses (from the port at Camarioca in 1960 and Mariel in 1980),
after certain social and political conjunctures began to be referred to
using gentler terms like "community members" or "Cuban-Americans" or
"those living outside of Cuba."
This is why it's not at all uncommon for people who are "fired" or "laid
off" to be described as having experienced "employment reorganization."
Likewise "evictions" become the "distrainment of real property."
And anyone who provides information about other people to the police or
to the Ministry of the Interior — rather than being labeled as
"informants," "snitches" or chivatos — they are described as
"auxiliaries" or "civilian collaborators."
A "prostitute" is now called a jinetera (escort), and theft (on a large
scale by certain officials) has been dubbed "the mismanagement of
But there are some terms that are completely exempt from the possibility
of receiving any softer kinder euphemisms. These include "independent
journalist" or "blogger," which are smeared with words like
"cyber-dissident" or even "mercenary" in the worst cases.
In other words, euphemisms are employed to a degree directly
proportional to the level of the commitment they have for the
implantation or ordering by the system, in accordance with the period
and the context.
These are the reasons my writings are never published in official media.
Don't imagine, my friends, that the cause of this is "censorship" or a
lack of "freedom of expression" its that I'm very apt to use amplified
phraseology and opinions that are "exaggerated," "distorted,"
"imprudent" or "inconsistent" with our reality.
Please, I'm not asking for anyone to describe me as being "sardonic"
with this. I'm only being "funny."