Traveling to Cuba to this day is still illegal for American citizens. The only people allowed to visit the ostracized country from the United States are Cubans. In order for Americans to visit the country they must sneak in by boat or without an American airline. I haven’t personally travelled to Cuba but can tell you everything you need to know about Cuban culture.
The vast emigration from Cuba to the United States has left me with a perfect Cuban impression, dance moves, and a love of the Cuban Sandwich that surpasses an American’s love for McDonald’s.
One of my best friends growing up was Cuban and that’s where I learned most of what I know. I learned to devour a Cuban sandwich in Tampa, Fl faster than a fat kid eating his favorite ice cream. It could be a fat girl but I prefer to pick on kids my own size. Living in Medellin, Colombia, for the last 3.5 months left me with an impression of how other Colombians should look and act.
Both the cities of Havana, Cuba, and Cartagena, Colombia, were powerful in their history. Havana was the third largest city in the new world behind Lima and Mexico City at one point and Cartagena, Colombia, was also powerful thanks to the booming mine business transforming itself into a major trading port.
The Spanish Empire spent an absolute fortune building defenses for both cities and they both mirror each other as two powerful capitals of the Spanish Empire in the new world.
The similarities between the two cities go far beyond the famous colonial architecture reported by tourists. The people of Cartagena look and act almost identical to the people of Cuba.
The old city of Cartagena felt like Cuba not because of the colonial architecture, but because of the people who I interacted with.
It was so surreal to be speaking with people that spoke and acted exactly like Cuban’s in the United States. The overall population of Cartagena is much darker than the population of Medellin or Cali thanks to the slave port that was in the city. Cartagena was one of the only two cities authorized to trade with black people at a certain point in history as well.
In addition to being darker, the Spanish spoken on the coast is completely different than the rest of the country. Argentina, Colombia, and Venezuela, speak the most proper Spanish of all the countries in Latin America. The land locked cities of Cali, Bogota, and Medellin are no exception to this.
Everything is very formal even when speaking with each other. The Spanish on the coast is more informal as more words are enunciated less and there is less formality as well. The whole culture while I was there, even the feeling of being hustled every 5 minutes, reminded me of Cubaville back in the United States.
It not about the buildings and the architecture although that helps with the feeling of Cuba. The stifling heat is very similar to Cuba (thanks weather.com!) as well but it’s not about the heat. It’s all about the people and how they behave within the old city walls.
Getting hustled in a taxi in Cali just isn’t the same as getting hustled in Cartagena. Seeing all the pretty people in Medellin with the accent specific to the region of Antioquia just isn’t the same. Those with no distinct background with Cuban culture may not get the same feeling as I did. But if you have traveling to the city of Cartagena go back and think about it. If you are traveling to Cartagena in the future pay extra attention to the people.
You will soon find out with a first Cuban encounter how similar the cities really are.