I’ve been writing this blog since 2006. That’s 9 years of (over)sharing about my big, fat, Cuban family and our sometimes nutty life. Growing up Cuban brings with it its own set of rules and many shared experiences. We have certain products that we are compelled to use and behavior which we don’t quite think is odd, because…Cuban.
For example, it’s almost a full time job avoiding death and the evil eye. The whole things starts off pretty much the day we were born. So much can go wrong and there are evils lurking in every corner. It’s a wonder we made it to adulthood. Can you say, ‘superstitious?’
1) Azabaches Save Lives.
We started our lives wearing, not just jewelry, but an azabache. This is important to ward off the evil eye, particularly important if you were an adorable baby (which I was). It’s the only thing that can protect from jealousy, the evil eye, and all sorts of untold calamaties brought on by strangers glancing sideways at you as they pass.
2) Cuban babies must smell like the tears of angels.
How Cuban babies smell is of the utmost importance. I guarantee that not one Cuban baby has ever made it home from the hospital without a good douse of Violetas Cologne. Purists would insist on the Augustin Reyes brand and I would have to agree. Babies must smell like violets. That is all. Is there anything better than the smell of a clean, Cuban baby? Maybe Heaven itself.
3) Do not bring home those sea shells!
If you managed to survive your early childhood, the rest of your life is still full of landmines to be avoided. Think of a simple pleasure like maybe collecting sea shells at the beach. THINK AGAIN. A bucket full of shells is bad luck. Don’t ask why. They never had a good ‘why.’ You probably spent the better half of a day at the beach collecting shells only to have your mom or your ever-vigilant abuela make sure they didn’t find their way back home with you. “Mala suerte,” they would cryptically say. (Bad luck.) Don’t even think about trying this.
4) There’s the 3-Hour Rule about swimming after eating.
Don’t do it. This will cause a serious breach in the time-space continuum. If you eat something, you will need to avoid water for a minimum of 3 hours. Otherwise, you might experience a dreaded, ‘patatú.’ It’s a cross between a stroke and a conniption. Or it’s some sort of nervous condition where you may or may not lose control of your limbs and mind. No one knows exactly, but we believed. Even as an adult having grown up in the U.S., I haven’t completely shaken the fear of this threat. (Don’t judge.)
5) If a rocking chair moves by itself, death is imminent.
I grew up with rocking chairs. Everyone I knew had rocking chairs in their house. And as good (superstitious) Cuban children we knew that if you got up from the chair and it was still rocking, there’s a good chance that the youngest member of the family would die. Because logic. STOP THOSE CHAIRS!
6) There’s only ONE sure cure for anything that ails you.
Cold? Fever? Tummy ache? Broken arm? There’s only one thing that can fix them all. Vicks VapoRub. Or, as we pronounced it, “VEE-VA-PO-ROO.” Particularly effective when slathered on the bottom of your feet and then covered with socks. Do NOT question this wisdom.
7) Don’t put your purse on the floor. You’ll end up poor.
You’re at a restaurant and you sling your purse on the back of your chair. But what if the chairback is sloped? Do not put that purse on the floor. That’s the same as announcing you plan to be penniless for the rest of your life. Believe it.
8) Speaking of pennies, NEVER, EVER pick one up.
I know it’s not the American way. If you find a penny here in the states and you pick it up, you are pretty much guaranteed to have good luck. If you’re Cuban, not so much. Walk on by. It probably contains some ‘mal de ojo’ which is why it was dropped in the first place. And let’s face it, you probably stopped wearing your azabache (see #1) years ago. Trust me. DO NOT PICK UP THE PENNY.
9) Don’t go out at night with wet hair.
If you’ve managed to avoid all the death and chaos any careless action might bring, don’t make the rookie mistake of going out at night with wet hair. Particularly if there’s a full moon. Trust me. You don’t want to do this. There’s a good chance you’ll get some kind of palsy, or have a stroke. If worse comes to it and you just catch The Worst Cold of Your Life (and you will) , don’t say I didn’t warn you. (Also, see #6 above.)
10) If all else fails, light a candle.
If you find you’re collecting a lot of bad juju, it’s best to burn it off. And I don’t mean going out for a run. You just light a candle. In fact, just talking about all the land mines that we avoided growing up Cuban makes me think it’s probably a good idea to just to go ahead and light a candle right now. You know, as a precaution. ‘Prende una velita.’
Por si las moscas.
If you like all things Cuban (which I know you do), check out my Cuban Food Poster. You’ve gotta have it now, right? I bet your Tia Cuca would really love this for her kitchen.