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COLA LOCA: Queuing in Cuba and How To Do It.

August 22, 2012


The British visitor can struggle to find cultural connections when they visit Cuba. Brits don´t dance (normally) and value a pragmatic, restrained and planned approach to life – whereas Cubans do dance (and often), favouring a more sociable, live-for-the-moment, demonstrative style.  But there’s one thing they really do share: a national obsession for the queue – la cola.

If you think Brits have this down to a fine art, you need to re-think. Here´s how to do the Cuban Cola in seven, stress-free, steps:

1.     Learn how to say: ´´Quien es el ultimo, por favor?´´ (Who´s the last one, please/key-en es el ool-ti-mow, porr fav-or?), and ´´Detrás de quien …?´´  (Who are you behind?/day-tras de key-en?).
2.      Approach your queue of choice and ask (in a fairly loud voice):  ´´Quien es el ultimo, por favor? ´´
3.     Wait until someone indicates – by putting up their hand/finger, or with a decisive ´´Yo!´´ (Me!)
4.     Note their face well and ask them:  ´´Detrás de quien…?´´
5.     They will then indicate the person who is in front of them in the queue. Note that person´s face well, too.
6.     Finally, wait patiently until someone new arrives to join the queue. You will then be ´´El ultimo´´, the person to say ´´Yo!´´, and the one to point out who is in front of you.

And here comes the interesting bit; where the rest of the world can really admire, and learn from, Cuba.

7.     At this point (especially if the queue is long and slow-moving) you can actually go off; have a coffee, sit across the road in the shade or do some shopping around the corner.  Because once you´re ´´marked´´ in the queue – once you know the person (A) in front of you, the one (B) in front of them (in case (A) leaves), and the person (C) who comes after you, you’re home and dry. You can go off, come back and still resume your marked place.

Finally, there are even refreshments thrown in over here. This queue of over 100, hot but enthusiastic, people (see photo) is for ice-cream – at Havana´s famous parlour, Copelia – but is also hot business for popcorn, soft drink and cake vendors. Step down, you Brits!

SH