Originally published in Buzzfeed, 2015
Having spent a significant amount of time outside of Miami, and therefore away from my fellow Cuban-Americans, I have gained a tremendous appreciation for the Cuban art of the insult. Firstly, el idioma de Cervantes is particularly well suited for weaving layered, intricate, Bayeux Tapestries of curse words. Moreover, not only does a proper Spanish language insult hit one like a semi truck hauling 20,000 copies of Cien Años de Soledad, but can also awe the victim’s soul and reinforce belief in humanity’s creative genius. Alternatively, my experience as an observer to English insults usually goes something like this:
Person 1: Hey! _______ you!
Person 2: Hey! Well, _______ you too!
Person 1: Well, _______ your mother!
Person 2: What’d you say about my mother?
Person 1: I said _______ your mother!
(Persons 1 and 2 punch each other’s faces.)
Given our common use of the Iberian languages, Cubans and Cuban-Americans share the same versatile linguistic building blocks as our fellow Latinos. This grants the Americas claim as the global epicenter of a magnitude 8.5 curse-quake. However, in my unabashedly biased opinion, I believe that Cuban Spanish’s particular diction, verbiage, and flair for impropriety is unmatched anywhere else.
The wonderful thing about Spanish cursing is that its individual insults can be piled upon each other to form a veritable La Giralda of verbal abuse. What begins as a strong foundation of contempt can be built into a monument of indignity and scorn. See below:
Me cago en ti.
(I shit on you.)
Me cago en tu madre.
(I shit on your mother.)
Me cago en el coño de tu madre.
(I shit in your mother’s vagina.)
Me cago en el coño de tu reputa madre.
(I shit in the vagina of your doubly-whorish mother.)
Me cago en el maldito coño de la requeteputa podrida que te parió.
(I shit in the damned vagina of the putrid super-whore who birthed you.)
But beauty does not solely reside within complexity. After all, even the most exquisite materials, if assembled without care, might only form a stack of rubble. Elegance can also be found in restraint. As exemplified with different variations of the word “comer,” just a few words can form an epic narrative of derision:
(Voracious shit-eater. Not only do you regularly ingest feces, but you do to the point of gluttony.)
(Choking testicle-eater. Your enthusiasm for the consumption of genitalia has jeopardized your ability to breathe.)
Eres comepinga. Y tremenda hambre que tienes.
(You are a dick-eater. And, my, what an appetite you have.)
Many of our Spanish brethren love nothing better than to mention the Eucharist (la ostia) and all the horrific things they would do to and with it. But that’s just a little to Guerras Carlistas for those of us residing in the subtopics. El Reino más Católico is welcome to its casual sacrilege—the Cubans and Cuban-Americans will stick with our casual profanity.
Threats of Violence
While on the subject of edible wafers, if someone should ever offer you una galleta cubana (a Cuban cracker), do not expect a tasty baked treat. In point of fact, you are about to get smacked in the face. You see, inventive phrasing of physical harm is the bread and butter (tostada, if you will) of Cuban cursing. However, a good Cuban insult does not simply communicate the severity of an impending assault, but also describes the hyperbolic repercussions that are soon to follow:
Le voy a dar un soplamocos tan grande a este cara de culo que le va salir un mojón de la boca.
(I’m going to strike this ass-face so hard that a turd will fly out of his mouth.)
Oye consorte, ni trates de armar un pleito porque te daré un sopapo tan duro que despingaré hasta a tus vecinos.
(Hey buddy, don’t try to start a fight because I’ll hit you so hard it’ll castrate even your neighbors.)
Tu niño malcriado merece un bofetón en la la boca, un chancletazo por el culo y un padre que no es sapingo.
(Your spoiled kid deserves a smack in the mouth, a sandal to his ass, and a father who isn’t an idiot.)
As found throughout Latin America, virulent machismo has long been present in Cuban society. It should therefore come as no shock that homophobic slurs are replete within our vernacular. However, beyond the obvious ethical problems this raises, using such smears is backwards and lazy. A good Cuban insult does not need to resort to such lackadaisical phrasing, but instead artfully bludgeons its target into submission in the most respectfully tasteless manner imaginable.
As the font and recipient of countless Cuban curses, I have become a connoisseur and avid collector of my community’s priceless verbal masterpieces. Our history, temperament, and culture are the fertile soil from which countless asperionary vintages have originated. And I cannot help but drink deeply and joyfully from that bottomless cask. After all, as José Martí, Cuba’s national poet, founding father, and revolutionary hero said it best: “¡Ño! que manera de comer mierda.”
If you like our Miami-centric ridiculousness, check out the first chapter of our upcoming book!