so, thereâ€™s one thing that really sucks about Cuba. no, itâ€™s not the heat, or the food, or the funky money. all of those things really donâ€™t bother me. the worst thing about Cuba are all of the Jinteros here. Jintero is the local term for “hustler”. these are people who spend their time just chilling on the streets and waiting for tourists to come by. then they run up to you and try to act all charming and friendly as if they just want to make conversation and chat. but after about 5 minutes of this, they inevitably hit you up for money. or, they try to sell you something, or the other trick is they take you to a restaurant/hotel/whatever where they get a fat commission and your rates are jacked up.
these people are totally driving me nuts. itâ€™s not just that itâ€™s a waste of time to interact w/ them… itâ€™s more that they are playing you for a fool. and each time I talk to someone on the street, I kind of hope in the back of my mind that maybe just this once… just ONE time, this person will be talking because they really just want to talk ant not because they want something. I mean, one of the reasons to travel is so that you can meet the people of the country and get to know about them and have some interactions. And yeah, itâ€™s not like Iâ€™m expecting to make some lifelong friends or anything like that, but itâ€™s nice to be able to just chat etc without it turning out that the whole conversation was just to warm you up for this personâ€™s salespitch.
And itâ€™s always the same script:
â€œhi, where you from?â€
â€œIâ€™m from san Franciscoâ€
â€œSAN FRANCISCO!!!!!!â€ the say as their eyes light up as if this was the best place ever… â€œI LOVE san Francisco! I have a uncle/cousin/friend who lives in New York/Boston/Miami!!!â€
â€œum, thatâ€™s niceâ€
â€œhow you like Cuba?â€
â€œI like it a lot, itâ€™s an amazing country.â€
â€œAh!! Very good!! How long you here for?â€
â€œah. Good… so…â€ and then the salespitch â€œcan you buy a cervesa for your new amigo?â€/â€you want cheap price for good cigar?â€/â€you looking for chica?â€
ugh. I go through this little charade like 10 times a day. And the thing is… I just cant tell them to fuck off. If someone directly just asked me for money or to buy shit, I would. But, when someone comes up to me and asks me where Iâ€™m from.. I cant just wave them off. What if this is the one time someone is just curious, and Iâ€™m totally rude to them? So, I listen to their shtick. And I respond to all the questions for the millionth time, and then I get pissed off again when they try to sell me something.
Then, thereâ€™s also a female version of this. The females arenâ€™t really selling anything except for themselves. Of course, they too often try not to just come out and say it, and instead just â€œhang outâ€ until the right time. My first day in Cuba, I was having trouble finding a bank to change money. This random woman helped me find one, and then just stuck around. First she was chatting w/ her friend, then she was talking to other people, but she just wouldnâ€™t leave. I knew that it was only a matter of time till she asked me for something, but there wasnâ€™t a polite way to get rid of her. The bank ended up having issues, so she took me to another one. On the way there, she tells her daughter, whose hand she is holding, to hold my hand too. Great, what am I supposed to do.. I cant diss the little kid. So before I know it, Iâ€™m walking through the streets of Cuba with this woman and her kid holding our hands. Sheez, how do I get into these situations? Eventually, when I declined going to a bar for drinks, I was able to finally escape. Another time, when I went to that music thing in someoneâ€™s house, after it ended, this girl said she had to show me something. Well, when we get to the next room, it turns out to be her bedroom. Crap! Luckily, she just played me a bunch of her sisters CDs, but then when she invited me to come the next night for dinner, I knew I had to get the hell outta there.
So yeah, all of it is hella frustrating and really difficult to deal with. I think my new policy here will be to talk to nobody at all… which really sucks cause I wasnâ€™t hoping to come to Cuba to *avoid* people. * Sigh*.