The secret of Pepe el Yuma and Segundo "Yuma" is the word that best describes the secret admiration of humble Cuban people for American citizens
In the late '70s, a friendly and intelligent young man was studying in the main high school of Santa Clara, Cuba. He was greatly cultured and admired by his classmates; especially as a great connoisseur of life, that beautiful and carefree life of one's twenties, when the soul has not yet been tainted by political, social, and economic commitments.
So great was the admiration of this student for the American way of life, that to his Spanish nickname Pepe, his friends added "el Yuma," and his name became "Pepe el Yuma." Because for Cubans --unlike other Latinos who use the derogatory term "gringo" or "yankee" to refer to American citizens--, "yuma" is the word that best describes the secret admiration of humble Cuban people.
Top secret request
By that time, the high school employed an old man named Segundo, who held a lot of power over the future of our plans to study at the University, and was feared by students.
Segundo stood every day, at the start of the school day, at the front door of the building and watched each student with eagle eyes: no male could enter the school with long hair, and no girls with short skirts. Segundo was very strict and his deep voice caused terror when he pointed out an infraction: "You, young lady, exit the line and go to the Principal's Office; I'm going to write a warning in your file!"
Before entering classes Pepe always reminded his friends --Oriente, Llerena, Bebito, Ray and Redheaded-- "Gentlemen!, never call me Pepe el Yuma at school because if Segundo knows my nickname he will expel me from school. Never call me Pepe el Yuma!"
Working in the countryside
With the falling leaves, all the students must go to work in the countryside. In the fall of 1975 we were sent to cut sugar cane in a place called San Antonio.
The hard work day began early in the morning and at night we slept badly on uncomfortable beds made by hand. Every morning at 5:30 a.m. Segundo woke up us and gave his political discourse seasoned with threats and warnings: "It is forbidden to listen to radio stations of yankees in the limits of the campus! Anyone I discover listening to American music, I'll expell him." Pepe dared to ask "Which are the limits of the campus?" to which Segundo shouted "That mango tree to the South, and that windmill to the North!"
Of course, every afternoon our friendtook his battery-powered radio, and sitting at the foot of the windmill heard the famous radio stations from the North.
Sometimes we sat near a bonfire, playing guitar and singing Beatles' songs. Meanwhile other students read letters from girlfriends or relatives or made future plans. But always came Pepe's concern: "Please, never call me Pepe el Yuma!"
Every timehe was washing dishes in the dining room, we sat all over his orderly, neat and clean bed, because it bothered him a lot. Then something unusual happened.
We all laughed imagining Pepe's face when Segundo appeared suddenly and we were petrified. The old man stood in front of the group and looked at each of us very seriously, as permeating our souls and thinking what he would write in our records --"Goodbye University" Llerena said in a whisper -when the voice of Segundo took us out of our thoughts: "What are you doing here! I'm going to write a warning in your records... if you break the bed of PEPE EL YUMA!"