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Saturday, June 27, 2015



Our Cuban host, Fernando shows all you need for a game of Quimbumbia: A broomstick bat and the small wooden “taco” or “quimbumbia.”  Philadelphia Phillies baseball cap is optional.  The hand quilted sombrero pinned on the author’s shirt was presented for successfully smacking the quim across the patio.
Welcome to Allegria de Vivir senior recreation center in Santa Clara, Cuba
Quimbumbia is an odd looking word and an even more unusual sport in Cuba (or anywhere).  While our Gate 1 travel group visited a senior citizen center in Santa Clara, Cuba, a very friendly member of the senior recreation center (Allegria de Vivir) asked if I would like to assist him demonstrate Quimbumbia to our group.

The game looked simple enough.  Akin to many sports, the object is to hit the ball with a bat.  In the case of Quimbumbia the (quim) fat-in-the-middle cigar shaped ball (4-inches long) is carved from a piece of wood and the bat resembles an 18-inch mop handle.  Strike the beveled edge of the quim, which makes it pop up into the air.  While airborne, take a swing at it with the bat.  If you are skilled enough to hit it you next measure the distance using the length of the bat (end over end) as the measuring stick.  Person or team, who hit the wood cigar the farthest wins.

Our hosts asked me to step up to the “plate” and try my hand at Quimbumbia.  After missing several swings I finally knocked the ball across the patio thus winning the days competition.  As Quimbumbia champion of our group, I felt it only proper to announce “free mojitos for the day.”

The seniors we visited at the recreation center in Santa Clara were extremely warm.  Their exuberance and friendly smiles made us feel welcome by greeting us at the door with music and songs.  Inside, they also demonstrated many Cuban dances and demonstrated the centuries old mysteries of the hand fan. 

Our hosts demonstrated the secret language of the Cuban abanico (handfan).  In the day, when young ladies attended dances with chaperones, the fan came in handy to express encouragement (or buzz off) to potential suitors without saying a word. Pillar to Post has discovered the rosetta fan and has deciphered the fan language and presented it in a handy chart in this blog.  There will be a quiz.
For generations hand fans used by Cuban women had multiple purposes.  The obvious one was to fan away the tropical heat, but the fan also played a very important role in the Cuban courtship customs.  The Santa Clara seniors demonstrated the many nuances of fan language.  By correctly reading the fan, a young swain could assess his chances with the young women in his town. 

Peering over the top of the fan accompanies with coy batting of eyelashes was meant to encourage a suitor.  If she disapproved she would strike a closed fan on her wrist or hand.  Back in the day, it was not proper for a woman to express interest in a man verbally, but her dexterity with the fan meant she could say what was in her heart without the chaperones hearing a word.

So, there you have it.  In one stop at a senior recreation center we learned a new sport and more about the birds and the bees.

It was a good day for Cuban-USA relations.

More on Quimbumbia:
The game is played by tapping one end of the Quimbumbia with the broomstick so that it would fly straight up in the air, and one in the air it was to be hit the same way one would hit a baseball.  If you missed it or fouled it you were out.

Note the airborne quim just
above the broomstick.
No pitcher is needed for a game of Quimbumbia.   To determine doubles, triples or home runs lines were marked some distance from the “home plate.”  Fielders can get as close to the batter as they feel safe in order to stop the forward progress of the quim.  Where the quim is stopped is the point where distances are measured. 

A game is an agreed upon distance as a goal.  Say first team to 100 wins.
You can have as many players as you wish on a team.

Once the goal is met then the heavens explode with fireworks, dancing and general merriment fueled by rum and good music.

 "I love you!"
Secret language of the Cuban (Spanish) fan:
The hand fan in Cuba and Spain, where it orginated is called an abanico.  History shows the hand fan reached heights of popularity in 19th century Europe.  Using a fan was a sign of good taste and upbringing.  Fans were made from cheap to highly ornate.

At great expense, Pillar to Post has investigated the secret language of the abanico.  Here’s our report:

--Open fan over the bodice showing the design "Yes"
--Open fan over the bodice showing the back "No"
--Open fan covering one of the cheeks "I like you"
--Wave fan exuberantly: "I really like you"
--Wave fan slowly: "Buzz off.”
--Open fan covering your nose "Let’s hook up soon.”
--Open fan covering your chin "Let’s chat first."
--Closed fan near the heart: “I love you”
--Open fan placed over lips: “Kiss me, you fool”
--Close fan waving; "I am thinking about it"
--Hit a closed against wrist, forearm or hand "Leave me alone"
--Open and close the fan: “I am upset”
--Open fan waving energetically on one side "Don´t come now, other people around"

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