Fabiola Santiago

If exiles wrote Cuba’s constitution: Pitbull on the peso and an anthem sung by Celia

A taxi cruises in Havana.
A taxi cruises in Havana. AP

Feeling very emotional upon learning that the Cuban government wants Cuban Americans like me to weigh in on the writing of a new constitution, I set out to collect voices and ideas across Exileland — from the descendants of José Marti’s path through Key West to the comrade who runs a mango stand in Slovakia.

It was an arduous journey, but well worth it. Everything, everything for the homeland!

We have so much to say. Thank you, Cuba!

We must show our gratitude for the six decades of sacrifice it took to get to this point, but most of all because, thanks to Castroism, the USA is my home. (Ay caramba, forgive me the old habit. We shouldn’t bring up small things like that in historic times.)

Without further delay, here are our suggestions for a new Cuban constitution, a product of too much late-night TV and intense investigation into our national psyche, with special attention to how it manifests itself in Miami, heart of the exile community, and the state of things with, you know, the almighty gringos:

The national anthem.

In the same vein that Americans think they’d be better off with “America the Beautiful,” we propose replacing Cuba’s with “La Ceiba y la Siguaraya.” I vote for the version sung by Celia Cruz with the Ponce ensemble (Cubans and Puerto Ricans are, as the poem says, the wings on one bird) for this priceless line: “Nobody can silence my rumba.” That’s much better than starting a national anthem with a bunch of hillbillies running off to war. Plus, La Ceiba y la Siguaraya already has its Google group.

National currency change.

From now on, all one-peso bills should be engraved with a new portrait: Pitbull’s. The hip-hop artist might raise the value. For the rest, we can go classier, with Willy Chirino on the five-peso bills for his effort in keeping the faith with an exile anthem that kept assuring us “our time is coming.” We’ll take Gloria Estefan on the 20 for her bipartisanship and the song “Mi Tierra,” salsa queen Celia on the 50 because life is a carnival, and Compay Segundo of Buena Vista Social Club on the 100 for pure swing.

Pitbull performing in Miami. Miami Herald archives


Any child who demonstrates political ideology will be bought a travel suit and a one-way ticket to Germany. Eliancito is banned from teaching, I’m sorry to say, but we’ll offer him a scholarship to Miami Dade College to modernize and learn a new trade. Maybe he’ll want to be an artist?

Neighborhood watchdogs.

The Committees for the Defense of the Revolution will be abolished, to be replaced with a Best Buy Geek Squad on each block to help people with their tech problems. They will be appropriately renamed Committees for the Defense of the Robotlution. This will be necessary because reformists will be rewarded for their service to the homeland with a humongous flat-screen TV with all the channels available in America, and HD, of course.

The food ration book.

It needs an app for smartphones — like now. It should come with a Tinder-like “ping” so that porn can be exchanged for food in hard times.

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Upon arrival, every American will be honored with a Cuban name that starts with the letter Y. As a reward for giving Cuba a hand lifting the embargo, they’ll be assigned their own nudist beach — English-only, please — and we will put a Pizza Hut and Burger King on every resort from the Cabo de San Antonio to the Punta de Maisí. That, and a little tower for Donald Trump, ought to finish off the embargo. On the U.S. end, we’ll make sure gringos are banned by U.S. Customs from bringing home any Che crap.

Cruising in Havana in an ancient automobile. Ramon Espinosa AP


The word “gusano” — the insult of choice against Cubans who left for the U.S. — will from now on be used only to refer to literal writhing-in-the-ground worms.

Patriotic holidays.

Festivities will feature the music of Celia and Compay Segundo on the 10th of October (the date in 1868 when lawyer Carlos Manuel de Céspedes freed his slaves and called Cubans to arms to rid ourselves of Spain). On the 24th of February, when we launched a second independence war with El Grito de Baire, we really should expand our musical options and bring in Albita (with her What Fault Is it of Mine That I am Cuban) and Los Sobrinos del Juez with their salsafied version of American disco standards. Reggaeton, cubaton, rockason and all other concoctions liked by people with gold chains can have the rest of the year. But Cuban-government darling Silvio Rodriguez has to retire. Speaking of which, in the matter of slogans we repeat ad nauseum, relax the “We Will Be Like Che.” From now on, our mantra is: “La nueva Cuba no es chea ,” The new Cuba isn’t tacky. This is to be echoed by chongas in Hialeah on the 20th of May, Cuban Independence Day.


The jutía (Cuban hutia, Capromys pilorides) will be recognized as an emotional support animal (even by United Airlines if it wants to fly here).

A Cuban jutía with owner. Ramon Espinosa AP

We will give every Cuban who turns in three 1957 Chevy Bel Airs a brand new Honda Accord. The Americans want their old cars back — and they’re willing to throw in a power washer from Home Depot.

bel air.JPG
A 1956 Chevy Bel Air in Havana.

Finally, I think it’s a great idea, dear little friends, to sell the island to Apple — and rename it Manzana. We’re no longer a threat to anyone, we can’t even help Maduro in Venezuela or Orteguita in Nicaragua, and Trump doesn’t value us.

But the Nasdaq Exchange, now we’re talking!

It is with great sentiment that I bid you adiós to the tune of a bolero,


P.S.: There was great debate about whether the new ration book should include a state-subsidized gallon of paint a month, available in all colors, except insanely bright green and pink, but no consensus. The one thing we all agreed on was that there was no way in hell any of us would renounce our rights as American citizens. Not even for a moonlit dip on the beaches of Varadero.

Follow me on Twitter, @fabiolasantiago