The Old And The New Beards In Cuba

When you think of Cuba, you typically think of bearded archetypes: Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos – the beard was and is the sign of the revolution. Recently, while learning Spanish, I came across an article by Veintomudos, El Regreso de los Barbudos (website down at the moment). I used that as a starting point to write down my thoughts about Cuba’s beards – as I am a beard wearer myself. Actually, I only wear a beard since I go to Cuba (of course, my Cuban wife played an important role in that). And because there are the new beards – the hipster beards – in Cuba, I think the time is right to discuss Cuban beard tradition 🙂

Veintemundos Spanish Learning Podcast

Why a Beard, Anyway?

The beard as a sign of the revolution had practical reasons, of course, because shaving in civil war was not so easy for the guerrillas. Just as the First World War soldiers, the rebels in the Sierra Maestra wore long beards simply because it was more practical. Then, of course, there was the attitude, the already visible resistance against the Batista regime and the bourgeoisie. So the beard had a double meaning.

Batista, finely shaved

Later then the beard was the sign of those who had fought in the revolution or at least identified with it, e.g. also in the’60s revolution movement all over the Western World, above all Ché Guevara was the role model for this tradition. In the 68 movement, too, the beard was clearly a sign of resistance to established standards.

The beard in present-day Cuba

The last great beard bearer was Fidel Castro. Raúl doesn’t wear a beard, at most a moustache. Almost all the other members of the government are also beardless, hardly anyone nowadays wants to compare themselves with Fidel.

And yet: more and more often you see beard bearers on Cuba’s streets – but not wearing the army’s olive colour, but wearing bright colours, possibly also long hair shaped into a bun, especially in those locations where definitely no reguetón is played: the hipster has arrived in Cuba.

Raúl Paz on the Malecón

The beard of artists and hipsters

Many artists from different directions wear beard, Raúl Paz, Leonardo Padura, Kcho, Kelvis Ochoa, X Alfonso and even Decemer Bueono can grow a bit of beard!

Leonardo Padura with beard

How did the hipster beard get to the island? Well, like everywhere else, the same role models apply to Cuba, who walk the world with their beards – no, not Ronaldo and Messi – but Beckham and Bale, as well as actors like George Clooney or Brat Pitt, of course.

The big wide world comes to Cuba via El Paquete, the package, the so-called offline Internet: Series, films, videos, news and music, which are distributed weekly via DVD or USB stick and which connect Cubans to the outside world.

Beards In The 70s Until Today

In the 70s and 80s, beards were frowned upon, if not forbidden, outside the revolutionaries circle – Leonardo Padura describes in his books how high school students were not allowed to wear beards or hair over their ears. Even references to the revolutionaries did not help – the revolution had thus arrived, at least externally, in the bourgeoisie. These rules applied until at least the 2000s, if not even to this day.

The beard as a sign of masculinity

Now, of course, the beard is not only reserved for artists, but also a very clear sign of masculinity – and that was already so at the time of the revolution, Fidel and Ché were big womanizers! Today’s beard wearers invest a lot of time in care and have their beards cut by the barber. Nevertheless: the beard is a strong response to androgynism and defines the wearer as a real man – I have to know, as I also wear a beard 😉

Dietmar (bearded) with Lianet on
the
Reception of the German Embassy

Old and New Beards

Whether old beards or new beards, the beard can be seen again in the streets of Havana and all over the island. And, dear gentlemen, if you want to try it: the humid air of Cuba makes the beard hair soft so that it doesn’t scratch so much – your next Cubatripp would be a good start with your beard 😉

Enjoy the summer – with or without beard!
Dietmar

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PPS: For me as a German, this short video on the English pronounciacion of “beard” was helpful!

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