Monday, April 7, 2014

The Chinita Story

                                                   The Chinita Story
                               A true story written 02/05/2014 rewritten 7/29/2016
                                                        Howard Yasgar

      In 1985, I had the good fortune to have a Cuban friend named Miguel Marquez. Miguel was a refugee that had escaped from Cuba in 1964, and he come to work for me just a few days after arriving in the United States.
      I had moved to Florida from Connecticut in 1963 and I thought it was really a neat to know someone that had actually had escaped from Cuba after Fidel Castro took over in 1958, I knew that his escaping must have taken a lot of nerve.
      My friend Miguel and his family had lived on a small island called Cayo Coco, which was just off the North Coast of Cuba.
      Miguel had several brothers, there was his brother Manuel, and there was Mongo, and there was Jorge, and there was Ricardo and also Rudolpho, Those were his brothers and he also had three sisters, who were named Marcia, Rosa and Mercedes.
      Miguel told me they all lived on the island in a big farm house with a thatched roof.
      Being curious, I asked Miguel what he did with a thatched roof when it rained hard and the roof leaked, Miguel said he simply moved his bed.
      Most of the entire Marquez family had thought that Fidel Castro taking over Cuba would be a good thing, but as we all know it didn’t turn out that way.  
     The problems first started when his brother Rudolpho was conscripted by the government to fight Castro, he was machine gunned down by Castro’s forces. Then he was sent home, never to walk again.
     Then there was Miguel’s brother Ricardo, he tried to escape in a boat, and he was caught and imprisoned for several years.
      Once most of the family decided to try and escape Cuba, they all did it with the exception of Miguel’s sister Rosa, as she had married a staunch Communist, and there was Miguel’s brother Mongo who was involved in some crooked deal and didn’t want to go, but he eventually came over on the Mariel Boat lift in 1980.
       As soon as Miguel came to work for me, we became friends and I started to teach him English and in return he taught me his hillbilly Spanish.
       By 1985, almost all Miguel’s family were located in Miami and my wife and I were treated as if we were part of their extended family group. We would attend all the family functions, and parties, and because Miguel had taught me enough Spanish, I had no problem talking Spanish with anyone there.
       Also by 1985, my wife Katherine and I were traveling back and forth to the Dominican Republic, we were trying to establish a business importing Amber jewelry that was mined there.
      So one evening we were attending a party at Miguel’s house, and we mentioned that we would be in the Dominican Republic the following week.
      Miguel’s brother Ricardo, who every one called “Rico” overheard our conversation and he asked us if we would do him a favor when we were there in the Dominican Republic, we said certainly we would, what, do you want us to do for you?
       He looked at me kind of sheepishly and said “Chinita” I need you to bring back as much Chinita as you can. I knew that in Cuban Spanish, Chinita referred to a little Chinese girl, but I knew Rico couldn’t be asking us to bring home a Chinese girl. What the hell is Chinita I asked?
       Rico held up his thumb and forefinger, sort of like he was holding a little bottle or vial. He looked at me as if my wife Katherine shouldn’t hear what he was saying. In Spanish he said it was “Un liquido para sexo”, a liquid for sex.
       I replied to Ricardo in Spanish, a liquid for sex, I had never heard of it, oh yes, Rico exclaimed, “you put a little liquid on you, and you are good for the whole evening”.
      What the hell is it, Novocain, I asked?  No, No, he said it’s nothing illegal it is a special herb.
     Rico, and everyone else that was listening, was now laughing, it was probably because I never had heard of Chinita before and they were  probably thinking how dumb can this guy be, everyone knew what Chinita was.
     So the next week my wife Katherine and I were in the Dominican Republic. We had landed in the capitol city of Santo Domingo and rented a car to drive to the city of Santiago where we were working with an amber dealer.
     The city of Santiago is considered the second capitol of the Dominican Republic.
      But back in 1985, Santiago was just a sleepy town with, with a small park in the center, just like any small town in America.
     You could sit on a shaded park bench there and eventually be approached by every salesman and huckster in town trying to hustle and sell you something.
      By the time we were done with our Amber business, and we had gone to a restaurant for lunch, it was about one in the afternoon, which was siesta time for all the locals.  
     After lunch, Katherine and I started to walk down the main street in Santiago, but we saw that all the stores were closed, and lots of street vendors were now resting or sleeping on the ground. Many were in the doorways of the larger retail stores. Some of the people were laying on blankets and others were just napping in the sitting position.
      We noticed that many street vendors had been displaying their wares that were laying on sheets and blankets, and they had pulled them off the sidewalks and into the doorways with them for siesta.
       That afternoon, Katherine and I appeared to be the only people walking on the side walk. The streets of Santiago were absolutely dead silent, not even a car was moving, I think it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.
       Not being familiar with the time for the local siesta, Katherine and I walked silently up the street trying to not disturb any of the napping people.
        I noticed in one doorway there was a small chubby kid sitting next to a blanket with all kinds of trinkets on it, and I noticed that this chubby little kid wasn’t napping either, he was just sitting there staring at us.
       What the hell, I thought, so I went over to him and asked him in my best Spanish if he had any Chinita.
       He looked at me like he didn’t understand what I had said, or perhaps like he didn’t expect an American to be asking him for Chinita in Spanish. So I asked a second time and his face lit up. He said “No tengo”, that meant, no I don’t have it, so I asked him if he knew where I could buy Chinita.
       The little chubby guy who couldn’t have been more than 10 years old got up and motioned us to follow him, we did just that, as he went out into the middle of the street with us following right behind him.
     In the loudest voice I ever heard, he started yelling “El Americano’s care Chinita.”
     The American wants Chinita. He walked down the street and kept yelling it at the top of his lungs.
     My wife Katherine was so embarrassed that I think she shrunk to half her size.
     Yes, we finally found Chinita for Ricardo they wanted 50 cents for a small glass vial with a plastic screw cap. I bought him three or four of them. I knew it must be some kind of natural deadener like oil of cloves, so I tasted it and it was oil of cloves.
       But Rico was happy, and I bet they are still talking about it in Santiago, when the American and his wife wanted the sexual aid Chinita, and they wanted it during siesta time.




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