After years without taking seriously the need to put order among my home books, I took a deep breath and started the classifying task that became an expedition into the world of my memories. On a piece of paper folded among the pages of the Nuevo catauro de cubanismos by Fernando Ortiz (“New catauro of cubanisms”), I found this sort of chronicle “on the move” that I then titled with a question: "Standing for the fonda”?
On the way to the central Cuban city of Santa Clara, my look was lost in the landscape, when I read the following sign: "Mini-restaurant, open 24 hours." “Why mini-restaurant?,” I wondered. The dimensions that I could calculate of the small business, from my moving “watchtower,” might have justified the prefix “mini.” But, I kept questioning, “why name a restaurant something that is not?” What's wrong about calling “fonda” these small businesses where with hygiene and no frills you can satisfy your appetite?
Many illustrious Cubans ate in honorable fondas and the lack of euphemisms did not diminish their digestion or their patriotic or artistic work. The Bodeguita del Medio, owned by Martínez, was an honorable fonda, which had, among its regulars, a list of celebrities that range from Cuban National Poet Nicolás Guillén to the Nobel Prize of Literature, Ernest Hemingway.
I have to admit that I enjoy the wealth that speakers of the whole world confer on the Castilian language. But I was annoyed the day when, in the heart of Havana, I found a business that was identified with the name of “charcutería” (delicatessen). I tried to imagine what Fernando Ortiz would feel if he knew that some do not look up in his valuable Catauro... or seem to forget that words such as fiñe, flaquencia, rumbantela, ñáñigo, machete or mambí have special meanings for Cubans.
Let us quote the sage who, in his lexicographical side, defined us with his key of transculturation. This is what he wrote in 1923 for the reader of his Catauro…: "(...) in it we have deposited some fruits of the soil, which we had collected while crossing the jungle of national language in a patient search of roots and flowers brought and dropped at random by African slaves."
Let us defend, then, not only the “fonda,” but the whole supreme adventure of crossing "the jungle of national language."