“It´s mameyes time!”
THE REGULAR CUBAN FOLK, SHARP BY NATURE, MADE FUN EVEN OF THE PHLEGMATIC ENGLISH DURING THE OCCUPATION DAYS, AROUND THE 18TH CENTURY, HANDING DOWN FOR POSTERITY THE PHRASE THAT SERVES AS THE TITLE OF THIS ARTICLE.
Aresult of the mixing of the Spanish, African and indigenous races, the typical Cuban developed, during the formation of the nation and Cuban nationality, an interesting and burlesque sense of humor. Thus, he is widely known by always having a comic perspective even under the worst situations and making fun of anything coming his way.
So, no wonder to know that in times of Havana´s occupation by the English in 1762, even the English suffered the Cuban mockery. As it had happened before with the Spanish, they were mocked and a few weeks after they took Havana the Cubans started to call them tomatoes or mameyes, on account of the color of their jackets similar to that of those fruits.
The Cuban population, and even the Spanish, looked at the English soldiers warily, often making fun of them, taking advantage of their not understanding the language and using cunning and double meaning phrases. That is why the English soldiers decided to do foot patrols and they would show up at any moment in order to prevent riots and uprisings.
In order to appease possible brawls and safeguard the interests of the English crown, Count Albemarle´s troops imposed a curfew at sunset between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., or simply whenever they considered it was necessary to patrol the streets. Only military staff was allowed to walk on the streets at that time, or some authorized natural person. Therefore, at that time the streets were flooded with soldiers wearing red jackets of similar color to that of mamey, that fruit of red pulp and a brown seed that abounded in Cuban fields. That is the reason why English troops were mockingly nicknamed mameyes. And when they were seen in groups or announcing the curfew, the famous phrase was spread that “it´s mameyes time!” that still lives on in our times, with the meaning that now it is when it comes down to it or the moment that requires a decision or immediate action.
Uniformes militares empleados por el ejército inglés en la Toma de La Habana. Military uniforms used by English troops during the occupation of Havana.