“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.

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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.

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