“¡Vamos a Bailar!”- A Coconut in the Cuba Libre Ultra Lounge

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“Coconut: noun. A person who is tan on the outside but white on the inside.”- Urban Dictionary

Jacksonville, Florida and I have something in common when it comes to culture. We’re both lost in our cultural identity and are slowly trying to find what makes us, us. I moved here from New York City when I was 11, but I moved around and traveled a lot after high school. The curse of having wanderlust. But, I always find my way back to Duval. In all of the places I have traveled to and the different cultures I have encountered, I have always shied away from my Latin roots.

It’s a mixture of me associating myself as just an average big brown American and a bad taste left in my mouth from individual members of my family. Who I now realize wasn’t the best representation of Puerto Ricans; unless you’re looking for people to fill stereotypes. Another important reason I shied away can only be put bluntly by my friend, “Your face is a lie! You can’t look like that and not speak Spanish.”

It wasn’t until a recent humid Saturday night when I decided to take the first step in a solo journey to discover my Latin roots, which led me to the Cuba Libre Ultra Lounge. The white exterior with large rectangular opaque windows which were tastefully lit by blue and orange lights. A deco look which temporarily makes you forget you’re in Jacksonville and not in Miami. I am accustomed to Jacksonville’s’ clubs and bars which are mostly casual or hole-in-the-wall, so I wore a pair of khakis and a t-shirt. I was greatly underdressed.

The women dressed ready to dance and to tempt any man who catches their gaze. The men who wore a simple pair of jeans and a t-shirt wore it with pride and better than any man in Jax. One thing I noticed was the lack of sneakers worn and the amount of freshly shined leather shoes cutting up the dance floor.

I sat down with a crisp Mojito and admired the scenery. The club was impeccably white, clean and had a large dance floor where novices were expertly dancing the Cha-Cha to the Rhumba. I was in awe as I saw that all the faces were a mix of white, brown and black; but all were Latin. I noticed in Jax that most bars are predominately one color of skin (not because of racism), but it was nice to see a good mix of diversity all having fun or awkwardly ogling the beautiful Dominican girl like I was. I did see one white girl on the dance floor staring at her phone, ruining the scene, and I nearly yelled, “Get the fuck off the floor!”

I drank of the moment and watched as the heritage I denied to myself seemed more inviting then the Jax Beach bars I frequent. It was saddening to realize that there is a part of me I dismissed because I was ashamed of my heritage. I had associated myself more with white people because most of my friends and the people I grew up with were white. But, I was afraid of looking into my heritage because of how I saw my shameful family.

The beautiful beat of the congas from a Celia Cruz song brought me back from my self-reflection and into the beautiful moment again. I want to explore more of my heritage. Maybe find a good Latin wife to teach me to dance and speak Spanish.

I looked over to the bar and saw the beautiful Dominican again. I smiled at her and asked her to dance. She laughed and said no. Fucking Dominicans.

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