The "asere" in the Cuban lexicon

The "asere" in the Cuban lexicon

Heritage & Traditions

Alejandro Rodriguez Ruiz

Asere, one of the most used affective words in Cuba, is evidence that, although we all speak Spanish, in the territories conquered by Spain from the 15th century on, the evolution of the language took its own paths.

For any ordinary Cuban, asere means acquaintance, friend, partner more in a spiritual than economic sense, and it is part of the daily talks between countrymen with some level of trust, or not, because it can quietly be the colloquial way of addressing strangers in the street —hey, asere—, especially among men, always with understood respect.

This general knowledge of the meaning of the term does not imply that everyone uses it, as many consider it marginal, and it is even the bearer of prejudices due to its origins, which date back to the arrival of African slaves to the country.

Linguists point out that the word comes from the Carabalí culture, which came to Cuba from the African region of the Calabar coast, and that here also gave rise to religious practices known as abakuá or ñáñigos, in which "asere" is used. with an approximate meaning of "I greet you."

It is also said that among the Lucumis or Yoruba the word was used to refer to a crazy person. This voice recently appeared in a publication on Twitter by the Royal Spanish Academy, with some different nuance in its meaning, but especially with c instead of s: acere, and it provoked numerous protest reactions from Cuban Internet users.

“Horrible that acere with C. I think all Cubans write it with S and if it is our word, then with S it is”, commented a user from the island, as a reflection of the opinions of many others and, above all, of the depth that the term has penetrated in the national colloquial language.

The Cuban Dictionary of Spanish (2000), of the Institute of Literature and Linguistics, recognizes, however, the two spelling variants for this word, which, beyond conversations, also appears in songs, books, films ...