Ask a Cuban: Que bolá!?
By Gabriela Santiesteban
Hi, how are you? How are you doing? They are common expressions of greeting among Spanish speakers, which in Cuban translate into a phrase that sums them up: ¿Qué bolá!?
These words of greeting on the Caribbean island carry all the emphasis and joy of the meeting between friends, typical of the affection and expressiveness that is recognized as a quality of those born in this land.
The voice bolá (with an accent on the á), which presumably the Dictionary of the Spanish Language does not even dream of recognizing, is defined in glossaries of popular Cuban voices as part of the expression “¡Qué bolá !: How are you! between students and friends ”, and says that it is also“ matter, thing, company ”.
Although more frequently used among young people, the expression -for many too colloquial or frankly vulgar- is well known among adults of various generations, who use it on a daily basis as well as a joke among contemporaries.
What are you up to? What are you going to do? What is your plan? are other of the many translations of the phrase, which some, because of the influence of music on the island, consciously and unconsciously, transform into "what bolero?", although songs from Cuban groups reflect it as it is, with much popular acceptance.
The preeminence of "what a bolá" in the national slang is such that
then US President Barack Obama in his historic visit to Cuba in March 2016 greeted the population through his Twitter account upon landing on the island with precisely that phrase: What a bolá, Cuba!
The expression is so versatile that it changes according to the situation and the intonation of the person who pronounces it. It may not necessarily be a festive, friendly greeting, but a claim for outstanding accounts. For example: What bolá happens, what bolá with me (or with you) ... But the one that stands out in the national popular lexicon sings to friendship.