If forced to choose between a Swiss Army knife and a towel, without thinking twice I would choose the towel. I would be hard pressed to think of another object with so many different uses. And although possibly biased by cultural perspective, the truth is that Cubans are capable of executing thousands of procedures and providing solutions to the most diverse problems, with the exclusive use of a towel. And I am not just talking about common uses like drying your skin after bathing or exercising, or even using it as a cloth to clean surfaces. I speak of more creative and unique uses. I am talking about things like:
- The towel as a work of art
Have you ever entered a house in Cuba and seen a well-known work of art hanging on the wall in a medium that is not exactly oil on canvas? Well, you probably saw a towel hanging on the wall: a "Gioconda" or a "Tropical Gypsy" in all its splendor in plush fabric. The true definition of art accessible to everyone.
- The towel as an umbrella
I do not know if during the Special Period there were not enough umbrellas or layers to protect us from the rain, but Cuban parents were fans of using towels to pick us up from school in the pouring rain. I mean come on, sometimes my Dad would ride his bike and it looked like an scene from ET before the special effects and postproduction. But at the same time it was super functional because when you got home it was a straight shot to the shower with towel in hand. If that isn’t efficiency I don’t know what is.
- The towel as a dressing room
On Cuban beaches there are not many places to change your clothes or put on your bathing suit. That's why as children, our parents wrapped us in a towel and turned it into a dressing room so that no one could see us naked. Then again if you really analyze things, people used bathing suits that revealed more than a quick change of clothes would, but I guess that’s something that works more on the subconscious level. The towel-as-dressing room habit stuck with many of us, and there are people who learned to change so fast that they could work in the circus.
- The towel as a water filter
Who needs a water filter when you have a towel on hand? Certainly not us. And before criticizing the purity of the water that crosses the fabric, try doing it at home for yourself. The result? A water so crystalline that not even sodium hypochlorite compares. Remedy saint of pioneer explorer who "loves nature, the socialist fatherland and prepares for life in the field".
- The towel as a flag
One of the most frequent uses for towels in Cuba is as a flag. Especially when it comes to football (soccer) teams or national teams during important tournaments. You can see them on car dashboards, balconies, antennas, portals, antlers… basically anywhere. And it is true that in order for it to really wave, it takes some physical effort or at least wind, but the main objective is fulfilled, and that’s the important part.
These are five of the most frequent uses of towels in Cuba, plus they are used as beds for pets, as costumes if we are on a budget and want to go "roman", as blankets, or, when they become too worn, they transition into the next phase of their lifecycle: mops to clean the floor, and handles to open the water & gas faucets when they are stuck…the list is infinite. Surely you can tell us about other uses that you have seen or that you have given to the towels. Leave it in the comments to make a more complete list.
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