It may seem like a mundane topic, but waiting in line in Cuba is a little bit different
than most other places in the world. During your stay in the country, you will be do-
ing it enough that the process warrants explanation.
Whether queuing up at a money exchange office, to order fast food, or most any
other scenario, Cubans have developed an easy and clever way to ensure that or-
der is maintained without sacrificing convenience.
In order to get into line, simply position yourself in the general area of the back of
the line and call out “ El Último? ”. This means, “Who is the last person?”. The last
person in the line will identify themselves and you just have to stand behind them.
If, later on, another person wants to get in line and calls out “El Último?” , you just
have to identify yourself, by raising your finger or saying “ Yo! ” (me), and your posi-
tion in the line has been established. Most Cubans will also ask “ Detrás de quien? ”
which means, “Who are you standing behind?” This helps to ensure that even if
you were to leave the line and not return, the continuum of the general queue is
undisturbed. Just point to the person in front of you, the former “ Último .”
Once your position in line is established, you can feel free to leave the formal
lineup. As long as you return to the line before your turn comes, your spot will be
saved, as the person directly in back of you will remember that you were there be-
For longer lineups, some particularly daring Cubans will establish their position and
then go off to run errands, checking back sporadically on the progress of the line. It
can sometimes be a risky move, particularly if several people in the line depart and
do not return. In this scenario it can be difficult to re-establish the positioning, as
there may be no witnesses to validate the claim.
Important Facts: The lineup in Cuba is called “ la cola .” There is a lineup for almost
everything in Cuba, so even if you don't remember all the rules, you will be edu-
cated in the process rather rapidly. Most importantly, some people receive special
consideration and always have a guaranteed spot at the head of the line. These in-
clude women queuing up with small children, and visibly pregnant women.