Cuban Sandwich Saga: Hialeah Native Stars In Popular 'Hamilton' Parody 'Jamónton'
You've no doubt heard of the smash-hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.” But you probably don't know the saga of Alejandro Jamónton – the founding father who brought the Cuban sandwich to America:
Alejandro Jamónton/Me llamo Alejandro Jamónton/I have a sandwich that’s for everyone/It tastes great….
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OK, “Jamónton” is not a real person or a real musical. It is a smart and popular new video parody by Hialeah native Eddie Mujica. The Cuban-American comic actor and producer is an Emmy Award winner and an alum of Chicago’s famed Second City troupe.
Mujica spoke with WLRN’s Tim Padgett from Los Angeles, where he now lives.
Excerpts from their conversation:
WLRN: So we should explain to our non-Spanish-speaking audience that jamón means ham. Ham is the essential ingredient of a Cuban sandwich. Hence: Alejandro Jamónton. When and how did you come up with the idea for this pork patriot as a “Hamilton” satire?
MUJICA: You know, I actually came up with the idea a couple of years ago. I hadn't seen the play; I was trying to get tickets, but like everyone, I couldn't. But I heard the first song. And so ham, jamón – it just kind of flowed. But I didn’t really do anything more with it. And I just came back to it early [this month] when I found out “Hamilton” was coming out on Disney Plus.
You really capture “Hamilton” composer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s breathless, streetwise rap with lines like: Ale’, you gotta be missin’ somethin’/Started pre-heatin’ and heatin’ roasted pork up in the oven…. "Jamónton" has had almost 30,000 YouTube views in just a couple weeks. How are fans of “Hamilton” reacting to the sendup?
It's been really well received, which has been nice. I mean, especially fans of “Hamilton.” The kind of funny thing I think they like is that, for example, I wrote it so that the Aaron Burr character added mayonnaise to the Cuban sandwich at the end instead of being the one who shot the hero:
“And me: I’m the damn fool that added mayonnaise.”
There's a lot of controversy about people from Tampa claiming that the Cuban sandwich is originally from there – and they add salami to their sandwich. So now I feel like, for sure, Aaron Burr's from Tampa.
Do you know if Miranda himself has seen it?
I don't know if he has. So many of my friends have been tagging him nonstop. You know, I'd love to know if he has, but, yeah, if – if my friends are reading this: Please leave him alone now.
I mean it as a compliment when I say Hialeah is a quirky place. How did being raised there help develop your very sharp sense of comedy and satire?
People in Tampa add salami to their Cuban sandwich. So now I'm sure Aaron Burr was from Tampa. -Eddie Mujica
I would agree, Hialeah is super quirky. And it's funny, I grew up in a part of Hialeah that's really close to the Telemundo studios; and then on the other side you have a store like Ñooo Qué Barato, which translates to, um, "How [Freaking] Cheap!" I remember moving to Chicago and talking to friends and be like, “Oh, wait, you don't get woke up in the morning by your neighbor's roosters? That's not a thing everywhere in America?”
So just to be able to tap into those things, I think — why not lean into it? Because whenever I go back home to visit, everyone's like, “Oh, hey, here's this idea for a little bit you can do, or a little skit."
You mentioned you're even pitching a TV show set in Hialeah. Is it a sitcom?
That's right, yeah. The main character is a failed entrepreneur that tried to make it in Silicon Valley, and he’s having to go back home and move in with his parents and sort of reconnect with the world that people thought they had to leave in order to make something of themselves. Hialeah, I think, is such a rich, untapped world that I would love to see on TV.
You’re 34, you’re a millennial, so have any Cuban or Latino comedians influenced you? Or non-Latino, for that matter – I mean, I watch “Jamónton” and I can’t help thinking of "Weird" Al Yankovic.
For sure, I’m definitely a fan of "Weird" Al. But the very first Latino or Latinx – how am I supposed to say that? – comedian I remember was John Leguizamo, especially seeing his one-man plays. I remember watching “Freak” as a kid, seeing this Latino play all these different characters, tapping into his culture and still reaching audiences just past the Latinx crowd – and right off the bat it made me think, yeah, I could do this.
A lot of your material reflects being Cuban. One of your mockumentary videos is about a Cuban immigrant basketball player who plays in his flip flops – but he's so good they nickname him “The Cuban Missile Crisis.” He sinks three-pointers and shouts, “¡Ya tú sabes!” like, “Now you know, muchachos!” while the other guys marvel and remark, “This guy is on fuego!” It's as funny as anything on “Saturday Night Live.” But what is it in Cuban culture that you find especially ripe and fair game for comedy?
I think most of it is fair game, if handled properly – playing to the top of your intelligence and not really punching down, right? I feel like it's more embracing the quirkiness of Cuban culture. Like in that short, he yells out all the different Pitbull slangs like ¡oye!, ¡dale!
But I also try to address some serious Cuban issues at the end of it. You know, I was fortunate enough to go to Cuba in 2018 for the first time. The people there really do embody this jovial spirit even though they've been through so much hardship. They're still able to carry on and laugh. And being around that I've never felt more Cuban in my life.
So I have to ask you in your Jamónton persona, who makes the best Cuban sandwich in Hialeah?
Well, I’m biased because I’m from West Hialeah, and I would always go to this little shack called Sarussi, in the corner of a strip mall.
And you know the folks in Tampa aren’t going to like what you said about theirs.
I don’t want to hear that there’s salami in a Cuban sandwich. It’s just – you know, if I were to show that to my abuela she’d probably die on the spot.